×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

AEG-MSG Turf War Intensifies, With Concert Trade Pollstar in the Middle

The live-entertainment business is a large but traditionally close-knit community, with relationships (and grudges) going back decades. Yet Oak View Group’s recent acquisition of Pollstar, the long-running trade publication covering the concert and ticketing industries, strikes many — most notably giant promoter and venue operator AEG Presents — as too cozy.

Founded in 2015, Oak View is led by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and backed by Azoff MSG Entertainment. Four years ago, Azoff and MSG joined forces in a $300 million deal that combined some of the companies’ operations while others remain independent, at least officially. James Dolan’s MSG operates New York’s Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles’ Forum; veteran manager Irving Azoff consults for the company and his wife, Shelli, is managing partner of The Forum and oversaw its $150 million 2013 renovation. Among other businesses, Oak View leads the 27-member Arena Alliance, designed to create efficiencies and cooperation between venues including Madison Square Garden, the Forum, Chicago’s United Center, Dallas’ American Airlines Center and others.

Pollstar has long been the definitive chart for the live-entertainment business; its chief competitor, Venues Today, is already owned by Oak View. All of which means that Oak View basically owns the live-entertainment media and chart business — only Billboard Boxscore is a significant competitor in the U.S., and it receives reports from far fewer entities than Pollstar.

Due to what it perceives as a conflict of interest, AEG is seriously considering not only pulling all of its advertising from Pollstar, but stopping its venues from reporting to it, which would mar the credibility of the publication’s charts.

“A conflict of interest clearly arises when individuals with vested interests in our industry own and control two influential trade publications,” an AEG rep said in a statement. “We don’t believe that a company that touts its partnerships with others in the business, including affiliated venues, a promoter and a ticketing company, can control publications that impact the music industry and operate them with the perception of objectivity.”

While an MSG source called the accusation “fake news” and claimed that Azoff and Dolan were far more interested in Pollstar’s conferences than its charts, longtime editor Gary Bongiovanni responded, “Pollstar has always tried to speak to and for all facets of the concert industry, and that has not changed.”

Another source adds that, at least so far, Azoff and Leiweke have not ventured into Pollstar’s editorial, and don’t plan to. And while it’s unclear whether AEG has given official word of its intentions to pull out, “it would be counterproductive for AEG to try and wall themselves off from the rest of the business.”

While Oak View’s intention to acquire Pollstar had been widely known within the industry for many months, it’s the latest salvo in an ongoing turf war between Azoff MSG and AEG Live, which operates Los Angeles’ Staples Center and London’s O2 Arena, among others.

In response to a recent 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 MSG-operated Forum, AEG informed agents and promoters 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. A rep for AEG told Variety that an executive at Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter and AEG’s main rival, is incensed with the ban, claiming it is anticompetitive and violates antitrust laws on the basis of the absence of a venue of comparable size in London, and threatened to withhold its shows from AEG venues worldwide in response.

In a statement to Variety, Azoff and Dolan said: “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.”

Live Nation and AEG have been at odds since AEG moved most of its venues from Ticketmaster to AXS Ticketing in the wake of the 2009 Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. But the animosity goes deeper: In 2008, when Azoff was CEO of Ticketmaster, he and Dolan approached AEG founder Philip Anschutz about merging the ticketing company with MSG and AEG in an effort to grow larger than Live Nation. The negotiations were not fruitful, and the following year Azoff became CEO of a combined Live Nation and Ticketmaster, a role from which he resigned unexpectedly in 2012. Just 10 weeks later, Leiweke left AEG when the company failed to secure a buyer after several months on the market.

All of which provides a backdrop for the ongoing drama. The mandate at AEG, according to a source, is that “they won’t even display Pollstar on their office coffee tables anymore.”

More Biz

  • Ridiculous Six

    Netflix Benefits From Changes in New Mexico's Production Incentives

    When New Mexico’s new governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, signed SB2 in late March, the headline was that it more than doubled the annual cap on the state’s 25%- to 30%-per-project refundable film and TV tax credit, from $50 million to $110 million.  Arguably more noteworthy, however, was the new law’s provision that the cap [...]

  • Gabrielle Union Marketing Summit

    Listen: How Gabrielle Union Bet on Herself and Changed Her Brand

    Actress Gabrielle Union said she was nearly 17 years past the expiration date of her mass appeal when she got the brand partnership of her dreams. “They tell you that after 26, ‘Honey, hang it up,'” Union said on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” The episode was recorded during a keynote [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify Sued by India’s Oldest Label, Will Remove Catalog From Platform

    Just weeks after Spotify launched in India without securing rights from Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, it is being sued by the country’s oldest record label, Saregama, and will remove that company’s 120,000-song catalog from its platform within 10 days, according to reports in Inc42 and Music Business Worldwide. The streaming giant had approached the label for [...]

  • DJ Mormile and Jeff Burroughs Def

    Def Jam Appoints DJ Mormile, Jeff Burroughs to Senior Posts

    Def Jam Recordings has appointed industry veterans DJ Mormile and Jeff Burroughs (pictured above, right and left, respectively) to senior executive roles in its Los Angeles and New York offices, respectively. The announcement was made today by label Chairman & CEO Paul Rosenberg. Mormile — the L.A.-based manager who counts producer Mike Will Made It and [...]

  • Mustard Signs With Sony/ATV Music Publishing

    Mustard Signs With Sony/ATV Music Publishing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sony/ATV Music Publishing has signed Grammy-winning songwriter, artist and producer Mustard (formerly known as DJ Mustard) to a worldwide deal. The Los Angeles-based hitmaker has worked with artists including YG, Rihanna, 2 Chainz, Drake, Migos, Chris Brown, Nipsey Hussle, Big Sean and many others, and won Best R&B Song at this year’s Grammy Awards for [...]

  • NFL-Sunday-Ticket-DIRECTV

    AT&T CEO Expects DirecTV to Keep NFL Sunday Ticket Exclusively

    AT&T believes it will hang on to DirecTV’s exclusive rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket, even as the league has said it’s considering ending the satellite operator’s exclusivity to extend the out-of-home games package to streaming platforms. “The exclusivity [of Sunday Ticket] should remain as we go forward on DirecTV,” AT&T CEO and chairman Randall [...]

  • Pandora Acquisition Bites Into SiriusXM’s First-Quarter

    Pandora Acquisition Bites Into SiriusXM’s First-Quarter Profits

    SiriusXM today announced first quarter 2019 operating and financial results — the first since the company completed its acquisition of Pandora Media on Feb. 1 — and its quarterly profit was down 44% from the previous year. It attributed that drop to approximately $76 million of acquisition and other costs related to the Pandora deal, a $31 million one-time benefit [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content