Concert promoter Live Nation has signed a deal with U2 for the rights to the band's tours, merchandising and website.

The 12-year contract follows a broader deal struck with Madonna last year, which also included music distribution, and highlights ongoing changes in the music industry.

The agreement effectively formalises an existing relationship between the two, as Live Nation has produced every U2 tour since 1997, and a subsidiary already runs the group's website.

"We've been dating for over 20 years now, it's about time we tied the knot," said U2's Bono.

"With regards to, we feel we've got a great website, but we want to make it a lot better. We want a closer, more direct relationship between the band and its audience and Live Nation has pledged to help us with that," the lead singer added.

Michael Cohl, chairman of the board of Live Nation and chief executive of Live Nation Artists, said: "It has long been our intention to consolidate and extend our relationship with U2, so this is a very exciting deal for us.

"The band has always been forward thinking and as one of our original and most successful artists, we are delighted to be able to work with them for many years into the future."

Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter by revenue, is ending its relationship with ticker seller Ticketmaster at the end of the year and plans to set up a rival ticket service.

The company plans to take advantage of new ways of promoting music by focusing on live events and using the internet. In October 2007, Live Nation announced a new contract with pop singer Madonna which will include the rights to produce her shows as well as distribute her music.

31/03/2008 08:20:38