Live events sector
The almighty spat between O2 owner and promoter AEG, artist Ozzy Osbourne and AEG’s rival Live Nation, which also includes the joint venture between manager Irving Azoff and Madison Square Gardens (MSG) has gone legal, with Ozzy accusing AEG of anti-competitive behaviour.
The case revolves around the reported requirement set by that AEG that links bookings at venues it operates in London and Los Angeles, namely The 21,000 capacity O2 and the similar sized Staples Center, with a number of reports saying that artists wishing to play the former had been told they must also commit to play the latter when in LA, rather than rival Los Angeles venue the Forum, which is run by Azoff-MSG. AEG countered by saying that MSG had started the acrimonious spat by similarly linking bookings at its flagship 20,780 capacity New York venue Madison Square Garden with the 17,500 capacity LA Forum. Live Nation then stirred up the pot by complaining about AEG’s venue linking practices, prompting AEG to counter by asking why LNE hadn’t criticised MSG for their similar approach, before noting that maybe it was because the MSG venues use Live Nation’s Ticketmaster service, saying “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”.
Azoff-MSG, which owns the Forum, Staples’ main competitor in the Los Angeles area has now said that there is now no ‘linking’ policy in place at the company’s venues.
It was Ozzy Osbourne who brought the anti trust action in relation to AEG’s venue booking practice on a tour organised and promoted by LNE, who would have been the party that contracted with the AEG venues. Despite seemingly not being a party to the venue booking(s), Osbourne’s lawsuit claims that AEG policy of linking bookings at The O2 and the Staples Centre is not allowed by USA anti-trust laws.
The Osbourne lawsuit accuses AEG of “blatant, anticompetitive conduct—specifically, tying—by Anschutz Entertainment Group, Inc. (“AEG”) and certain subsidiary and affiliated entities,” and of being a “clear monopolist for arena-sized venues in greater London” that “through management contracts it also controls a number of other large concert venues in greater London in addition to the O2”.
AEG have responded by saying that as the O2/Staples commitment was contained in a document signed by Live Nation, Osbourne was not actually bound by the limitations contained within it: whilst the contract may have restricted Live Nation when promoting Osbourne shows in LA, it didn’t restrict Osbourne himself.
Responding to AEG’s bid to have the lawsuit dismissed, a legal representative for Osbourne told Law 360 that “the idea that because the promoter signs the contract the artists have no standing, that’s completely contrary to how the industry works”.
Meanwhile, in a move that will “undoubtedly heighten tension between the rival companies”, Madison Square Garden management intends to submit a planning application later this year for a 20,000-capacity sphere-shaped arena in London, just a few miles from The O2.