Venue Wars Heat Up: AEG Warns Acts That Skip LA’s Staples Center Can’t Play O2 In London

After months of threats and posturing in its ongoing war with Madison Square Garden, AEG has instituted a new booking policy to protect its flagship venue in Los Angeles. For months, AEG had been warning that it was going to respond to increased competition from the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., which had won a number of shows away from Staples Center by allegedly leveraging its control over Madison Square Garden’s booking calendar.

On Monday, AEG issued a lengthy statement warning that “after exhausting all avenues, our hand has been forced by MSG’s actions and AEG will now coordinate bookings between The O2 arena and Staples Center to level the playing field for all.”


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Staples Center has been in an ongoing battle with the Forum over bookings since the Inglewood arena reopened in 2014. Managed by Irving Azoff’s MSG Entertainment, the Forum has been accused by AEG of telling acts that they can’t play Madison Square Garden if they don’t play the Forum (skipping over Staples Center).

Officials with the Forum say there is no quid pro quo or official policy tying a Madison Square Garden play to the Forum, although high demand for the Manhattan arena did mean that Azoff MSG Entertainment had to be selective with its limited number of available dates.

In a lengthy letter to Billboard in April, Azoff said, “premium MSG nights are going to loyal friends of the company” and noted that “playing the Forum — the obviously better music venue in Los Angeles — makes you a friend of the company.” (Billboard reached out to a representative of Azoff for this story and was told Azoff’s position hasn’t changed).

In AEG’s statement making the announcement, company officials said that “artists should be free to play whatever venue they choose” and that tying a play at Staples Center to a concert at The 02 in London, the top-grossing venue in the world for the last decade, according to Billboard Boxscore, “our ultimate objective remains protecting and restoring choice for artists.”

“Our policy is not intended in any way to deny Live Nation, or any other promoter, access to The O2 arena,” the statement reads. “To the contrary, we desire to bring as much content as possible to all of our venues and we will continue to actively seek concert bookings at The O2 from all promoters including Live Nation.”

The battle between AEG and MSG/Live Nation has affected a number of artists including J. Cole, Katy Perry and Neil Diamond, who was forced to cancel a show at Staples Center after Diamond’s agent Marc Geiger of WME complained of “getting squeezed” to play the Forum if Diamond wanted to play MSG.

The decision to couple The 02 with Staples Center has allegedly brought a number of antitrust threats against AEG by Live Nation, which AEG wrote off as “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.”

Besides its touring business, Live Nation also owns Ticketmaster and a number of management companies including Guy Oseary’s mega-firm Maverick. Billboard reached out to a representative from Live Nation and was told company officials would not be commenting at this time.

AEG officials said “notwithstanding Live Nation’s recent threats to pursue legal action and deprive AEG venues of shows, we fully intend to proceed with our new booking policy,” adding, “We are highly confident of the legality of our booking policy and will vigorously defend any misguided attempts by Live Nation to use the courts or the regulatory system to combat a practice they have aggressively pursued and benefited from elsewhere.”

Read AEG’s statement in full below.

AEG always places artists and fans first and believes that artists should be free to play whatever venue they choose. However, MSG Entertainment’s aggressive practice of requiring artists to perform at the LA Forum in order to secure dates at Madison Square Garden is eliminating that choice, which serves neither the interests of artists nor fans. After exhausting all avenues, our hand has been forced by MSG’s actions and AEG will now coordinate bookings between The O2 arena and STAPLES Center to level the playing field for all. We believe that AEG’s offering of venues will provide artists the greatest financial potential and fans the best experience. While this coordinated booking strategy seeks to defend our business interests, our ultimate objective remains protecting and restoring choice for artists. Our policy is not intended in any way to deny Live Nation, or any other promoter, access to The O2 arena. To the contrary, we desire to bring as much content as possible to all of our venues and we will continue to actively seek concert bookings at The O2 from all promoters including Live Nation.

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. As evidenced by a parade of antitrust lawsuits, regulatory investigations and an antitrust consent decree that have followed the company over the years, Live Nation has a well-earned and widespread reputation for resorting to aggressive tactics, including threatening to withhold its content, as it continually seeks to enhance its dominant market position in these various sectors. Given its asserted market dominance, we find it astounding that Live Nation would have the audacity to complain merely because it finds itself agitated by a competitor’s business response to heavy-handed tactics in which Live Nation has participated. Not only did Live Nation not complain about MSG’s tying of the Garden and the Forum, but it actively encouraged and supported that policy because it suited Live Nation’s interests in driving content away from a competitively ticketed building to a Ticketmaster building, which, in the process, succeeded in sending a very loud message to the live entertainment industry – how well equipped Live Nation is to punish any buildings that dare go with a competing ticketing provider. Notwithstanding Live Nation’s recent threats to pursue legal action and deprive AEG venues of shows, we fully intend to proceed with our new booking policy. We are highly confident of the legality of our booking policy and will vigorously defend any misguided attempts by Live Nation to use the courts or the regulatory system to combat a practice they have aggressively pursued and benefitted from elsewhere.

This article originally appeared on Billboard.

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