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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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Indebted iHeartMedia ‘may not last 12 months’

iHeartMedia Inc., the troubled US radio giant which gave birth to Live Nation, has told investors it may not make it through another year.

In its most recent current report filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (h/t MBW), iHeartMedia vice-president Lauren Dean wrote that the company’s Q1 2017 financial results are likely to include a note casting “substantial doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern for a period of 12 months”.

Despite preliminary results indicating an operating income of US$114.06 million in the first quarter (revenue was $1.33 billion), iHeartMedia’s debt load continues to grow, fast approaching the $20bn mark. Compounding matters, Reuters reports a group of the company’s lenders have signed a cooperation agreement opposing any attempt at debt restructuring.

The company’s Q1 2017 financial results will include a note casting “substantial doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern”

iHeartMedia is the US’s largest radio broadcaster, with more than 250m monthly listeners, and, through its Clear Channel Outdoor subsidiary, one of the world’s largest billboard advertising companies. In a previous life, as Clear Channel Communications, it was also once the parent company of the Robert Sillerman’s original SFX Entertainment (not to confused with the ill-fated EDM-focused SFX 2.0), which it spun off in 2005 to form Live Nation.

It still promotes several music festivals, including iHeartRadio Music Festival and iHeartCountry Festival.

Much of the San Antonio, Texas-based company’s current financial difficulties stem from 2008, when private-equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners took Clear Channel private in $24bn leveraged buy-out.

It lost its senior VP of music, Darren Pfeffer, to Madison Square Garden Company earlier this month.


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MSG targets live expansion with new EVP

Darren Pfeffer has joined the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) in the newly created position of executive vice-president of MSG Live.

Pfeffer joins MSG after more than two decades at iHeartMedia, where he most recently served as senior VP of music and entertainment marketing, and is tasked with “setting the strategic direction” for MSG’s Live unit, which encompasses the company’s promotion, festivals and venues businesses.

“With the overarching goal of maximising the utilisation of the company’s venues and delivering top tier talent, Pfeffer will be responsible for setting the strategic direction for MSG’s bookings, which includes exploring opportunities to develop new signature events, artist residencies and unique experiences for MSG’s customers,” reads a statement from MSG. “In addition, he will play a key role in the future success of MSG’s venue expansion strategy, including the company’s plans to build a groundbreaking new venue in Las Vegas.

“Other priorities will consist of daily oversight of financial and operational matters, identifying and building key strategic relationships and working with colleagues across the company to create marketing and sales plans.

Pfeffer (pictured) will report directly to MSG president and CEO David O’Connor.

“Pfeffer’s relationships and experience developing compelling programming will serve us well as we remain focused on growing our live event business”

Madison Square Garden Company’s venues are the Madison Square Garden itself (21,000-cap.), The Theater at Madison Square Garden (5,600-cap.), Radio City Music Hall (6,015-cap.) and the Beacon Theatre (2,894-cap.), all in New York; The Forum (17,500-cap.) in Los Angeles; the Chicago Theatre (3,600-cap.) and the Wang Theatre (3,500-cap.) in Boston, Massachusetts.

Its also promotes the Boston Calling festival through Boston Calling Events, which it acquired last July.

“Darren has spent more than 20 years in entertainment, overseeing some of the industry’s most popular events and creating opportunities to leverage talent,” comments O’Connor. “His relationships, along with his experience developing compelling programming, will serve us well as we remain focused on growing our live event business by exploring new and better ways to utilise our world-class portfolio of venues.

“We look forward to having him as part of our leadership team as we continue to build on MSG’s outstanding tradition of delivering unique and exceptional live experiences.”

Pfeffer adds: “The Madison Square Garden Company is peerless in its portfolio of iconic venues, world-class partners and access to top-tier performers and events. I am thrilled to join the team, and look forward to not only continuing to grow the live event business, but to providing unforgettable experiences for MSG’s customers and partners.”


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VR users are big spenders on concerts

Virtual reality (VR) is a major opportunity for concert promoters, with early adopters of the technology outspending the average American by almost 2:1 on live events.

While much has been made of VR’s potential to transform the concert business, conceivably growing massively the audience for live music by enabling those unable to attend to still experience a show, a new study by Nielsen is the first to focus on VR enthusiasts’ spending habits.

Nielsen surveyed more than 8,000 consumers aged 18–54, dividing those interested in VR into two pun-tastic categories: PaVRs (pronounced “pavers”), who make up roughly 24% of the US population between 18 and 54, say it’s “likely that they will use or even possibly purchase VR technology in the next year”, while ConVRts (“converts”), who represent around 20% of US 18–54 population, “aren’t the most likely to try VR on their own, [but] exposure to even just a little information about the technology and applications boosts their interest levels”.

The market research firm found that PaVRs outspend the average consumer on tickets to concerts and live events by 195%, as well as on fast food by 179% and alcoholic beverages by 170%.

“PaVRs are triple-A consumers. They appreciate premium quality, and are willing to pay a premium price”

“Advertisers will be pleased to find that PaVRs are triple-A consumers,” says Nielsen’s director of lab research. “They adopt new products and service, they advocate for the brands they love and they appreciate premium quality – and are willing to pay a premium price.”

2016 has so far seen a host of new live music-related VR projects as the technology gains ground in the industry, including joint ventures between VFX studio Digital Domain and Warner Music Taiwan, Universal Music and iHeartMedia and Live Nation and NextVR.

VR headsets were also handed out at AEG Live’s Coachella festival in April, Eindhoven venue Effenaar earlier this month announced plans to transform itself into a high-tech VR hub during the early-week lull and Wacken Open Air was filmed in VR to create “rock’s first narrative VR experience”.


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