AEG Announces 'Coordinated Bookings' Between Staples Center, O2

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — In the face of an increasingly tight market for top tier tours in major markets, major concert companies are trying to leverage their global reach to secure those tours for their respective venues.

Promoter-giant AEG appears to have landed the latest blow in this ongoing war by tying bookings at their flagship Los Angeles arena The Staples Center with plays at the O2 Dome in London.

In a statement from AEG obtained by Billboard, the company describing the new policy as 'coordinated bookings.' AEG says that the policy is "not intended in any way to deny Live Nation or any other promoter, access to The O2 arena" and is in support of their belief that "artists should be free to play whatever venue they choose."

The new policy by AEG comes after rival MSG and their partner Irving Azoff were accused in April of pressuring artists who wanted to play at Madison Square Garden in New York, to book their Los Angeles concert at the Forum instead of AEG's Staples Center. The Forum, operated by MSG/Azoff, re-opened in 2014 after a major refurb and has been actively competing for business with the Staples Center.

The MSG/Azoff consortium denied that there was any specific quid pro quo for bookings at the two venues, but did specify in a letter to Billboard in April that with a limited number of dates available at MSG, they had to be selective with bookings, with premium nights going to "friends[s] of the company [Azoff/MSG]"

AEG's Full statement:

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.