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Live Nation shops AEG to CMA – amid thaw in booking war?

Irving Azoff has declared his 'booking war' with AEG "settled", after the latter said it would consider ending block-booking between Staples Center and The O2

By IQ on 23 Aug 2017

Irving Azoff, Azoff MSG Entertainment, AEG booking war

image © Front Line Management

Just two days after Live Nation was itself accused of anti-competitive behaviour by the Association of Independent Festivals, the promotion giant has lodged a complaint with UK regulatory authorities against archrival AEG.

The complaint – to the Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA), which is currently investigating its proposed acquisition of Isle of Wight Festival – concerns AEG’s tit-for-tat ‘booking war’ with Azoff MSG Entertainment, led by former Live Nation executive chairman Irving Azoff, over a booking policy that forced artists who wanted to perform at several of its European venues, including The O2 in London, to also play Staples Center (21,000-cap.) in Los Angeles rather than MSG’s Forum (17,500-cap.)

A statement from AEG acknowledges that it has been requested to “provide information regarding our booking practices, which AEG will of course provide. We believe our responses will clarify some questions recently brought before them and will be sufficient to allow all parties to move on.”

According to AEG, the implementation of block-booking between The O2 and Staples Center was in response to Azoff’s “aggressive practice of requiring artists to perform at the LA Forum in order to secure dates at Madison Square Garden” in New York.

Azoff (pictured), however, now says that isn’t the case, telling Billboard yesterday: “A show can play Staples Center and still play the Garden. You might have to route around basketball and hockey, but you can still play the Garden no matter where you’ve played before.”

Following Azoff’s statement – and facing the prospect of investigation in the UK – AEG is also reportedly considering dropping the block-booking from its end.

“So, that settles the matter: AEG and MSG have open buildings”

“We have always been staunch advocates of artists having the freedom to play the venues they want to play,” an AEG official tells Billboard. “That choice was taken away when MSG, supported by others, implemented their restrictive practices forcing artists who wanted to play the Garden to play the Forum in LA.

“This past July, after protracted use and explicit adoption of these bullying booking policies by MSG with the collaboration of powerful actors in the market, we reluctantly implemented booking practices we felt necessary to protect our company including the artists we serve, our customers, the communities we operate in and our partners, but we have been very clear all along: if market conditions change, AEG will consider reverting to its previous long-standing position that its buildings are open to all artists.”

The AEG exec does, however, caution that Azoff must follow through on his promise if he expects AEG to do the same, adding: “The only thing that would make us happier than if Mr Azoff officially declared that MSG will no longer prevent artists from choosing Staples Center would be if they then actually follow through with it.”

Azoff later issued another statement declaring the matter settled. Speaking on behalf of himself and MSG owner James Dolan, he says: “We are thrilled that AEG has listened to the artists and is going to adopt the same booking policy as MSG. For the record, and at the risk of being redundant: MSG and the Forum are open buildings. We said it and we mean it. Just ask the artists like Katy Perry who played MSG and Staples.

“So, that settles the matter: AEG and MSG have open buildings.”

 


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