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Indie festivals again criticise Live Nation’s dominance in their sector

By | Published on Tuesday 28 August 2018


The Association Of Independent Festivals has again raised concerns about the dominance of Live Nation in the UK festivals market. The trade group has done some number crunching and reckons that, of all the UK’s larger music festivals (over a 5000 capacity), Live Nation-controlled events account for 25.3% of available tickets.

AIF previously raised concerns about Live Nation’s dominance in the UK festivals marketwhen the Competition & Markets Authority was investigating the live giant’s acquisition of the Isle Of Wight festival last year. That deal was subsequently approved.

In its latest stats pack, AIF reckons that festivals owned or part-owned by Live Nation – often through subsidiaries like Festival Republic, MAMA, DF and Cuffe & Taylor – together account for 25.3% of the total capacity of larger music festivals. Its closest competitor is broadcaster Global, which is still a sizeable player in the festivals market from its various dabblings in the music industry. Though through its Broadwick Live subsidiary it only controls 7.6% of capacity.

Live Nation’s biggest competitor across the board, AEG, has 5.0% of capacity, according to AIF, while its 37 members together account for 20.2% of capacity. The other 42% of capacity is controlled by other independent events.

Although Live Nation controlling just over a quarter of the larger festival market – by this metric – may not sound that significant, critics point out that the live firm is also a major venue operator and tour promoter, it owns the UK’s biggest ticketing platform, and has interests in artist management and brand partnerships. It also remains acquisitive in the UK.

In terms of competition concerns, most of the issues raised by indie promoters relate not to competition for ticket-buyers, but competition for booking talent. When hitting out at the IOW Festival deal last year, AIF said it had “concerns around so-called ‘exclusivity deals’, whereby artists can effectively be restrained as to where they can and cannot perform and the pool of talent available to non-Live Nation events is greatly reduced”.

Revealing the new stats yesterday, updated to include recent Live Nation acquisitions, AIF boss Paul Reed said the figures “paint a stark picture of the sector. Allowing a single company to dominate festivals, and the live music sector in general, through vertical integration reduces the amount of choice and value for money for music fans. It can block new entrants to market, result in strangleholds on talent through exclusivity deals and stifle competition throughout the entire live music business”.

AIF has also launched a new kitemark for its members to use to demonstrate their independent status. Launching that, while urging politicians and regulators to consider its new stats, Reed continued: “We have also today launched a stamp of independence to celebrate our member events and so that customers can clearly identify when they are buying a ticket to an independent festival. AIF has been sounding the alarm for some time now but the effect on the independent festival sector continues. Simply put, this damaging market dominance needs to be given the scrutiny it deserves”.