Academy Music Group (AMG), one of the U.K.'s leading chains of live-music venues and clubs, is renaming and rebranding its 11 facilities from Jan. 1 when they will each be called the O2 Academy.

The move ends the AMG outlets' long-established association with Carling, the brewery brand that sponsored the majority of its venues.

It follows an announcement that AMG and its majority shareholder, the giant concert promoter Live Nation, have formed a partnership with O2, the U.K.'s leading wireless carrier with 19 million customers.

"For 18 months, we have been trying to find a partner to fulfil our ambition to take our buildings to a new level for our clients, which include the artists, their agents, managers and the ticket buyers," Paul Latham, Live Nation U.K.'s president, tells

"O2 came through for us by matching our aspirations," he adds, emphasizing that the agreement is a partnership, not a sponsorship.

At London's Haymarket Hotel last night (Nov. 4), AMG CEO John Northcote explained that the partnership will give O2 customers attending its shows access to enhanced facilities such as Priority Ticketing, the service that offers tickets 48 hours in advance, but is currently restricted to events at the O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome).

The O2 is the multi-functional entertainment center sponsored by the carrier and containing the 23,000-capacity O2 Arena, the world’s most successful 15,000-plus capacity music venue according to Billboard Boxscore’s mid-year figures. Its total gross was $50.7 million. The venue opened June 2007.

The new partnership will also give O2 customers access to the mobile-ticketing service that the mobile operator, Live Nation and AMG are developing, specially designated VIP and pre-show areas, plus exclusive related content distributed via O2's network.

The development caused some surprise as Live Nation's fiercest rival AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) is the exclusive operator of London's O2.

Ronan Dunne, the U.K. CEO of O2's parent company Telefonica O2, said its AEG partnership at the O2 is a totally separate agreement.

"What we do with AEG is complementary. This [new agreement] is about us moving further into the [dedicated] music space," Dunne said.

Other O2-named music venues include the Berlin-based O2 World, The O2 Prague in the Czech Republic, and The O2 in Dublin, Ireland.

Dunne said the deal also complements its support of live-music activities such as the O2 Undiscovered for unsigned acts, and the high-profile Live Nation-promoted O2 Wireless Festival.

The mid-size capacities of AMG's 11 newly named O2 Academy venues, which put on about 4,000 Live Nation-produced concerts a year for more than 3.5 million music fans, range from the 4,921 at the U.K. city of Birmingham to a 250-capacity spot at the Islington Bar Academy in London, upstairs from the venue’s larger concert space.

The others are London-based Academy venues in Brixton and Shepherd's Bush Empire. There are also Academy venues in the English cities of Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield, and Leeds, plus the Scottish city of Glasgow.

"The association with the AMG venues means we can get out to the local and regional-based grassroots level to enhance our activities at the communities in which we work," Dunne added.