Is AEG the evil empire? A monopolistic beast, engulfing and devouring its competitors, steamrolling the rest into dust? On evidence, probably not.
The question has been bounced about in music circles since the entertainment giant’s live arm, AEG Presents, announced a strategic joint venture with Frontier Touring, which takes effect from July 1. Chances are, if you’ve seen a show in Australia, you’ve already encountered AEG and not had your beer stolen.
If you’ve spread out at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena, Perth Arena, Brisbane Entertainment Centre or the Sunshine State’s Suncorp Stadium, you’ve been AEG’d.
The Los Angeles-based AEG has a long-established presence here through its AEG Ogden joint venture, the largest venue management company in Asia Pacific (in case you missed it, AEG Facilities, the venue management subsidiary of AEG, announced a merger with SMG to create a new management empire called ASM Global, which would collect more than 300 facilities worldwide under a single banner).
Check out those synergies.
Though Anschutz Entertainment Group founder Philip Anschutz’s political interests in the United States have been well documented, AEG has been very much a steady hand in Australia. The promoter has quietly partnered with Michael Gudinski and his Frontier Touring Company for 12 years. Tours by the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift’s Red and 1989 Tours, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Rodriguez and Shawn Mendes were partnered-up.
If you bought tickets to Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in these parts, you’ve been AEG’d. The Rocket Man’s trans-Tasman leg here next year is produced by Chugg Entertainment, itself a JV partner with Frontier Tour, with support from AEG Presents.
And when Frontier stalwart Michael Harrison joined in 2018 as senior vice president AEG global touring, based in L.A., AEG added another expertise and know-how to its Aussie arsenal.
So what does a giant American concert promoter want from Australia? Options. When pitching a major world tour, the promoter that wins the day is the one that explores the best possible path for the talent, with the most shows, in as many markets as possible, with the best margins. Australia (and New Zealand) is a billion-dollar-plus touring space sat next to Asia, slots in neatly at the start of end of a global trek, and is home to millions of nutty fans who aren’t afraid to pay for a good time.
In the high-stakes game of live entertainment, AEG Presents is second only Live Nation. Last year, the company sold 11.59 million tickets, Pollstar reports, while scooping up real estate or booking rights to venues in markets that Live Nation already operates in. Competition is good.
AEG always had eyes for Australia. And through this new JB, AEG can offer more options for the talent. Obviously, Frontier wins by teaming with a deep-pocketed partner. The powerhouse independent promoter will land more inventory, options, as does Matt Gudinski’s Illusive Presents. Fans, yep, they’ll get more options. AEG Ogden’s chairman and CEO Harvey Lister says he expects to see an even greater number of tours across Australasian markets, and further investment on both sides of the ditch.
Chugg sees options too, for plugging homegrown artists into the global AEG Presents touring machine. “I think Gudinksi and myself will add stuff to what they’re doing worldwide. Its’ going to be good for the industry here,” he tells TIO. “They’re not out to destroy anybody, they’re out there to do a good job. And it gives us a little more artillery to blow away [insert an impressive string of expletives here] Live Nation out of the water.”