The billionaire investment banker shows a growing interest in the music biz: He just picked up one of the industry’s top concert-booking firms with clients including Billy Joel, Metallica, and Rod Stewart. “The live experience cannot be digitized or replicated and thrives in the face of the profound changes that have affected other facets of the music business,” says Rick Stevens, who runs Burkle’s Y Entertainment Group. No details on how much Burkle paid for Artist Group International – which will continue to be run by Dennis Arfa, who founded the company 25 years ago. But it’s always worth following the banker’s moves: He’s a member of the Yahoo board and a major investor in Alliance Entertainment and Barnes & Noble. Here’s the release:

New York, January 5, 2012 – Artist Group International (AGI), the leading independent live entertainment agency that books superstar artists including Billy Joel, Metallica, Rod Stewart, Linkin Park, Rush, Def Leppard, Rammstein, Motley Crue and up-and-coming, buzz-worthy acts including Volbeat and Hollywood Undead, has been acquired by The Yucaipa Companies’ newly formed music and entertainment vehicle, Y Entertainment Group LLC. This union merges one of the music industry’s most successful and well-respected booking agencies with the strength of a premier investment firm.

Artist Group International was founded twenty-five years ago by Dennis Arfa, who will continue to lead AGI as CEO. The agency has grown to represent a diverse roster that includes multiple genres and generations of musical talent as well as notable comedians and large-scale sporting events. AGI consistently ranks amongst Billboard Magazine’s Top 3 Booking Agencies of the Year, and five of its clients charted on Pollstar Magazine’s mid-year industry report of the Top 50 highest-grossing tours of 2011.

“As the live entertainment industry evolves into the next era, our association with Yucaipa positions us to create new opportunities for both AGI and its clients,” noted Arfa.

The Yucaipa Companies formed Y Entertainment Group LLC earlier this year as the investment firm’s music and entertainment vehicle. Y Entertainment Group LLC is headed by longtime entertainment, investment banking and management executive, CEO Rick Stevens.

“The live experience cannot be digitized or replicated and thrives in the face of the profound changes that have affected other facets of the music business,” Stevens said. “AGI is quite simply the best independent agency in the world and we are excited to welcome Dennis and his AGI team.”

The Yucaipa Companies is a premier investment firm that has established a record of fostering economic value through the growth and responsible development of companies. Founded in 1986 by Ron Burkle, the firm has completed mergers and acquisitions valued at more than $30 Billion. As an investor, Yucaipa works with management to expand and/or strategically reposition businesses and implement operational improvements, resulting in value creation for investors.