Things are getting heated in the venue war that has engulfed AEG and Live Nation over the past few years.
AEG have now initiated a booking policy that basically means if an act wants to play the O2 Arena in London, they need to also play at the Staples Center in L.A., rather than the MSG Entertainment-controlled Forum. They claim this move comes after MSG leveraged the booking for Madison Square Garden in a similar way, with acts being obliged to play the Forum in L.A. if they wanna play at MSG. “Our hand has been forced by MSG’s actions and AEG will now coordinate bookings between The O2 arena and Staples Center to level the playing field for all”, a statement reads.
AEG claim Live Nation were complicit in this, saying in the same statement: “Not only did Live Nation not complain about MSG’s tying of the Garden and the Forum, but it actively encouraged and supported that policy because it suited Live Nation’s interests in driving content away from a competitively ticketed building to a Ticketmaster building, which, in the process, succeeded in sending a very loud message to the live entertainment industry – how well equipped Live Nation is to punish any buildings that dare go with a competing ticketing provider.”
This war has been going on since 2014, since the Forum opened.
Music industry legend Irving Azoff, chairman and CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, laid out the situation for Billboard in April, explaining:
“Here’s what really goes on when Live Nation gets a big tour: The good folks at AEG bombard agents, managers and anyone else with blatant attempts to cost my team a bunch of $$$ at The Forum. They offer huge rebates at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, London’s The O2 Arena, Germany’s Barclaycard Arena and a residency on the moon to secure an act to play Staples Center. They know, of course, that it is unlikely they will deliver the Staples date, but they work for a hard-nosed businessman.
“Let’s be clear: Staples’ economics are different. Every single seat at The Forum is on the manifest. I’m told from my “sources” that on a big night at Staples, even without the suite revenue, by selling the extra stools in the suites, night clubs, premium and all the other non-manifest spots to the brokers and the secondary market they could easily generate more than $500,000. So they have a lot to offer up. If an act on a Live Nation tour should opt to play Staples with all those incentives, so be it. That’s competition. Not really above board, but good, tough business.”
None of this seems particularly above board. AEG’s statement is reproduced in full below.
“AEG always places artists and fans first and believes that artists should be free to play whatever venue they choose. However, MSG Entertainment’s aggressive practice of requiring artists to perform at the LA Forum in order to secure dates at Madison Square Garden is eliminating that choice, which serves neither the interests of artists nor fans. After exhausting all avenues, our hand has been forced by MSG’s actions and AEG will now coordinate bookings between The O2 arena and STAPLES Center to level the playing field for all.
“We believe that AEG’s offering of venues will provide artists the greatest financial potential and fans the best experience. While this coordinated booking strategy seeks to defend our business interests, our ultimate objective remains protecting and restoring choice for artists. Our policy is not intended in any way to deny Live Nation, or any other promoter, access to The O2 arena. To the contrary, we desire to bring as much content as possible to all of our venues and we will continue to actively seek concert bookings at The O2 from all promoters including Live Nation.
Live Nation’s threat of antitrust action in response to our booking policy is the height of hypocrisy coming from a company that publicly boasts about its control of content and distribution as the world’s largest concert promoter and ticketing company and one of the world’s leading artist management companies. As evidenced by a parade of antitrust lawsuits, regulatory investigations and an antitrust consent decree that have followed the company over the years, Live Nation has a well-earned and widespread reputation for resorting to aggressive tactics, including threatening to withhold its content, as it continually seeks to enhance its dominant market position in these various sectors. Given its asserted market dominance, we find it astounding that Live Nation would have the audacity to complain merely because it finds itself agitated by a competitor’s business response to heavy-handed tactics in which Live Nation has participated.
“Not only did Live Nation not complain about MSG’s tying of the Garden and the Forum, but it actively encouraged and supported that policy because it suited Live Nation’s interests in driving content away from a competitively ticketed building to a Ticketmaster building, which, in the process, succeeded in sending a very loud message to the live entertainment industry – how well equipped Live Nation is to punish any buildings that dare go with a competing ticketing provider. Notwithstanding Live Nation’s recent threats to pursue legal action and deprive AEG venues of shows, we fully intend to proceed with our new booking policy. We are highly confident of the legality of our booking policy and will vigorously defend any misguided attempts by Live Nation to use the courts or the regulatory system to combat a practice they have aggressively pursued and benefitted from elsewhere.”