Sharon Osbourne: 'Shame on AEG' for Demanding O2 Arena & Staples Center Block Booking on Ozzy Tour
"I can assure you that Live Nation would never strong-arm an artist into playing a venue they're not comfortable performing in."
Sharon Osbourne, wife and manager of Ozzy Osbourne, is refusing to participate in AEG and Live Nation's ongoing venue wars.
In a letter addressed to AEG Live chairman/CEO Jay Marciano and shared with Billboard on Wednesday (Feb. 7), Sharon Osbourne returned a Staples Center commitment agreement unsigned, condemning the act that would force the rock icon to perform at the Los Angeles venue as part of a deal for a scheduled concert at the O2 Arena in London. (AEG owns both buildings.)
"Shame on AEG for bringing artists into a power struggle you're having with your competitor, Live Nation," she wrote. "I can assure you that Live Nation would never strong-arm an artist into playing a venue they're not comfortable performing in."
The Staples Center commitment notes that as part of a condition to Ozzy Osborne entering into an agreement to perform at the O2 Arena on Feb. 11, 2019 -- should he decide to play an indoor arena within 25 miles of Los Angeles as part of the same tour cycle and that or those shows are promoted by a Live Nation-owned company, then at least one must be held at the Staples Center.
On Tuesday, Ozzy Osbourne announced his forthcoming farewell tour, No More Tours 2, which kicks off with an initial North American leg produced by Live Nation in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in August and will run until 2020. He is scheduled to perform at the Hollywood Bowl outdoor amphitheater on Oct. 11.
"Without the artists there would be no AEG, no Live Nation, no promoters, agents or managers," she continued. "The artists should always come first. Never forget that! There's enough for everyone without you trying to monopolize the world of entertainment."
AEG's block booking the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the O2 Arena in London has been controversial in the music industry but has so far been deemed fair game. Late last year, British regulators announced they would not be investigating the company policy, in effect siding with AEG over Live Nation and Azoff MSG Entertainment.
The dispute over block booking began last year when Azoff MSG Entertainment allegedly began tying Madison Square Garden and the Forum together for several Roger Waters and Neil Diamond dates. At the time, Irving Azoff said that "premium MSG nights" go to "loyal friends of the company" and that "playing the Forum -- the obviously better music venue in Los Angeles -- makes you a friend of the company." Since, he has walked back those statements, telling Billboard several time that there is no block booking between the Garden and the Forum.
Marciano has been skeptical of those claims and has said that he would continue block booking until he trusts his competitors are not doing it. In response, Live Nation U.K. chairman Denis Desmond filed a complaint with the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) about AEG's arrangement, which he said violated British competition and anti-trust laws.
The CMA ultimately decided that since the dispute began in Los Angeles, it should be settled in California. But Live Nation and MSG have not so far announced any plans to do so.
On Wednesday evening, Marciano responded with a message of his own. "Dear Sharon," it reads, "Thank you for your note. Please understand this dispute is between The Forum and Staples Center and we couldn’t agree with you more — it should always be the artist’s choice. We long for the days when artists and fans came first." He finishes his note, "PS - The other guys started this first!"