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US election: Venues turn into polling stations

Live Nation has announced plans to use more than 100 of its US venues as polling stations for the American presidential election on 3 November.

The concert giant says it is working with local authorities to examine the feasibility of using Live Nation-owned venues across the country as polling centres, with the Wiltern (1,850-cap.) and Hollywood Palladium (3,800-cap.) in Los Angeles, Emo’s (1,700-cap.) in Austin, Texas, and the Buckhead Theatre (1,800-cap.) in Atlanta already confirmed.

The Fillmore (2,500-cap.) in Philadelphia is in the “final stages of the vetting process”, it adds.

“Core to what we do at Live Nation is helping amplify voices on stage around the world, and supporting voting is another important way we want to continue making voices heard,” comments LN CEO Michael Rapino. “We’re honoured to work with such incredible partners and will do everything in our power to support and empower voter engagement among our employees and the public.”

The LN properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas

The company has also partnered with More Than a Vote, a non-profit organisation supporting black voters, and announced it will give its employees paid time off to vote.

The Live Nation properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas. They include Madison Square Garden in New York, the Los Angeles Forum, State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make mass gatherings difficult, we are excited to partner with New York City’s board of elections,” says Madison Square Garden’s Rich Constable, “and support our community by providing a large-scale venue in the heart of New York City that can accommodate social distancing and serve as a safe place for residents to exercise their right to vote.”

The US presidential election will be held on Tuesday 3 November 2020, pitting incumbent president Donald Trump against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Madison Square Garden Company to sell LA Forum

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has reached a deal to sell the Forum, the 18,000-capacity arena in Inglewood, Los Angeles, to Steve Ballmer, the billionaire owner of basketball team the LA Clippers, for US$400 million in cash.

MSG – which also operates the famous Madison Square Garden in New York, and is developing cutting-edge ‘Sphere’ arenas in Las Vegas and London – has long been opposed to Ballmer’s plans to build a new arena for the Clippers in the vicinity of the Forum (pictured), and formerly accused Inglewood mayor James Butts of colluding with the Clippers to secretly acquire a plot of land from MSG for the venue.

The purchase, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020, resolves all litigation between MSG and Ballmer/the Clippers, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“This is the best resolution for all parties involved”

Ballmer, formerly CEO of Microsoft, reportedly plans to build a new, privately financed 18,000-seat arena for the Clippers, while continuing to operate the Forum as a concert venue.

“This is the best resolution for all parties involved and we wish the new owners every success,” MSG says in a statement.

“We are looking forward to putting the legal issues behind us,” add the Clippers. “This will allow us to focus on delivering world-class experiences for music fans and building a new arena that will provide a unique environment and a true home-court advantage for Clippers fans.”

 


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Booking war nears end as AEG abandons block booking

Update (23/9/18): The Osbournes have dropped their lawsuit against AEG following the end of the O2–Staples Center block-booking arrangement.

 


The long-running ‘booking war’ between AEG and Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) looks to be approaching its conclusion, after Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, confirmed the company is no longer block booking its LA Staples Center and London O2 venues.

The two companies have been engaged in a tit-for-tat dispute since early 2017, with AEG instituting a booking policy that forces artists who want to perform at AEG’s European venues, particularly the 20,000-cap. O2 Arena, to also play Staples Center (21,000-cap.) rather than MSG’s LA Forum (17,500-cap.). MSG and Azoff MSG Entertainment, its joint venture with former Live Nation executive chairman Irving Azoff, similar tied Madison Square Garden in New York with the Forum in LA, with each party blaming the other for starting the ‘war’.

Recent developments include MSG-allied Live Nation lodging a complaint with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority over the O2–Staples Center arrangement, which was dismissed by the CMA last December, and, in March, Ozzy and Sharon Obsnourne suing AEG, alleging that forcing artists to play both venues is an “explicit”, “brazen” violation of US competition law.

Announcing the end of the block-booking policy, Marciano tells Variety it is no longer necessary now that MSG has ended its own tying arrangement.

“I applaud Jay Marciano and AEG’s decision to put artists first”

“Going forward, promoters for artists who want to play the O2 will no longer to be required to commit to playing Staples,” he says.

“We would only require that commitment if we had reason to believe that artists were being somehow pressured to play the Forum in order to have access to the Garden. But we’ve had a lot of feedback from artists and agents and managers that they’re no longer [feeling pressured to do so].

“We’re pleased that this is the end result.”

Azoff welcomes the news, while also praising the Osbournes for their legal action. “It’s a great day for artists when those of us that make a living serving them recognise that artists should have the right to their own decisions, especially regarding choice of venues to play,” he says in a statement. “I applaud Jay Marciano and AEG’s decision to put artists first, and of course thanks to Ozzy and Sharon for standing up for everyone.”

 


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MSG sues Inglewood mayor over “secret” arena plans

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has filed a lawsuit against James T. Butts Jnr, the mayor of Inglewood, accusing him of defrauding its Forum venue over allegedly secret plans to build a new arena just south of the Forum.

The 46-page complaint, filed yesterday (5 March) in Los Angeles superior court, details what MSG calls “the improper actions of the city, Mayor Butts (in both his public and private roles) and other co-defendants that jeopardise the Forum”. The company says Butts and local authorities held secret negotiations with the LA Clippers, a basketball team, to “deprive” MSG of 15 acres of land it leased from the city for arena parking, allegedly telling MSG the city needed the land for a “technology park”.

“Knowing the Forum needed the land for parking and would not give up its lease for a competitive arena literally down the street, the city secretly negotiated with the Clippers,” according to the Forum’s lawyer, Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins.

“The city did not use the parking lease property for a technology park or comparable development, nor did Mayor Butts or the city ever intend to do so,” the lawsuit alleges.

The Clippers announced plans for a new “world-class basketball arena” – allegedly on the site of the proposed ‘technology park’ – last month.

“The city’s actions violated the lease between the city and Forum”

“Seemingly aware of his deception”, Butts, MSG alleges, even directed Forum executives to email him about the parking lease only at his personal Gmail account so he could keep discussions “confidential”.

“The city’s actions violated the lease between the city and Forum, the development agreement between the Forum and the city, and fundamental principles of good faith and fair dealing as required by California law,” says Putnam.

The development agreement between the two parties requires MSG to invest at least US$50 million in the venue and meet ongoing ticket minimums guaranteeing about $600,000 in revenue for the city each year for 30 years. In return, the lawsuit says, the city explicitly agrees to not engage in “any action or proceeding” that would cause “a material adverse impact on the […] economic competitiveness of the Forum.”

In addition to the 17,500-cap. LA Forum, Madison Square Garden Company owns Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre, in New York, and the Chicago Theatre, as well as the New York Knicks and New York Liberty basketball teams and the New York Rangers ice hockey team.

The company also last month revealed plans for futuristic new venues in Las Vegas and London, based on its cutting-edge MSG Sphere concept.

 


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LA booking war escalates with Jingle Ball move

In the latest twist in the ongoing ‘booking war’ between AEG and Azoff MSG Entertainment, iHeartMedia’s popular festive Jingle Ball concert in Los Angeles is moving venues: from AEG’s Staples Center to MSG’s Forum.

Azoff MSG Entertainment, a joint venture between Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden Company, and AEG are currently embroiled in a tit-for-tat booking dispute, with both parties barring acts from playing some of their venues unless they play another: for example, MSG’s Forum (17,500-cap.) and Madison Square Garden and AEG’s Staples Center (21,000-cap.) and The O2 in London.

MSG struck the most recent blow, expanding its footprint in the greater New York area by agreeing a booking deal with New Jersey’s Prudential Center (19,500-cap.).

Azoff MSG Entertainment and AEG are currently embroiled in a tit-for-tat booking dispute

According to Variety, Jingle Ball – last year played by 13 major international acts, including Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Fifth Harmony and One Direction’s Niall Horan – will now take place at the Forum, in a reported multi-year deal.

Oak View Group, a venue development and investment firm backed by Azoff, last month acquired concert business title Pollstar – a move reportedly met with disappointment by AEG, which supplies box-office data to the magazine.

A similarly named but unrelated UK event, Jingle Bell Ball, is organised by Global’s Capital Radio and takes place at The O2.

 


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O2 takes centre stage as AEG–MSG turf war heats up

The Los Angeles ‘booking war’ between rival US venue operators AEG and Azoff MSG Entertainment has crossed the Atlantic, with acts who opt to play MSG’s the Forum rather than AEG’s Staples Center to be turned away from The O2 in London.

In a no-holds-barred statement issued this morning, an AEG representative says MSG’s “aggressive practice of requiring artists to perform at the LA Forum in order to secure dates at Madison Square Garden” means it will now have to implement a similar policy at The O2, with slots at the venue reserved for those acts who played Staples Center (21,000-cap.) when passing through LA.

“AEG always places artists and fans first and believes that artists should be free to play whatever venue they choose,” reads the AEG statement, shared with IQ. “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.”

“We are highly confident of the legality of our booking policy”

AEG also reveals it has been threatened with legal action by its chief rival, Live Nation, which it insists it is not trying to shut out of The O2. “Our policy is not intended in any way to deny Live Nation, or any other promoter, access to The O2 arena,” it continues. “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.”

The 21,000-capacity O2, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, has since 2008 been the world’s busiest venue. It is also by far the largest in London, dwarfing its nearest rival, The SSE Arena, Wembley (12,500-cap.), which is also operated by AEG.

Despite assuring Live Nation it will still be welcome to put on shows at The O2, AEG says it will “vigorously defend” any legal bid to thwart its new booking policy – and accuses the rival promoter of “hypocrisy”, given its ownership of Ticketmaster and overall “dominant market position”.

“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,” it continues. “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.

Irving Azoff has defended coordinated booking between the Forum and MSG as “good, tough business”

“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.”

Azoff MSG chief Irving Azoff – himself a former chairman of Live Nation – has previously defended the coordinated booking between the Forum and Madison Square Garden as “good, tough business”.

Live Nation declined to comment.

 


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Irving Azoff, AEG in LA ‘booking war’

Irving Azoff has responded to reports of a bad-tempered Los Angeles ‘booking war’ between AEG and MSG Azoff Entertainment, saying the alleged offering of incentives to artists to play the rival companies’ respective venues is “good, tough business”.

Former Ticketmaster/Live Nation chairman Azoff (picture) issued the statement after Billboard reported that LA booking agents are being told by MSG Azoff – a joint venture between Azoff and the Madison Square Garden Company – their acts cannot play Madison Square Garden (in New York) unless they also play MSG’s the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles.

AEG is also alleged to be pushing artists to play its Staples Center venue or risk losing the chance to play at other AEG arenas, including The O2 in London and Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg.

After chiding AEG COO Jay Marciano, Staples Center president Lee Zeidman and WME’s Marc Geiger – whose client Neil Diamond had pulled out of playing the Staples Center after reportedly being told he could not also play Madison Square Garden, earning the ire of Marciano, who accused Geiger of “caving” to Azoff – for “hid[ing] behind anonymity”, Azoff suggests offering such deals to those who want to perform at the over-subscribed Garden simply makes business sense.

“While I realise that Phil may not be happy with Los Angeles being a competitive market, that’s the American way”

“They [AEG] 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,” he tells Billboard. “They know, of course, that it is unlikely they will deliver the Staples date, but they work for a hard-nosed businessman [Phil Anschutz].

With regards to Madison Square Garden, he continues, “we have far fewer nights available than requests by artists to play there. And of course, the premium MSG nights are going to loyal friends of the company.

“Playing the Forum – the obviously better music venue in Los Angeles – makes you a friend of the company. I only wish we could accommodate everyone with dates in Manhattan, but it’s simple supply and demand. Besides, unlike London and Germany, there are now four arenas in the New York area, so if an act can’t play the Garden, they can go elsewhere.

Azoff is also co-founder, with ex-AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, of Oak View Group – which is bidding against AEG on Seattle’s KeyArena. He concludes: “While I realise that Phil may not be happy with Los Angeles being a competitive market, that’s the American way.”

 


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