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Azoff, AEG Dueling In Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Choosing to play at the Staples Center instead of the Forum can have consequences for artists in an increasingly competitive Los Angeles market.

According to a report in Billboard, William Morris Endeavor's head of music Marc Geiger told the publication that he was compelled to move two dates by his client Neil Diamond from the AEG-owned Staples Center to the Forum after "getting squeezed" by Irving Azoff.

Geiger told Billboard that the change was necessary if Diamond wanted to play at Madison Square Garden, which is programmed by Azoff MSG Entertainment, a partnership between Azoff and MSG head James Dolan.

The contention has affected other artists as well, with multiple booking agents telling Billboard that they've been faced with the choice between playing at the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden.

According to the Billboard report, AEG has also been accused of pressuring artists, including J. Cole, who was prompted to play at Staples if he wanted to perform at the O2 in London. Billboard reported that AEG backed off of this requirement after tour promoter Live Nation threatened an anti-trust suit.

When asked for comment by Billboard, AEG Live chairman Jay Marciano said, "We would prefer not to have to re-evaluate our current practices, but we need to protect our business. This is all about artists having the freedom to choose which venues they wish to [play]."

Azoff commented to Billboard that the negotiation tactic was a "good, tough business" practice. "While I realize Phil Anschutz may not be happy with Los Angeles being a ­competitive market, that's the American way," Azoff said in a written statement to Billboard. – Staff Writers