Irving Azoff Calls AEG Founder the ‘Dark Prince of Colorado’ in Billboard Live Music Summit Q&A With Jeffrey Azoff
Chairman and CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment Irving Azoff went after AEG founder, Phil Anschutz during a Q&A discussion with his son and Full Stop Management's Jeffrey Azoff.
Chairman and CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment Irving Azoff went after AEG founder, Phil Anschutz during a Q&A discussion with his son and Full Stop Management principal Jeffrey Azoff. At the Billboard Live Music Summit in Beverly Hills on Wednesday (Nov. 14), the famed manager opened up about his industry rivalry with competitor AEG and its Colorado-based founder.
“There are some wonderful people who work at AEG, some great friends,” Irving said during the “Unmanageable: A Conversation with Industry Legend Irving Azoff” panel. “The company is led from the top and I think the Dark Prince of Colorado, for the betterment of the industry, needs to learn that not every deal and every event is a Super Bowl or a hockey championship game and no one person has to bleed.”
Azoff added: “The great people that work there would be better lead with an attitude of let’s try for a win-win rather than crushing people.”
In 2017, Azoff kicked off a public venue war with competitor AEG after the MSG executive said “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.” AEG responded with a block-booking policy that tied playing their O2 Arena in London with performing at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The policy was openly criticized by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, who went on to sue AEG for anti-trust over the block-booking policy.
During the conversation with his son, Azoff went on to say that when he began his company Oak View Group with Tim Leiweke that Anschutz told the CEO of Liberty Media that he should be committed to a mental institute for partnering with Leiweke.
“That questions [Anschutz’s] mental sanity too, since Leiweke built his whole company, hired all these great people that still work there,” Azoff said. “I have many great friends at AEG. I just wish he’d let them do their jobs.”
When asked during the Q&A who he believed had the most fun with the venue wars, Azoff responded by saying Sharon Osbourne.
“Sharon Osbourne won by a wide margin for the most fun,” Azoff said. What a character is and has been her entire career.”
Adding an anecdote from his long career, Azoff said “Sharon once called me up for advice and she said ‘I prepared a press release and I’d like your opinion on it.’ To me this is an even better press release than the one she put out about the venue wars. She said Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins is driving me crazy. Here’s a press release I’m going to put out. ‘Sharon Osbourne announced today that she’s resigned as Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins personal manager for medical reasons. He makes me sick.'”
The 45-minute panel was filled with Azoff recalling moments from his storied career in the music industry including the time a drug fueled Joe Walsh created an adjoining hotel room door between himself and Azoff with a chainsaw and saying the biggest “everything has gone wrong moment” in his career was when he invited Don Felder to join The Eagles.
When asked by his son and business partner, “Why the fuck are you still doing this,” the 71-year-old Azoff said because it’s fun and “I promised Don Henley I wouldn’t quit before he did.”
In addition to referring to himself as the “Kanye West of the other side of the fucking business,” Azoff also divulged some insight on the business.
Due to the success of streaming and artist’s access to fans, Jeffrey asked his father if he believed streaming sites like Spotify cutting labels out of the middle would be good or bad for the business.
“Neither. I think change is good. I think one thing I’ve learned the last 10 years is things are changing so rapidly… it’s like a new arms race,” Azoff said. “One thing I’ve learned is just embrace the change and roll with it.”
When asked for advice from an audience member, Azoff said he had some basic rules.
“One, we’re all nothing without the artist so you better like the artists you’re working with,” Azoff said, adding “and communication skills make up for a lot of smarts. Return phone calls. Return emails. There are three possible answers you can get to anything: yes, maybe and no. Yes and no are both great answers. That maybe is a killer. So move it along is my best advice.”
The conversation will also air on Azoff’s SiriusXM radio show Unmanageable.