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Officials back MSG Sphere London digital ad plan

Madison Square Garden’s controversial MSG Sphere London scheme has overcome another hurdle after officials backed its digital advertising display plans.

The proposed venue, which was approved in principal in March last year, will be covered in LED panels designed to display “moving images, artistic content and branded advertising across the entire façade of the building”.

Despite a number of objections from various parties, the scheme won the support of the London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) at a meeting yesterday (24 January), subject to a five-year review. It will now be referred to the mayor of London.

If given final approval, the 21,500-cap Sphere will be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich, and become MSG’s first property outside of the US. MSG has suggested that London has an “undersupply” of dedicated large entertainment venues compared with cities such as Berlin, Paris, Madrid and New York (the capital’s next biggest indoor spaces are the 12,500-cap OVO Arena Wembley and the 10,400-cap Alexandra Palace.

However, the scheme is fiercely opposed by AEG, which has voiced concerns over MSG Sphere London’s proximity to The O2 and – according to a 2019 investigation by The Times – created a residents’ group in opposition. AEG says it is “dismayed” by the outcome of last night’s meeting.

“The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transposed onto this east London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location”

“We are dismayed by the LLDC PDC’s decision to sign off the MSG Sphere’s advertising strategy for its digital display in the face of strong objections from Newham Council, neighbouring east London boroughs, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the local MP, rail operators, Transport for London, Historic England, and hundreds of local residents, some of whom are represented by local campaign group, Stop MSG,” says a statement by the company.

“We call on the mayor of London to uphold his election promise to do what’s best for Londoners, including the residents of Newham who are having this huge development forced on them, by directing refusal of the planning application.”

AEG claims the advertising façade is at a “wholly unprecedented scale for London” and “totally out of keeping with the surrounding area”.

“The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transposed onto this east London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location,” it adds. “We have concluded that there are at least 10 problems with the MSG Sphere’s proposed controls for the advertising display. Fundamentally, regardless of the findings of a review after five years, no matter how damaging and intrusive the light pollution is to the health of residents or dangerous to rail or road users, the advertisement consent will not be revoked.”

The first MSG Sphere venue, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, is currently under construction in Las Vegas and is scheduled to open in the second half of 2023.

 


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MSG ups Josephine Vaccarello to EVP, live

Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) has promoted long-serving executive Josephine Vaccarello to executive vice-president, live.

Vaccarello, who began her MSG in 1998 as an administrative assistant, previously served as SVP, MSG live and business operations.

In her new role, she will lead the company’s live entertainment bookings business across all of its venues, including New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre, and The Chicago Theatre. She will also be responsible for booking concert residencies at the new MSG Sphere, which is scheduled to open in Las Vegas in the second half of this year.

“Over her tenure at MSG Entertainment, Josephine has been instrumental in growing our live event business by pursuing innovative opportunities including multi-night bookings and unique residencies, and bringing unforgettable events featuring the world’s biggest artists to our venues,” says James Dolan, MSG executive chairman and CEO. “In this new leadership role, I am confident she will continue to raise the bar within the live entertainment industry by leveraging her unparalleled relationships and expertise across our portfolio and in booking our newest venue – the state-of-the-art MSG Sphere.”

“We have a lot of big ideas for the future that will make an indelible mark on live entertainment”

Vaccarello was most recently responsible for booking concerts, comedy, all family entertainment and theatrical properties, and special events, in addition to overseeing the live division’s business strategy. She has been instrumental in bringing residencies and shows to MSG venues including Billy Joel’s ongoing run; 15 nights of Harry Styles and Phish’s annual New Year’s Eve run.

As EVP, live, she will focus on optimising the use of MSG venues and developing strategies that maximise growth by introducing new signature events, conceptualising artist residencies, and delivering unique experiences for artists and fans.

“Throughout my 25 years at this company, I’ve had unique opportunities to grow and evolve my career within the organisation, and I’m honoured to take on this elevated leadership role, particularly as MSG Entertainment expands its live entertainment business,” says Vaccarello. “We have a lot of big ideas for the future that will make an indelible mark on live entertainment and I’m looking forward to continuing to create iconic moments with artists for our fans in New York, Chicago and soon, Las Vegas.”

Earlier this week, MSG announced that it expects to complete its proposed spin-off its live entertainment and MSG Networks divisions by the end of March.

 


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MSG spin-off expected to be completed in March

Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment says it expects to complete its proposed spin-off its live entertainment and MSG Networks divisions by the end of March.

Structured as a tax-free spin-off to all MSGE shareholders, the move would separate those businesses from the firm’s MSG Sphere and Tao Group Hospitality businesses, creating a separately-traded public company.

MSG filed plans for the spin-off with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in November last year.

Alongside New York City’s 20,000-cap Madison Square Garden, the live entertainment and media firm is expected to include The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre, along with the firm’s entertainment and sports bookings business and long-term arena licence agreements with the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.

MSG previously completed the spin-off of its entertainment businesses from its sports company in 2020.

MSG Entertainment would then comprise the MSG Sphere venues, a majority interest in TAO Group Hospitality, an approximately one-third economic interest in the live entertainment and media company; and the majority of the company’s cash on hand.

In the first step of the transaction, which remains subject to various conditions, record holders of MSGE Class A and Class B common stock would receive a pro-rata distribution expected to be equivalent, in aggregate, to an approximately 67% economic interest in the live entertainment company, which would take on the name Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. The remaining 33% economic interest would be retained by the current parent firm, which would be renamed MSG Sphere Corp.

MSG previously completed the spin-off of its entertainment businesses from its sports company in 2020.

Last month, it was revealed that Madison Square Garden Company is using facial recognition technology to prevent anyone who works for a firm that is suing it from entering its venues.

The ban covers venues including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre and the Chicago Theatre, reported Rolling Stone.

 


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MSG using face-scanning tech to eject lawyers

Madison Square Garden Company is using facial recognition technology to prevent anyone who works for a firm that is suing it from entering its venues.

The ban covers venues including New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG), Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre and the Chicago Theatre, reports Rolling Stone.

“MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation against the company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved,” says a statement from MSG Entertainment. “While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment.”

“We have always made it clear to our guests and the public that we use facial recognition as one of our tools to provide a safe and secure environment”

According to the report, lawyers to have been removed from shows include Grant & Eisenhofer Barbara Hart, who was escorted out of MSG by security guards prior to a Brandi Carlile concert, and Davis, Saperstein & Solomon’s Kelly Conlon, who was asked to leave an event at Radio City Music Hall.

MSG Company faces a lawsuit from “dozens of attorneys and their firms” over the policy, but has defended its use of face-scanning tech, which it has deployed since at least 2018.

“We have always made it clear to our guests and the public that we use facial recognition as one of our tools to provide a safe and secure environment and we will continue to use to protect against the entry of individuals who we have prohibited from entering our venues,” adds the statement.

 


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MSG moves forward with spin-off proposal

Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment has filed plans with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to spin-off its live entertainment and MSG Networks divisions.

The proposed move, which remains subject to various conditions, would separate those businesses from the firm’s MSG Sphere and Tao Group Hospitality businesses, creating a separately-traded public company.

Alongside New York City’s 20,000-cap Madison Square Garden, the live entertainment and media firm is expected to include The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre, along with the firm’s entertainment and sports bookings business and long-term arena licence agreements with the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.

MSG Entertainment would then comprise the MSG Sphere venues, a majority interest in TAO Group Hospitality, an approximately one-third economic interest in the live entertainment and media company; and the majority of the company’s cash on hand.

If the company proceeds with the separation, it would be structured as a tax-free spin-off to all MSGE shareholders. MSG previously completed the spin-off of its entertainment businesses from its sports company in 2020.

“Looking ahead, we expect fiscal 2023 to be a defining year as we make progress toward the completion of MSG Sphere in Las Vegas and our potential spin-off”

MSG revealed the latest development as part of its financial report for fiscal Q1 2023, the three-month period ending 30 September 2022.

The company reported revenues of $401.2 million, up 36% on the prior year quarter, and an operating loss of $44.8m (an improvement of 46%), and adjusted operating income of $2.8m, a decrease of $7.5m, or 73%, compared to the prior year period.

“We are pleased with our start to the year, with first quarter results reflecting robust ongoing demand for our portfolio of assets and brands,” says executive chairman and CEO James Dolan. “Looking ahead, we expect fiscal 2023 to be a defining year as we make progress toward the completion of MSG Sphere in Las Vegas and our potential spin-off, both of which we believe will deliver long-term value for our shareholders.”

The fiscal quarter was highlighted by a busy calendar of events at MSG venues, strength in Tao Group Hospitality’s key markets, including Las Vegas and New York, and robust sales and renewal activity within marketing partnerships and suites.

 


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MSG raises banner to mark Harry Styles’ residency

Harry Styles has become only the third music artist to have a banner raised to the rafters at New York’s Madison Square Garden in celebration of his 15 consecutive nights at the 20,000-cap arena.

The banner was unveiled and presented to Styles during the encore of the final show of his sold-out Love on Tour residency, which ran from 20 August to 21 September. Every fan in attendance received a feather boa to mark the occasion.

“Selling out 15 consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden is a massive accomplishment and reinforces Harry Styles as one of the most impactful artists of his generation,” says MSG Entertainment executive chairman and CEO Jim Dolan.

The Live Nation-promoted 15-night run saw MSG transformed into “Harry’s House”, with interactive photo activations placed around the venue; custom postcards distributed at each show; and exclusive specialty food and beverage options created specifically for the run. A merch pop-up was also set up at MSG throughout the run and was accessible to all fans, regardless of whether they had tickets.

“It is a testament to Harry and his fans that a banner celebrating this remarkable achievement will hang from the rafters alongside some of the most legendary artists and athletes in history”

Billy Joel and Phish are the only two other musical acts to have banners hanging from The Garden’s rafters. Last week it was announced that Joel has added another show to his record-breaking MSG residency, with the star’s 13 January show marking Joel’s 87th monthly and 133rd lifetime show at the venue.

“It is a testament to Harry and his fans that a banner celebrating this remarkable achievement will hang from the rafters alongside some of the most legendary artists and athletes in history,” adds Dolan.

Styles and Live Nation will be donating more than $1 million in proceeds from the tour to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund – the education, research and litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organisation in the US.

The 28-year-old was 2021’s top worldwide ticket seller according to Pollstar‘s year-end rankings, selling 669,051 tickets for his Love on Tour arena dates, generating $86,723,984 (€80,530,991). The tour heads to Latin America later this year following the conclusion of Styles’ US dates, and continues in 2023 with stadium dates in Australasia and Europe.

 


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Jonas Brothers to star in intimate MSG concert

Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment Corp and Delta Air Lines have announced a collaboration to present a first-of-its-kind intimate performance by the Jonas Brothers.

Delta Jet Set with the Jonas Brothers will take place on the floor of New York’s Madison Square Garden on Monday 20 June.

The concert forms part of MSG Entertainment’s Staged By MSG live music partnership platform, which has featured unique experiences including private on stage wedding proposals, concerts that supported healthcare heroes during the pandemic, virtual events in support of emerging artists and local charities, and livestream concerts.

“This exclusive event at The Garden is a first for The World’s Most Famous Arena,” says Ron Skotarczak, EVP, chief sales and marketing officer, MSG Entertainment. “Delta Jet Set is another example of how, through the Staged By MSG partnership platform, MSG Entertainment continues to utilise our portfolio of best-in-class venues and our unmatched artist relationships to conceptualise and create unique events that add tremendous value for our brand partners and their customers.”

Delta Jet Set with the Jonas Brothers is the latest event for Delta SkyMiles Members as part of a longstanding partnership between MSG Entertainment and Delta Air Lines, the Official Airline partner of Madison Square Garden, Hulu Theater at MSG, Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes and Boston Calling Music Festival.

“Delta’s partnership with MSG Entertainment allows us to connect people to their passions”

Previously, MSG Entertainment and Delta Air Lines collaborated to present “MAX: Breaking Through” in the Delta Sky360 Club at MSG, a listening party where fans exclusively heard select songs from MAX’s upcoming album; and a “Tweet 2 Meet” in the Delta Sky360 Club at MSG with Anderson .Paak where the artist surprised his biggest fans with an exclusive meet-and-greet.

“As the Official Airline of MSG and the No. 1 Airline in New York, Delta’s partnership with MSG Entertainment allows us to connect people to their passions – whether that is through travel or exclusive events like Delta Jet Set,” adds Emmakate Young, MD of brand marketing and sponsorships, Delta Air Lines. “This is one of many ways we are working to provide unparalleled experiences for our SkyMiles Members and reinforce our investment to New York.”

The Staged By MSG partnership platform has produced events with brands and artists including AJR, Alicia Keys, Anthony Ramos, Bastille, Bebe Rexha, Brett Eldredge, Dermot Kennedy, Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Janelle Monae, Jason Mraz, Kane Brown, Liam Payne, Lil Yachty, Mary J. Blige, Miguel, Natalie Merchant, Post Malone, Rascal Flatts, Swae Lee, Tori Kelly, X Amabassadors, Zedd, and 24Kgldn.

 


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MSG Sphere London moves a step closer

Madison Square Garden’s controversial MSG Sphere London project has been given the go-ahead by planning officials despite objections from rival AEG.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) planning committee voted to back the application – which still requires approval from the mayor – by a 6-4 majority at a meeting last night (22 March), three years after plans were first submitted.

The 21,500-cap venue, which would be MSG’s first property outside of the US, is set to be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich. The building will be covered in LED panels designed to display digital content, including moving images, artistic content and branded advertising.

“We are pleased that the planning committee voted in support of our vision for MSG Sphere,” says a statement from MSG, first reported by Pollstar. “Throughout this process we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, and are grateful for their collaboration which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to progressing onto the next steps in the approval process.”

MSG has suggested that London has an “undersupply” of dedicated large entertainment venues compared with cities  such as Berlin, Paris, Madrid and New York (the capital’s next biggest indoor spaces are the 12,500-cap OVO Arena Wembley and the 10,400-cap Alexandra Palace. However, more than 850 objections were received to the proposal, with 355 written responses in support.

“Reoccurring themes in representations in support are that the proposed development and advertisement proposals would make a distinctive contribution to the Stratford skyline, improve connectivity, create jobs and be an iconic visitor attraction,” read the report by LLDC principal planning development manager Daniel Davies, which had backed the scheme.

“Reoccurring themes in opposition to the proposed development are the lack of need for the development as well as its scale, massing and form in the local context, its impact on Stratford Station and the impact of advertising on residential amenity, the setting of heritage assets and public safety” it added.

“AEG have always maintained we do not oppose competition in the live entertainment sector”

AEG has previously voiced concerns over the proposed venue’s proximity to The O2 and reiterated its opposition in the run-up to last night’s meeting.

“AEG have always maintained we do not oppose competition in the live entertainment sector, or another large music venue in London, but it should not be built so close to The London Stadium, Copper Box, Westfield and The O2,” said a spokesperson for the company.

“It is imperative that it does not add to congestion or overcrowding in this area of the city, or on the public transport network, especially the Jubilee line which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2. We believe that MSG’s scheme is fundamentally the wrong proposal, in the wrong location, and is technically seriously flawed.”

A 2019 investigation by The Times found that AEG had created a residents’ group to oppose the scheme.

Earlier this month, MSG announced the appointment of veteran executive Lucas Watson as MSG Sphere president. Watson, who takes up the new role next week, will lead the strategy and execution of all business aspects of MSG Sphere and the company’s planned state-of-the-art venues.

He will oversee the global development of the MSG Sphere brand, including selectively extending the MSG Sphere network to other markets.

The first MSG Sphere venue, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, is currently under construction in Las Vegas and is scheduled to open in the second half of calendar 2023.

 


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MSG Sphere London plans to be debated next week

AEG has repeated its opposition to Madison Square Garden’s proposed new MSG Sphere London venue after it was confirmed a planning application for the development will be heard next week.

The 21,500-cap venue, which would be MSG’s first property outside of the United States, is set to be located in Stratford, east London, across the river from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap.) in North Greenwich.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) planning committee will meet to discuss the application on Tuesday 22 March, three years after plans were first submitted.

A spokesperson for AEG, which has previously voiced concerns over the MSG venue’s proximity to The O2, says: “We are calling on the LLDC to refuse MSG’s application for a new venue in Stratford and encourage the Mayor of London to formally oppose this project in order to protect Newham’s residents and existing businesses from this inappropriate development.

“The proposals would exacerbate congestion at the already over-crowded Stratford Station, and no additional train services are proposed to mitigate the impact on the Jubilee Line. It has been suggested that various further modelling and assessment be undertaken post-planning meaning that the full impact of the proposals is simply not known.”

“AEG have always maintained we do not oppose competition in the live entertainment sector”

AEG insists it is not against competition, but argues the area is already well served by existing venues.

“AEG have always maintained we do not oppose competition in the live entertainment sector, or another large music venue in London, but it should not be built so close to The London Stadium, Copper Box, Westfield and The O2,” adds the spokesperson. “It is imperative that it does not add to congestion or overcrowding in this area of the city, or on the public transport network, especially the Jubilee line which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2.

“We believe that MSG’s scheme is fundamentally the wrong proposal, in the wrong location, and is technically seriously flawed.”

A 2019 investigation by The Times found that AEG had created a residents’ group to oppose the scheme.

“Our plans are not about competition,” MSG’s EVP of development and construction Jayne McGivern said at the time. “Examples from New York and Los Angeles suggest that a new arena would grow the market and complement London’s existing venues by expanding booking options and allowing more artists to perform in the city.

“We had hoped the owners of existing arenas in London would welcome innovation, diversity, and choice, and it’s extremely disappointing to us that they have not.”

 


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New York to require Covid-19 vax for all indoor shows

New York City, one of the world’s live music capitals, will soon require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show, mayor Bill de Blasio announced today (3 August).

The strict new requirements will be extended to other indoor activities, including dining at a restaurant and working out at in the gym, throughout August and September, as the city seeks to stop the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, reports the Associated Press.

New York is the first major city to impose such restrictions, though some venues already have similar requirements: Iconic arena Madison Square Garden, for example, has required all fans to be fully vaccinated for its non-socially distanced events since the Foo Fighters’ huge show in June. (Interestingly, the city mandate won’t require ‘full’/double vaccinations – only the first jab.)

“If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated”

According to AP, the policy will come into effect on 16 August but inspections and enforcement won’t begin until 13 September, when the city’s schools reopen. About 66% of adults in New York are fully vaccinated, according to official data.

De Blasio has so far rejected calls to require masks indoors, as some cities in California have, focusing instead on getting the city’s population immunised against the virus.

“The only way to patronise these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated,” says de Blasio, whose office administers a city of over eight million people.“The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”

 


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