This past weekend, England hosted one of it’s largest electronic music festivals in Daresbury. 70,000 attendees braved the mud and cold to see performances by Martin Garrix, Diplo, Alesso, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Alesso, Steve Angello, Carl Cox, The Chainsmokers, and many more. The festival was put on by Live Nation, who bought the festival in 2012 from Cream Holding for an estimated 13.9 million pounds. In addition to the UK edition, the festival hosts events in Australia, China, and South America. Creamfields was originally founded in 1998 with the first event hosting about 25,0000 people. Since then it has grown significantly, expanding into four days of music. Not too far away, in Reading and Leeds was another pair of festivals hosted by Live Nation. The multi-day festivals take place simultaneously hosting a variety of genres. This year was headlined by Panic! At the Disco, Kendrick Lamar, Fall Out Boy, Travis Scott, Kings Of Leon, and more. Live Nation also hosts several others in the U.K. including Parklife, Latitude, Isle of Wight, Lovebox, RiZe, and others throughout the country for a total of 21 festivals.
Live music revenues in the UK were an estimated one billion pounds in 2016, with approximately 3.9 million people attending music festivals that year. Musical tourism has increased by 20% in 2016 with a million people travelling to the UK for events. This makes the UK a very attractive market for event organizers. However, the growing dominance of Live Nation in the country’s live events industry has been raising some concerns lately amongst a non profit trade association as well as members of Parliament.
Recently the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), a non profit trade association that focuses on the promotion of independent festivals, published a festival ownership map that detailed the dominance that the US based Live Nation has over festivals with capacity greater than 5,000. They also released an online ‘stamp’ that will help consumers identify independent festivals so that they can better support them. The hope is also to help consumers understand the live event market in the UK. The map showed that Live Nation owns or controls 25.6% of the market, three times the amount of its closest competitor Global, who controls 8% through promoter Broadwick Live. Global hosts festivals like SW4, Boardmasters, and Festival No. 6. The next closest is AEG, another American company, with 5%. AEG owns British Summer Time and All Points East. 20% is made up of AIF members representing 37 independent companies who host 65 festivals with a capacity over 5,000. The remainder is made up of other independently owned festivals, like the massive Glastonbury, who are not members of AIF.
In light of this report the AIF put a call to the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate Live Nation’s market dominance. They believe that the companies dominance and vertical integration has a detrimental effect on the independent festival market in the UK.
AIF Chief Executive Paul Reed said: “AIF’s festival ownership map paints a stark picture of the sector. Allowing a single company to dominate festivals, and the live music sector in general, through vertical integration reduces the amount of choice and value for money for music fans. It can block new entrants to market, result in strangleholds on talent through exclusivity deals and stifle competition throughout the entire live music business. We have also today launched a stamp of independence to celebrate our member events and so that customers can clearly identify when they are buying a ticket to an independent festival. AIF has been sounding the alarm for some time now but the effect on the independent festival sector continues. Simply put, this damaging market dominance needs to be given the scrutiny it deserves.”
Not only do they have dominance over the festival market but Live Nation also owns Ticketmaster, the largest ticketing company in the world. In addition to selling 500 million tickets annually across the globe, they control an estimated 46% of of the top 61 venue box offices in the UK. Last year they also promoted 30,000 concerts globally and managed 500 artists. In a recent Parliamentary debate, one member discussed how Live Nation’s vertical integration across many parts of the live events industry is a conflict of interest.
“To allow a single global entity to dominate the festival and live sector in this way does reduce choice and value and stifles competition,” Richard Bacon a member of the British Parliament tells Billboard. “They are such a powerful entity in the live music industry you can’t afford to not play with them. Off the record, people will spell out the issues and talk about their experiences, but we appreciate that any investigation into this must be evidence driven and that may prove challenging to get people to go on the record and peel back the curtain further on the kinds of deals that are being done.”
“If you look at Live Nation’s global portfolio and the live music companies that they have acquired this year it just adds more leverage and increases their capability to squeeze independent players out of the market. We feel it’s now reached the culmination point where it deserves more scrutiny and we’ll continue ringing the alarm bells to make that happen.”
The main concern is that Live Nation is not being scrutinized enough and being watched for anticompetitive behavior. By making artist sign exclusive deals, the company is making it difficult for other festivals to book acts. Even small bands, not just the major headliners, are being prevented from playing at other events. Their dominance in the market has an effect on the artists, attendees, event organizers, and everyone in between. From ticketing to talent the company has a lot of control over the whole festival market, especially in the UK. This is why the AIF has put in a call to have them investigated. However, the CMA has still not received an official complaint of of yet.