One source says watching AEG and Live Nation lock horns in Europe is like watching two huge bullies arguing over which one can piss the furthest.
LN chief Michael Rapino believes he has the biggest and best worldwide brand and is determined that the whole world is going to hear about it, while AEG has taken to aiming the occasional potshot in the direction of its local and global rival.
Unlike Live Nation, AEG President Tim Leiweke has said the company isn’t interested in 360 deals with artists. A couple of months earlier Leiweke told a U.K.-based music trade paper that he doesn’t like monopolies.
"I don’t like people dictating and that is clearly what’s been going on here," he explained, again without mentioning Live Nation by name.
In the latest edition of IQ, the International Live Music Conference’s journal, AEG Live president and chief exec Randy Phillips claims "our acts" are "much more price sensitive as opposed to The Rolling Stones, Madonna or Barbra [Streisand], where the price of a P-1 ticket starts in the $200 to $350 range." Once again Live Nation wasn’t mentioned by name, but everyone knows who promotes the three acts used in Phillips’ example.
Meanwhile LN is getting into uniform and rallying around the flag. Its four main promoters in Scandinavia – EMA Telstar in Sweden, DKB Motor in Denmark, Gunnar Eide Concerts in Norway and Finland’s WellDone Agency – have all re-branded as Live Nation.
Rapino has been re-stressing his company’s role as "a global live music network" since he made an address to investors last August, and is determined to get his Live Nation worldwide message across very quickly.
That’s easier said than done in some quarters. Elissa Murtaza, who sold 65 percent of her Dubai-based Mirage Promotions to LN in the middle of February, told Pollstar that changing the company name to Live Nation was one of the most time-consuming parts of the deal.
The first official approach she received for Mirage came when Live Nation was still Clear Channel Entertainment and, in the two years or so that have passed since then, the negotiations involved dialogues with LN International chairman Thomas Johansson, LN International president Carl Pernow, chief exec for international music Alan Ridgeway and Rapino himself.
Preparing to re-brand in the United Arab Emirates is more complicated than just putting an iron in some red-hot coals. Murtaza described the process as "hopping back and forth between one government department and another" as she tried to wade through the bureaucratic paper trail that lay before her. LN’s February 15th announcement of the Mirage deal said its new acquisition would "re-brand to Live Nation within the next 30 days."
Apart from Rapino lining up his troops and someone from AEG occasionally sticking his head over the parapet to fire off a volley at them, the Los Angeles-based music giants’ European war has so far produced only a couple of skirmishes.
LN sacked Stuart Galbraith for fraternizing with the enemy, which he’s since joined, although that didn’t produce what many expected would be The Battle Of Hyde Park. LN holds a short-term contract to promote shows at the huge central London park, but it was Galbraith who had been putting the bills together.
If Galbraith and Kilimanjaro – his new 50-50 joint venture with AEG – had any designs on wresting that deal from his former employer, the non-compete clauses in his LN contract would likely have prevented him from doing much about it.
After a few noisy exchanges, The Battle Of Sweden that looked as if it would be fought on two fronts in Hultsfred and Stockholm looks to have cooled. Both sides seem content to hunker down in their trenches, occasionally taking a peep to see if the opposition has started maneuvers.
The battle originally began when David Maloney and Mikael Tillman jumped ship from LN to join AEG last September.
Phillips then helped them mount a commando raid that resulted in AEG capturing the booking of the 22-year-old Hultsfred Festival, a former LN stronghold, and Hultsfred booker Janne Kleman, who is now reinforcing the ranks.
LN’s reaction was to start its own outdoor called Where The Action Is. It will be at the Stora Skuggan site at Stockholm University June 14th, which clashes with the Hultsfred weekend.
So far Where The Action Is has booked Foo Fighters, supported by a stellar lineup of Swedish acts including The Hives, The Hellacopters, Sahara Hotnights and Mando Diao.
The festival is a co-promotion with Luger, the promoter, agency and management company in which LN owns a 49 percent stake.
The international acts confirmed for Hultsfred include Rage Against The Machine, HIM, Babyshambles and Rufus Wainwright. – John Gammon