MSG’s arena war with AEG could be at an end after the group’s chief executive Irving Azoff denied that it is barring artists that associate with its rival from playing its own venues.
The announcement came as Live Nation made a complaint to the UK’s Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) over AEG’s booking policy that it alleges forces artists who want to play the O2 Arena in London to sign a promise they will play Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Last month it was reported that acts that play The Forum in Los Angeles will no longer be able to book the O2 in an escalation of the battle between Azoff-MSG Entertainment and AEG Live. The action was said to be AEG’s response to MSG refusing to host artists that chose to play its rival’s 21,000-capacity Staples Center in Los Angeles instead of its own 18,000-capacity Forum.
However, Azoff, the former Live Nation executive chairman, told Billboard that there is no mandated booking link between his group’s venues, the Forum and New York’s Madison Square Garden, which are often promoted by Live Nation but open to all promoters and touring shows.
“A show can play Staples Center and still play the Garden,” he said. “You might have to route around basketball and hockey, but you can still play the Garden no matter where you’ve played before.”
AEG, which has admitted it has been asked to provide information on booking practices to the CMA, responded to Azoff’s comments by saying it would also reconsider its stance.
“We have always been staunch advocates of artists having the freedom to play the venues they want to play,” an AEG official told Billboard. “That choice was taken away when MSG, supported by others, implemented their restrictive practices forcing artists who wanted to play the Garden to play the Forum in LA.
“This past July, after protracted use and explicit adoption of these bullying booking policies by MSG with the collaboration of powerful actors in the market, we reluctantly implemented booking practices we felt necessary to protect our company including the artists we serve, our customers, the communities we operate in and our partners, but we have been very clear all along: if market conditions change, AEG will consider reverting to its previous long-standing position that its buildings are open to all artists.”