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Ozzy Osbourne files antitrust lawsuit against AEG for “Staples Center Commitment”

on March 22, 2018, 10:17am

Last summer, venue operator AEG Live put into place a policy barring musicians from playing their O2 Arena in London unless they also commit to playing AEG’s Staples Center in Los Angeles. The move was a direct response to its competitor, Azoff-MSG Entertainment, not booking acts at New York’s Madison Square Garden if they played the Staples Center instead of The Forum. On Wednesday, heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne pushed back against AEG’s so-called “Staples Center Commitment” by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the company in California federal court, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

(Read: Goodbye for Now: Farewell Tours Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be)

Ozzy claims that he requested a February 2019 booking at O2 Arena for his “No More Tours 2” farewell tour, but was told it was only available if he played a venue that fit the description of Staples Center. The complaint states that O2 Arena, which is the only venue of its roughly 20,000-capacity size in London, is a “must have” venue for touring musicians because of its popularity and environment, but Los Angeles is “a competitive venue market” which has allowed artists to benefit from the competition between Staples Centers and The Forum. According to the lawsuit, Ozzy was not able to take advantage the situation in Los Angeles because of the “Staples Center Commitment.”

Here’s an excerpt from the complaint:

“The tying arrangement at issue is so explicit and brazen that AEG has given it a name: the ‘Staples Center Commitment.’ Through the Staples Center Commitment, AEG requires that artists and musicians cannot play London’s most essential large concert venue — the O2 Arena — unless they agree to play the Staples Center during the part of their tours that takes place in Los Angeles. Both the O2 and Staples are owned by AEG.”

“Unlike London, however, Los Angeles is a competitive venue market — or has been since at least January 2014, when the ‘Forum’ reopened in Inglewood after a $100 million renovation. Artists touring in Los Angeles have therefore been able to enjoy the benefits of competition between Staples and the Forum. Ozzy would have been such an artist if AEG had not insisted, through the Staples Center Commitment, that he perform at Staples — the venue that AEG owns.”

As opposed to monetary damages, Ozzy is simply seeking an injunction to prohibit AEG from enforcing the “Staples Center Commitment” on him and other musicians. “The harm from the AEG Defendants’ illegal tying practice is not compensable with money damages,” the complaint reads. “For one thing, it is impossible to catalogue, let alone value, the myriad benefits that artists and consumers would enjoy by virtue of competition between Staples and the Forum, which the Staples Center Commitment thwarts.”

It continues, “For another, depriving artists of the choice of which venue to play in the greater Los Angeles area is an irremediable harm in its own right: delivering the concert experience that, in the artist’s own calculation, best reflects his or her vision for fans — in the environment of the artist’s own choosing — is an essential and integral component of the connection between a musician and his or her most ardent supporters. This is about identity, freedom and choice, as much or more than it is about money.”

AEG Present CEO responded with the following statement:

“This suit is without merit and we will vigorously fight it. We welcome a closer look at the global live entertainment market and, specifically, our practices and the practices of our competition. AEG has always worked hard to put artists first. At the same time, we must respond to the actions of those we compete with, specifically Live Nation and Madison Square Garden. Fighting for a level playing field is fair competition at its core.”

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