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AIF urges fresh CMA inquiry as LN marketshare nears 25%

The Association of Independent Festivals has written to the competition watchdog to protest Live Nation's impending "dominance" of the UK festival market

By IQ on 21 Aug 2017

Isle of Wight Festival 2017, David Guetta, Live Nation, AIF CMA investigation

David Guetta at Isle of Wight 2017, the festival at the centre of the controversy

image © Isle of Wight Festival

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urge it widens its investigation of Live Nation’s acquisition of Isle of Wight Festival to include an inquiry into US promoter’s “position in the [UK] market overall”.

AIF, which represents more than 60 British music festivals, made the recommendation after publishing research that shows Live Nation either owns or holds a majority stake in nearly a quarter (23%) of all UK events with a capacity of over 5,000.

In total, Live Nation controls 28 UK festivals, including eight of Britain’s nine largest outdoor events (the exception, of course, is Glastonbury) – almost three times more than its nearest competitor, Global, which AIF says holds 8% marketshare.

The only non-Live Nation festival in the ten biggest “major-owned” festivals in the UK is AEG’s 65,000-cap. British Summer Time, which is in sixth position, behind Creamfields.

Commenting on what he calls the “profound and serious consequences of Live Nation’s vertically integrated approach”, AIF’s general manager, Paul Reed, says: “For the sake of its future health and diversity, it is vital that the UK’s live music sector remains open and competitive. We continually need new artists to break through and entrepreneurs to launch fresh and exciting events.

“The live music sector is fiercely competitive, but data we have published today rings several alarm bells – highlighting that a single transnational corporation is fast headed towards widespread dominance. For independent festival operators, a Live Nation monopoly would quite simply be a stranglehold with profound and serious consequences.”

“For independent festival operators, a Live Nation monopoly would be a stranglehold with profound and serious consequences”

Of particular concern, says AIF, is Live Nation’s “deep-rooted influence across the live music sector, from venue and festival ownership” – the company owns a network of small- and mid-sized venues through Academy Music Group and the former MAMA & Company venues – “through to control of ticketing with Ticketmaster, ownership of two of the ‘big four’ secondary ticketing sites and security and management businesses”.

“The complaint we hear privately from a growing number of AIF members is about the collateral damage caused by the imposition of hugely restrictive exclusivity deals,” continues Reed. “By their nature, these deals are anti-competitive, restraining when and where even the smallest artist can perform and significantly diminishing the pool of talent that non-Live Nation promoters can draw upon. On this basis, we have urged the CMA to extend their investigations beyond acquisition of the Isle of Wight Festival and into Live Nation’s position in the market overall.”

One festival promoter, who wishes to remain anonymous, says such exclusivity deals constitute anti-competitive behaviour on the part of Live Nation. “An as independent music festival under 10,000 capacity, we come up against huge challenges as a result of the exclusivity clauses put in place by Live Nation. The majority of artists booked by Live Nation for their festivals are on some sort of exclusivity clause.

“There were 40-plus acts in 2017 alone that booking agents told me I would not be able to book as a result of these ‘unofficial’ clauses. This has a detrimental effect on up and coming artists and independent festivals alike and is clearly anti-competitive behaviour.”

Live Nation declined to comment.


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