Live Nation Acquisition of Isle of Wight Festival Cleared By U.K. Competitions Authority

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A general atmosphere on Day 3 of Isle Of Wight Festival 2013 at Seaclose Park on June 15, 2013 in Newport, Isle of Wight. 

Live Nation’s acquisition of the Isle Of Wight Festival has been cleared by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), following an investigation into concerns that it would lead to a “substantial lessening of competition" in the U.K. market.

Live Nation became a majority shareholder of the historic 42,000 capacity event in March, partnering with the festival’s modern day founder John Giddings and his Solo Music Agency. 

As part of its inquiry into that deal, the CMA consulted with a number of live industry sector representatives, including promoters, festival owners and thousands of festival goers. 

“The evidence collected indicates that the Isle of Wight Festival and Live Nation’s existing festivals were not competing particularly closely for customers,” found the government body, which said that the inquiry would “therefore not be referred for an in-depth phase 2 investigation.

“The fact that festival goers also choose between going to a festival and other activities will also ensure that Live Nation continues to face sufficient competition,” stated the CMA. 

Referring to concerns from the independent sector that Live Nation’s hold over the U.K. festival market was restricting the availability of talent, the CMA concluded that the merger “would not materially strengthen Live Nation’s position in booking artists, and that a sufficient range and quality of artists will continue to be available for rival organizers of live music events.” 

That view is not shared by U.K. industry body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), which last month called for the British government to widen its inquiry into an in-depth look into Live Nation's growing dominance of the U.K. live music sector.

Its research found that Live Nation currently controls around 23 percent of the U.K. festival market for events with a capacity of 5,000-plus, including Download, Creamfields and the dual site V Festival and Reading/Leeds events. 

According to AIF that market dominance was already impacting the availability of talent for other operators in the festival market by increasingly locking artists into ‘unofficial' Live Nation exclusivity deals.

Responding to today’s news, AIF general manager Paul Reed said it was “disappointing that the CMA has not take the opportunity to broaden the scope of the investigation into Live Nation's overall position.

“The research AIF published shines a light on the current and future structure of the live music market and the genuine concerns from grassroots independent festival organizers around consolidation and Live Nation's vertical integration, with tentacles across all aspects of the business,” continued Reed. “How many festivals do Live Nation need to acquire before the CMA take this seriously and give the issues the proper scrutiny they deserve?”

Live Nation had not yet commented on the CMA’s ruling as of press time.

First held in 1968, the Isle of Wight festival is one of Britain's oldest and most famous greenfield events and is commonly referred to as Europe's equivalent of Woodstock.

Bob Dylan, The Band, Jefferson Airplane, T-Rex, Free, Joe Cocker and The Who all played the event between 1968 and 1970, with over 600,000 people reported to have attended the final edition, when Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen were on the bill.

After a 30 year hiatus, the festival returned in 2002 under the guidance of Giddings, with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Coldplay among the artists that have played the festival in the past 15 years. Performers for this summer's edition included David Guetta, Run-DMC, Arcade Fire and Rod Stewart