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AIF disappointed at government response to select committee’s recommendation on competition in the live sector

By | Published on Friday 26 July 2019


The Association Of Independent Festivals has expressed disappointment at the UK government’s response to a recent parliamentary report on the live music industry, and in particular the recommendations it made on competition in the live sector.

Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee published a wide-ranging report on the live music industry back in March, following various sessions involving representatives from across the sector. The report had lots to say about secondary ticketing, the challenges facing grassroots venues, and concerns about licensing systems that discriminate against certain genres, often based on the ethnicity of the target audience.

However, also among the recommendations in that report was one that suggested that the Competition & Markets Authority might “consider conducting a market study of the music industry to assess whether competition in the market is working effectively for both consumers and those working in the industry”.

That was in part in response to concerns raised by AIF about the ever-increasing dominance of Live Nation in the festival and wider live entertainment market. The trade body had previously called on the UK competition regulator to “properly scrutinise Live Nation’s vertical integration and dominance, and the detrimental effect it has on the independent festival market”.

The government responded to the select committee’s various live music related recommendations earlier this week in a predictably non-committal fashion, wherever possible name-checking existing government or industry initiatives that address some of the concerns raised by the parliamentarians.

On the competition investigation point, it simply said that the CMA is an independent regulator and as such it was for the authority’s own leadership to decide what studies it should undertake. But it then added that the CMA has already been working on issues around secondary ticketing in the wake of the government’s own 2016 Waterson Report on the ticket resale market. Which is, of course, true, the CMA having been ever more prolific in this domain of late, in particular in trying to force pesky Viagogo to fall in line with consumer rights law.

However, AIF has countered, the Waterson Report and the CMA’s subsequent work on the secondary ticketing market isn’t really relevant here, it being a very specific aspect of the live industry, while the select committee’s recommendation regarding a possible investigation on competition in the music market was much wider.

AIF boss Paul Reed said yesterday: “Following a robust and wide-ranging inquiry and report into live music from the DCMS select committee, this is a derisory response from government. Referring to the Waterson Report avoids the breadth and depth of the issues AIF has outlined in terms of the widespread dominance of a single company, Live Nation, across the live music sector”.

“Professor Waterson’s remit was focused firmly on secondary ticketing”, he added. “The report did look at primary ticketing, but not to the extent this response implies. Regardless, it is well established that competition issues in the live music sector go way beyond ticketing and we will continue to ring the alarm bells around the systemic issues arising from the increasing grip of vertically integrated major corporations along the live music supply chain and the effect this has on competition”.

Concluding, the AIF boss said: “The problem is only going to get worse if it is not addressed properly and swiftly. We will be writing to the relevant government ministers accordingly”.