Workers at Denver’s small, Live Nation concert venues move to unionize

The folks who keep Summit Music Hall and the Marquis Theater up and running want to be recognized for their hard work — and be adequately compensated.
3 min. read
Summit Music Hall.
Brandon Thrift via Live Nation Denver

Many employees at Live Nation’s small, local music venues have had it. 

They’re tired of clubs that pay the lowest rates of any of the small venues in Denver.

They’re tired of staffing requests that ask them to come in and send them home after only a few hours of work – or fail to tell them that shows have been canceled until minutes before their shift.

As a result, a majority of stage crew and production workers employed at Summit Music Hall and the Marquis Theater have filed with the National Labor Relations Board to form a union with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 7. 

"Rock music venues such as Summit and Marquis are traditionally non-union establishments, and the work in rock music is often much more precarious and transient," said IATSE organizer Hilliard Probasco. "Labor conditions for production workers in the rock and roll industry are insecure, benefits are virtually nonexistent, and wages are low in comparison to union jobs within the entertainment industry."

If these workers vote to organize, all Live-Nation-owned venues in Denver will have union stage crews.

Summit Music Hall and the Marquis are two of three local Live Nation venues. Live Nation’s largest Denver venue, the Fillmore Auditorium, unionized in 2003, according to Max Peterson, business representative for the local IATSE union. 

That was during “what I like to lovingly refer to as the dark ages of unionization,” Peterson said. “We weren't as aggressive and outspoken as we are right now about organizing and getting people who are not represented to join into the party with us.”

Workers hope that organizing will help them secure an hourly minimum — meaning pay that is guaranteed for a minimum amount of hours, even if they’re sent home early. This practice is in place at the Fillmore Auditorium and is standard throughout the industry. 

Once a union is recognized, Peterson said he “looks forward to sitting down with the employer to address the important issues and concerns [workers] face every day.”

According to Peterson, Summit Music Hall and Marquis Theater workers could earn up to two to three times their Live Nation wages at other clubs.

Employees at Summit Music Hall and the Marquis will formally decide whether or not to unionize in an election later this month. 

Live Nation could not be reached for comment.

An article published last summer in Digital Music News — exposing Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino for earning 5,414 times more than his company’s median employee in 2022 — sparked the movement.

Until the publication of this data from the Institute for Policy Studies’ 29th “Executive Excess” report, Denver’s Live Nation workers weren’t widely aware of the immense discrepancy between their earnings and their CEO’s.

Once the news was out, according to a press release from IATSE Local #7, workers mobilized.

Crew members and supporters will be present at a joint union rally highlighting the importance of workers to downtown Denver on Monday, June 17 at 11 a.m. They plan to start at Union Station and march through downtown.

“It's a multi-union rally,” said Peterson. “It’s about trying to, as we look at the much-needed revitalization of downtown Denver, really centering workers in that conversation and making sure that as the mayor is talking about investing $500 million into downtown Denver, how are workers going to benefit from that and how are workers going to be able to participate in all the cool stuff that downtown Denver has to offer.”

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