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02 Arena Caught in Crossfire

A Los Angeles promotion ‘turf war’ between rival US venue operators AEG and Azoff MSG Entertainment this week spilled over to the UK with the news that acts who opt to play MSG’s The Forum rather than AEG’s Staples Center will be prohibited from playing The 02 Arena in London.

AEG issued a statement this week basically saying that their hand had been forced due to MSG’s  “aggressive practice of requiring artists to perform at the LA Forum in order to secure dates at Madison Square Garden”.

Shows at the 21,000 capacity 02 Arena, which is reportedly the world’s busiest music venue, selling 1.6m tickets last year will now be reserved for artists who play the 21,000 capacity Staples Centre in LA when touring the US. The dispute between the rival operators has already impacted on several artists, with Neil Diamond moving two dates from the Staples Centre to the Forum and Chance The Rapper opting to perform at Brooklyn’s Barclays Centre as opposed to Madison Square Garden. The new move could potentially affect dozens of tours.

The statement from AEG elaborated: “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 Centre 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”.

As referred to above, AEG’s main promotion rival, Live Nation, has allegedly threatened them with legal action over the move.

Azoff-MSG and Live Nation have yet to formally comment on the latest developments, although Azoff-MSG Chairman/CEO Irving Azoff previously dismissed the dispute as “good, tough business”. All of which does nothing to detract from the sense that the live music industry is ultimately run by about five people hashing out Boardwalk Empire style backroom deals.

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