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Indie festivals urge UK competition regulator to widen its investigation into Live Nation’s IOW Festival deal 

By | Published on Tuesday 22 August 2017


The Association Of Independent Festivals has urged the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority to widen its investigation into Live Nation’s position in the British live music business. The competition regulator is already considering the live giant’s proposed acquisition of the Isle Of Wight festival.

Live Nation – which has divisions operating in tour and festival promotion, venue management, primary and secondary ticketing, and artist management – continues to be acquisitive, not least in the UK where it has bought into a number of touring, festival and venue companies in recent years.

As previously reported, the Competition And Markets Authority announced in April that it would investigate what impact Live Nation’s purchase of a majority stake in the IOW Festival would have on the UK live music and festivals market.

AIF has now published research which, it says, shows that Live Nation already controls nearly 25% of the larger festivals market – ie festivals over a 5000 capacity – and that the proposed IOW Festival deal will take it much closer to that figure.

The trade group for independently-owned festivals states: “At present, Live Nation either owns or majority-owns a 23% share of [these 5000+] events by capacity – including Download, V Festival, Reading/Leeds, Parklife, Creamfields, Lovebox, Wilderness and more”. The next biggest festival operator in the UK is the also acquisitive Global, but “Live Nation are already almost three times bigger” than the live entertainment wing of Global Radio, which – AIF says – control a 8% share of the UK festival market.

AIF also expresses concerns about the synergies between the different strands of the Live Nation business, and the way that allegedly limits the choices available to artists when deciding which business partners to work with. Says the trade group: “With such concentration of power across the live music value chain, most artists will have little choice but to work with the California-based company at some point in their career”.

Going on to consider the impact all this has on independent promoters, the AIF statement then says: “This is already raising 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”.

Confirming that his organisation was now urging the CMA to expand its ongoing investigation into the IOW Festival transaction so to consider Live Nation’s general position in the UK festivals market, AIF GM Paul Reed said yesterday: “For the sake of its future health and diversity it is vital that the UK’s live music sector remains open and competitive. We continually need new artists to break through, and entrepreneurs to launch fresh and exciting events”.

He went on: “The live music sector is fiercely competitive, but data we have published today rings several alarm bells – highlighting that a single transnational corporation is fast-headed towards widespread dominance. For independent festival operators, a Live Nation monopoly would quite simply be a stranglehold with profound and serious consequences”.

Referencing back to the exclusivity deals issue, Reed added: “The complaint we hear privately from a growing number of AIF members is about the collateral damage caused by the imposition of hugely restrictive exclusivity deals. By their nature, these deals are anti-competitive, restraining when and where even the smallest artist can perform and significantly diminishing the pool of talent that non-Live Nation promoters can draw upon”.

Concluding, Reed said: “On this basis, we have urged the CMA to extend their investigations beyond the acquisition of the Isle Of Wight Festival and into Live Nation’s position in the market overall”.