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The AEG/MSG venue bookings war maybe over 

By | Published on Wednesday 23 August 2017


The pointless but slightly amusing venue bookings spat between the major players in live music Stateside – which spilled over into London town – could be over, and not just because one of the participants went and had a cry in front of the UK competition regulator.

As previously reported, it recently emerged that live giant AEG was linking bookings at its Staples Center venue in LA to the O2 Arena in London, so that you were more likely to get access to the latter if you played the former. Which means that artists wanting to take to the O2 Arena stage in the UK would be advised to choose the Staples Center over rival LA venue The Forum, which is operated by MSG Entertainment.

But AEG insisted that it had only instigated that policy because MSG Entertainment had been allegedly telling agents that if artists wanted to play its prestigious Madison Square Garden venue in New York, they’d better pick The Forum when playing in LA.

Live Nation – which runs venues, but also promotes shows in both AEG and MSG buildings – then got involved in the spat by criticising AEG’s policy of linking Staples Center and O2 Arena bookings.

AEG promptly hit back by asking why Live Nation hadn’t been so vocal about MSG Entertainment’s initial linking of Madison Square Garden and The Forum, before noting that both those venues had alliances with Live Nation’s Ticketmaster. AEG then had a rant about empire-building Live Nation having no grounds for accusing anyone else in live music of anti-competitive behaviour.

So that was all fun. However, according to Billboard, the spat could now be put on hold. First Irving Azoff, who is in business with MSG, insisted that there is no “mandated booking link” between the firm’s New York and LA venues. To which AEG said that – providing it saw MSG actually make good on that commitment – it would be willing to stop linking bookings at its London and LA arenas.

AEG told Billboard: “We have always been staunch advocates of artists having the freedom to play the venues they want to play. That choice was taken away when MSG, supported by others, implemented their restrictive practices … but we have been very clear all along – if [MSG end those practices], AEG will consider reverting to its previous long-standing position that its buildings are open to all artists”.

To which Azoff responded that MSG “are THRILLED that AEG has listened to the artists and is going to adopt the same booking policy as MSG. For the record, and at the risk of being redundant: MSG and The Forum are open buildings. We said it and we mean it. Just ask the artists like Katy Perry who played MSG and Staples. So, that settles the matter: AEG and MSG have open buildings”.

And hurrah for that. Meanwhile, it turns out Live Nation formally complained about AEG’s Staples/O2 linking thing to the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority.

AEG confirmed that it had been approached by the competition regulator, stating that: “[The CMA] has requested that AEG provide information regarding our booking practices, which AEG will of course provide. We believe our responses will clarify some questions recently brought before them and will be sufficient to allow all parties to move on”.

If AEG does now change its bookings policy on the back of Azoff’s firm commitment to Billboard about MSG’s policies, then maybe the CMA can put investigating Live Nation’s complaint on hold. Giving it more time to investigate the Association Of Independent Festival’s previously reported CMA complaint about Live Nation. Fun fun.