AEG Live’s Chairman and CEO Jay Marciano told an audience at the Billboard Touring Conference that the company is sticking with block booking the Staples Center in Los Angeles with the O2 in London for the foreseeable future.
“Everyone is trying to book their building and everyone is trying to protect their real estate,” Marciano said during his one on one discussion with Billboard’s senior correspondent, touring and live entertainment Dave Brooks.
At the discussion titled “The World is Not Enough: A Conversation with Jay Marciano” on Wednesday (Nov. 15) Marciano said AEG wanted to prevent the venue wars with Madison Square Garden Entertainment but felt they had no choice other than to implement the block booking policy.
AEG has been at odds with competitors MSG since MSG’s Irving Azoff forced Neil Diamond to play the Forum in Los Angeles over the Staples Center in order to secure a date at Madison Square Garden.
“No one uses their relationships. Everyone hopefully uses financial incentives to convince artists to play their venue over the other venue,” Marciano said. “When threatened, I think both companies are capable of protecting their assets.”
MSG has said they never had an official block booking policy for the Forum and the Garden, but Azoff told Billboard in April “the premium MSG nights are going to loyal friends of the company. Playing the Forum — the obviously better music venue in Los Angeles — makes you a friend of the company.”
When asked what it would take to end the official block booking, Marciano said “At some point there will be a comfort level. We’ll all feel like it is believable [that MSG is not block booking.] We have to see it through actions moving forward. I also want to establish that if it happens again, we’re perfectly prepared to go back to the way it is right now.”
Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into AEG’s block booking policy. Marciano assured the audience on Wednesday that AEG was fully compliant with the investigation.
“The Competition and Markets Authority received a complaint from Live Nation saying that this is an unfair business practice,” Marciano said. “They sent us a questionnaire that we filled out. They came and they interviewed us. Same thing with Live Nation. We haven’t heard back from them. At some point I anticipate we will and we’ll have a clearer picture of their view of this practice.”
The conference discussion also focused on AEG Live’s expanding business in New York. Through its partnership with Bowery Presents, AEG opened Brooklyn Steel and teamed up with Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment to purchase and renovate the iconic Webster Hall.
“Webster Hall cannot be replaced. It is a one of a kind asset,” Marciano said. “We are spending probably close to $20 million on restoration.”
The AEG CEO said the renovations are focused on refreshing a venue that was greatly neglected. Webster Hall will see major improvements to safety and ADA regulations, additional restrooms and deferred maintenance.
“It’s not glamorous parts of the building. The last thing I want to do is cut into the soul, because it has a soul. It is special. It is one of the longest standing venues of its kind in the world,” Marciano said.
Marciano said working with the city on permits for the landmark building takes time and AEG expects to be working on Webster Hall for the better part of 2018.