In the latest round of a tit-for-tat battle between AEG Live and Azoff-MSG, KIIS-FM’s Jingle Ball is moving across Los Angeles from AEG’s Staples Center to the Forum, sources close to the situation confirm to Variety, in what appears to be a multi-year deal.
The all-day show is one of many all-day pop-star-loaded holiday concerts held by radio stations across the country, and one of the biggest. The 2016 edition featured 13 artists, including Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Fifth Harmony, Alessia Cara, Diplo and Niall Horan.
And while the shows traditionally are not big money-makers for the venues — among other factors, the audience is largely below the drinking age — this ongoing battle between the two largest live-entertainment companies in the music business is rapidly becoming a grudge match.
This particular campaign began last fall with a challenge from MSG that, according to sources, found the company refusing to book acts into Madison Square Garden if they played at Staples Center instead of the Forum. In response, AEG informed agents and promoters late in June that effective July 1, acts who perform at The Forum instead of Staples will not be booked at London’s O2 Arena. (The very biggest touring acts, including Drake and Katy Perry, perform at both Staples and the Garden, but sources say even top draw Neil Diamond was compelled to move his forthcoming L.A. shows from Staples to the Forum.) The O2 is operated by AEG and is the only venue of its category — 20,000 capacity — in the city.
In a statement to Variety, Azoff-MSG chiefs Irving Azoff and James Dolan denied any such policy, saying: “We would like to clarify our booking policy. We always do what is best for artists. Both MSG and Forum are open buildings and will accept business from any performer that wishes to play there.”
Then, on July 11, MSG struck another blow in the New York market by announcing a booking and marketing partnership with the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The move tilted the balance of large venues in the area, which includes Madison Square Garden (MSG), Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (which has a partnership with AEG) and the outdoor Forest Hills Stadium (AEG), which is only open during warm weather. However, reps from Barclays and Prudential effectively distanced themselves from the fray and emphasized to Variety that their buildings are open to all.
Later in July, Oak View Group, which is backed by Azoff, purchased Pollstar, the most established live-entertainment publication and chart in the business; it also owns Pollstar’s main competitor, Venues Today. AEG cried foul — citing the potential conflicts of interest in trade publications being owned by a promoter — and threatened to withdraw all advertising and cease providing box-office data to the publications.
With four major moves in the past month, it seems the next strike in this battle could come within days.