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Why London Outsings New York in Concerts

At the turn of the century, London's Millennium Dome was dismissed by many as a failure and waste of money after it did not attract the huge numbers of visitors the government had hoped.

Madonna performs onstage during the opening night of her 'Sticky and Sweet' tour at the O2 Arena on in London, England.
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Madonna performs onstage during the opening night of her 'Sticky and Sweet' tour at the O2 Arena on in London, England.

But this changed seven years later, when sports and entertainment presenters AEG transformed the Millennium Dome - nicknamed by the British press "the Millennium Disaster" and situated in a formerly run-down area in the south of London - into the O2 Arena.

In the seven months following its opening in 2007, the O2 Arena surpassed New York's Madison Square Gardens as the most popular live venue. It has also won the Pollstar Award for International Arena of the Year for the past three years.

“Business is good, the live industry is really performing well," David Campbell, CEO of AEG Europe told CNBC.

"2008 was an absolutely landmark year here in the UK; live music overtook recorded music, so artists actually make more money out of the live sector then recorded sector, in 2009 you saw the same trend.”

Last year, AEG sold 2.3 million tickets to events at the O2. “We look for content, we look for people who go into a building and fill up a building…we’ve had opera in this year, we’ve got a lot of sports, the NBA in October,” said Campbell.

During the recession, AEG survived by “putting on quality acts for good value,” he added.

Click here to watch the full interview.

One of the big projects for the O2 Arena was to host Michael Jackson’s final series of concerts in 2009. The event was canceled after the singer passed away a few months before the start date of his ‘This Is It’ show.

The O2 Arena has now turned its eye to 2012, when it will host the London Olympics’ gymnastics and basketball finals.

“You’ve got to look at every single brick in the wall and make sure you do what you can to drive revenue from each of those places,” Campbell told CNBC.

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