Billboard is reporting that AEG Presents has stopped its practice of “block booking” London’s O2 Arena with the Staples Center in Los Angeles, a measure that will likely end a lawsuit brought by Ozzy Osborne arguing that the practice violated anti-trust rules. Chief Executive Jay Marciano told Billboard that the policy is no longer needed due to Azoff MSG Entertainment stopping a similar practice linking bookings for Madison Square Garden in New York and the Forum in Los Angeles.
“Promoters for artists that want to play the O2 will no longer be required to commit to playing Staples Center,” he said. “Going forward, we will only require this commitment if we believed artists were being pressured to play the forum to gain access to the Garden.”
Irving Azoff, who runs Azoff MSG Entertainment, applauded the move, though he has denied his company engaged in the practice of block booking its New York and Los Angeles venues. “It’s a great day for artists when those of us that make a living serving them recognize that artists should have the right to their own decisions, especially regarding choice of venues to play.”
Billboard’s reporting traces the feud back to April of 2017, when AEG officials accused Azoff – who formerly served as CEO of Ticketmaster and chairman of Live Nation before resigning those posts to start Azoff MSG Entertainment – of pressuring artists to play the Forum rather than Staples Center for any Los Angeles stops on their tours if they also wanted to play at the famed midtown Manhattan venue. The so-called “venue wars” escalated with AEG’s institution of its own block requirements between O2 and Staples Center. Live Nation filed a complaint over the practice with the UK’s Competition and Market Authority, and Osbourne filed his lawsuit in March.
“If [AEG is] abandoning the policy and this is a real commitment on their behalf, then there is no longer a need for a lawsuit,” Osbourne’s attorney Dan Wall told Billboard. “If we can take this at face value, it’s a great development for artists and Sharon and Ozzy will be satisfied.”