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Ozzy Osbourne is retiring from a legendary career of musical showmanship, but not before going out with a bang. On Wednesday, the heavy metal singer filed an antitrust lawsuit against AEG, alleging the entertainment industry giant is illegally tying its venues in London and Los Angeles.
“The tying arrangement at issue is so explicit and brazen that AEG has given it a name: the ‘Staples Center Commitment,'” states the complaint filed in California federal court. “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.”
Osborne, represented by lawyers at the top firm of Latham & Watkins, explain that O2 is a “must have” venue for touring musicians because of its popularity and environment.
“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,” the complaint continues. “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.”
Osborne says he tried to book O2 for the “No More Tours 2” tour and requested February 2019, only to be told that it was available with the condition he play a venue that fit the description of the Staples Center.
“Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy’s wife and business manager, publicly complained about having to sign the Staples Center Commitment, but AEG would not relent,” states the complaint
He’s now seeking an injunction to prohibit AEG from enforcing the “Staples Center Commitment” on him and other musicians.
Osbourne says he directed his management at Live Nation to agree to AEG’s demands over O2, but asserts that since the conditions restrict his freedom and restrain competition, the time is right for a class action.
“The harm from the AEG Defendants’ illegal tying practice is not compensable with money damages,” write his attorneys. “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. 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.”
Of course, it absolutely must be noted that the Forum is owned by a joint venture between Madison Square Garden Company and Irving Azoff, who once was the leader of Live Nation. In obvious ways, this represents the continuation of a feud between Azoff and the AEG camp. The venue wars have already sparked an investigation by U.K. regulators and there’s been cross-allegations (although not currently in court as far as we’re aware) of a similar tying arrangement between the Forum and Madison Square Garden in New York.
In reaction to the lawsuit, AEG Presents CEO Jay Marciano said, ““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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