AEG ends controversial “block-booking policy”

In place since 2016, the practice barred artists from playing London's O2 Arena unless they also committed to booking AEG's Staples Center in LA

AEG end block booking policy
AEG’s Staples Center in Los Angeles

AEG has put an end to its controversial “block-booking” policy, which barred musicians from playing its O2 Arena in London unless they also committed to performing at AEG’s Staples Center in Los Angeles. Since its enforcement in Summer 2016, the booking practice has received plenty of backlash and even resulted in AEG being the target of an antitrust lawsuit.

“Going forward promoters for artists who want to play the O2 will no longer to be required to commit to playing Staples,” AEG Presents CEO Jay Marciano told Variety. Marciano has maintained that AEG’s policy was put into place as a response to a similar strategy allegedly enforced by its competitor, Azoff-MSG Entertainment, which stipulated acts would not be booked at New York’s Madison Square Garden if they decided to play the Staples Center instead of LA’s The Forum.

“We would only require that commitment if we had reason to believe that artists were being somehow pressured to play the Forum in order to have access to the Garden,” Marciano contented. “But we’ve had a lot of feedback from artists and agents and managers that they’re no longer [feeling that pressure]. We’re pleased that this is the end result.”

For its part, Azoff-MSG insisted its never had such a booking policy in effect, but Marciano wasn’t convinced — until recently. “I think they said that but we wanted to wait and see. We wanted to be sure that MSG and others were going to follow through with [that] commitment. All of the major agencies have given us that assurance. We set out on this policy to bring about a free market that respects the artists’ choice and I think we’ve accomplished that,” he said. “It’s a victory for artists.”

This past February, in attempt to stand up for artists’ booking rights, Ozzy Osbourne filed an antitrust lawsuit against AEG. As Variety reports, the status of said lawsuit in the wake of this new development is still unclear. A lawyer for the Osbournes commented to Variety, “If that’s true, it’s great news for Ozzy and the dozens of other affected artists. The lawsuit exists only to remove this block booking requirement, and if that’s gone, there is no further need for litigation.”

AEG and Azoff-MSG have been tangled up in a heated turf war for some time, especially here in NYC, where AEG has staked its claim on multiple venues following an acquisition of Bowery Presents.