Thursday, January 25, 2007

Venuewatch: Competition Commission tuts at merger

The Competition Commission has published its findings into the proposed takeover of The Academy Group by LiveNation (the former Clear Channel concert hall business). It's not sure it's such good news for promoters or gig-goers:

The Competition Commission (CC) has formally decided that the proposed acquisition of a controlling interest in Academy Music Holdings Limited (Academy) by Hamsard 2786 Limited (Hamsard) would lead to a substantial lessening of competition in relation to certain live music venues in London, resulting, in particular, in rentals at the venues concerned being higher than would otherwise be the case.

So... it should be stopped, then?

Erm... no.

Or, at least, there should be firm action to make sure that a group owning Wembley Arena, the Brixton Academy, Hammersmith Apollo and many others doesn't dominate the live music scene in London?

Erm... no:

If the acquisition of the controlling interest is to proceed, the merging companies will first be required to sell one of either the Brixton Academy or the Hammersmith Apollo and one of either the Shepherd's Bush Empire or the Forum. These venues represent the closest alternatives to each other in London for artists, agents and promoters of popular live music events and would come under common ownership following the acquisition.

So, that's it, then - a nod, providing a token two halls are sold off. And that's just in London. Not a word about the distortion of the situation outside London. We know the CC had their work cut out trying to make an equally lame report about the domination of Tesco seem like it was being harsh, but this does seem to be governance by the "well, it's only pop music, isn't it" guiding light.

The best we can hope for after this capitulation is that the spun-off venues remain open as venues - but the happy slamming of doors at the Hammersmith Palais by the local council suggests that, just maybe, there's not much will to find ways to prevent developers ripping out stages and putting in en-suite bathrooms.

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