Irving Azoff, Tim Leiweke Angle to Buy Music Trade Publications in Bid to Challenge Billboard

Two veteran music execs in talks to purchase Pollstar after acquiring Venues Today

Irving Azoff at TheGrill Media Conference
Irving Azoff at TheGrill Media Conference

Music industry moguls Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke are on a buying spree, purchasing live-music trade publications in an apparent bid to challenge industry giant Billboard.

Azoff and Leiweke are in talks to buy the music-touring trade Pollstar, according to the Wall Street Journal. The same duo recently bought Venues Today, a leading publication covering live entertainment and performance venues.

The duo founded Oak View Group in 2016 and the company is quickly building its media portfolio with a conference business as well as traditional trade publications.

Venues Today is involved in three conferences — Venue Operations Summit (VOS) in Nashville, Sport, Entertainment & Venues Tomorrow (SEVT) in Columbia, S.C., and Raising the Industry in Sport & Entertainment (RISE) in Long Beach, Calif.

If Oak View Group successfully acquires Pollstar, it comes with the Pollstar Live Conference, which costs at least $799 to attend and attracts a variety of corporate sponsors. The conference bills itself as an exploration of the “ins and outs of the live event industry” featuring agents, managers, promoters, road warriors, venue executives and professionals from all across the industry.

The Journal pointed out that while most print publications are currently struggling to survive in the modern media landscape, trade publications are tied with the industries they cover.

Luckily for Oak View Group, the music industry is rebounding and record labels saw their sales volume grow 3 percent last year, according to the Journal, which cited Nielsen Music. The popularity of streaming music services and a steady demand in attending live shows has helped the industry rebound from years of declining album sales.

Late last year, the Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group acquired SpinMedia’s music assets Spin, Vibe, and Stereogum, giving the company an online audience of 45 million readers per month.

It appears Oak View Group is gearing up to take on Billboard, which is the music industry’s best-known trade but has been criticized by Azoff over the past few years.

Back in 2015, Azoff tweeted, “Billboard continues their march to irrelevance,” when the magazine ran what he called an “unwarranted attack” on music executive Marty Bandier.

Azoff is one of the most powerful men in the industry, representing acts such as the Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, No Doubt, Maroon 5, Bon Jovi and Harry Styles. He is also the former executive chairman of America’s biggest concert promoter, Live Nation.

Meanwhile, Leiweke is the former CEO of Live Nation’s biggest competitor, Anschutz Entertainment Group. He also has experience in non-music live events, as he is the former CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which controls a variety of professional sports franchises.