Artist News Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

AEG hits back at Ozzy Osbourne lawsuit over venue booking practices

By | Published on Tuesday 5 June 2018

Ozzy Osbourne

Last year’s venue booking spat involving rivals AEG, Live Nation and MSG has gone legal thanks to Ozzy Osbourne, although AEG wants his lawsuit – which accuses the live firm of anti-competitive behaviour – tossed out of court on various technicalities.

As you may remember, last summer it emerged that AEG had started linking bookings at venues it operates in London and LA, namely The O2 and the Staples Center. Rumour had it that some artists looking to play the former had been told they must also commit to play the latter when in LA, rather than rival Los Angeles venue the Forum, which is run by MSG.

When criticised over this linking of venue bookings, AEG countered that MSG had started it by linking bookings at its flagship New York venue Madison Square Garden with the Forum. Live Nation then chipped in to moan about AEG’s venue linking practices, prompting AEG to question why it hadn’t likewise criticised MSG, before noting that maybe it was because the MSG venues use Live Nation’s Ticketmaster.

AEG then added: “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”.

In the end it was Ozzy Osbourne who actually filed an antitrust action – back in March – in relation to AEG’s venue booking practices. Though that legal action did relate to a Live Nation promoted tour. A fact that is actually one of the technicalities AEG is now employing in a bid to have the case dismissed – ie because the dispute relates to a contract with Live Nation rather than Osbourne himself, that means – reckons AEG – that he’s not party to that agreement and therefore can’t sue in relation to it.

Osbourne’s lawsuit claimed that AEG linking bookings at The O2 and the Staples Centre was a kind of “tying agreement” that is banned under American law. That was based on the argument that the O2 Arena is the only venue of its size in the London area, meaning any artist who wants to play both London and LA is backed into a corner by AEG’s policy.

Responding in a new legal filing last Friday, AEG basically accused Live Nation of using Osbourne to fight its battle. It then argued that because the O2/Staples commitment was contained in a document signed by Live Nation, Osbourne was not actually bound by the limitations contained within it. Which is to say that, while the contract may have restricted Live Nation when it came to promoting Osbourne shows in LA, it didn’t actually restrict the options of Osbourne himself.

AEG also criticises other aspects of Osbourne’s lawsuit, including the fact that it fails to allege any monetary damages and that claims the venue booking policy restricted the musician’s “artistic identity” are just too vague. It says the original lawsuit lacks any facts that “even hint at what Ozzy’s ‘artistic vision’ might be or how that vision might be enhanced if he were to play only at the Forum instead of Staples. Ozzy does not even allege that he personally would prefer to play at the Forum instead of Staples”.

Responding to AEG’s bid to have the lawsuit dismissed, a legal rep for Osbourne told Law 360 that “the idea that because the promoter signs the contract the artists have no standing, that’s completely contrary to how the industry works”.

So, for now at least, the spat continues.