LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Ozzy Osbourne, his wife and manager Sharon and talent manager Irving Azoff have fired the latest salvos in an ongoing dispute over block booking policies for major venues such as Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center and the Forum in Los Angeles, when they suggested that AEG’s “artist friendly” stance is a “pack of lies.”
The long-standing feud surfaced publicly on Wednesday (Feb 7th) when Sharon Osbourne shared a letter she sent to AEG Presents chairman/CEO Jay Marciano in which she says she returned a commitment agreement for the Staples Center unsigned and castigating AEG for what she says was an attempt to tie the booking for an Ozzy show at the Staples Center to a show at the O2 Arena in London.
“Shame on AEG for bringing artists into a power struggle you’re having with your competitor, Live Nation,” she wrote in the letter provided to Billboard. “I can assure you that Live Nation would never strong-arm an artist into playing a venue they’re not comfortable performing in.
According to Sharon Osbourne, the letter stipulated that if Ozzy wanted to perform at the O2 Arena on Feb. 11, 2019, then any Live Nation-promoted show within 25 miles of Los Angeles on the tour must schedule at least one date for the Staples Center.
“Without the artists there would be no AEG, no Live Nation, no promoters, agents or managers,” Osbourne continued per Billboard. “The artists should always come first. Never forget that! There’s enough for everyone without you trying to monopolize the world of entertainment.”
Following the publication of Sharon’s notes, Billboard published a response from Marciano. “Dear Sharon, Thank you for your note. Please understand this dispute is between The Forum and Staples Center and we couldn’t agree with you more — it should always be the artist’s choice. We long for the days when artists and fans came first. PS – The other guys started this first!” Marciano wrote, according to Billboard.
While the natural assumption here is that the ‘other guys’ in this case is Live Nation, it is actually Azoff-MSG, the joint venture between Madison Square Garden and veteran talent manager Irving Azoff. The two companies have for years been locked in a bitter dispute over block bookings at venues in key markets, particularly the Forum and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Both companies have pointed the finger at their rival as the instigator of the policy and block bookings have even drawn scrutiny from regulators in the UK.
On Thursday, Irving Azoff, who is currently affiliated with Madison Square Garden through his joint venture with the company and formerly the Chairman of Live Nation, suggested Marciano’s letter was intentionally deceptive.
In a statement published by Amplify’s Dave Brooks, Azoff wrote: “Dearest Jay – This is a pack of lies. I’ve put artists first my entire career, name one time you’ve put an artist above your own self-interest. Why do they continue to do business with you? We do not block book Madison Square Garden and The Forum, it is well-established. You guys continue to use lies to validate your anti-artist, anti-industry behavior. Love, Irving. PS – Sharon, you rock. You’re welcome at The Forum any time.”