TICKET TO RIDE: WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT LIVE NATION
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2010
On Monday, The Justice Department of the United States approved a merger between two monsters: Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
In the immortal words of the Internet:
For several years, the world has watched in horror as Live Nation has been snatching up venues across the country (including Irving Plaza, an NYC joint that was renamed The Filmore, and also kind of sucks now). The company claiming to be some sort of revolutionary record label/promotional hybrid has actually been more of a fightning cloud of evil, descending upon my dreams and eating my puppies. Did I mention they are basically the offspring of Clear Channel? You know, the guys who took over and subsequently neutered terrestrial radio? I once was flunked for writing a paper defending LN, despite solid research and some points on larger acts needing the influence of a larger entity. That is how much people hate Live Nation. Also, "In July, 2008, Live Nation announced it signed a 3-album deal with multi-platinum, Canadian rock band, Nickelback." Yikes. These guys are the Scrooge McDuck of the music business; they want to swim in their money, and they don't care who knows about it.
Suck it, Bowery Presents.
Then there is Ticketmaster, the root of all ticketing evil. Concert tickets, especially for big names, have become the life-blood of the music industry. Music scalping is a business model now. And Ticketmaster has made a fortune in seemingly irrelevant fees, secondary market scams, and just generally pissing everyone off. And it isn't just music (as you well know), Ticketmaster is selling tickets for EVERYTHING these days. Pretty soon your daughters school play is going to have a $25 dollar processing fee. The Boss isn't a fan either, after his fans got screwed over by the Master. No one messes with the Boss and gets away with it! Oh, except Ticket Master.
What could be worse than these two monsters dating? HOW ABOUT GETTING MARRIED AND HAVING EVIL, CONSUMER MURDERING CHILDREN? Yeah, something like that is happening now.
On Monday, for some unholy reason, our government said this union was OK. The $889 million dollar deal will move forward, with Liveticket or Ticketnation or whatever having their hand in every fat pocket of the industry. The only catch for them is some "rule" that they must create two competitor companies to keep the market competitive. Yeah, OK. That seems a likely, honest proposal. Blah blah AEG blah blah it's all over.
Let's be serious for ONE SECOND, ninjas.
Now, Live Nation Entertainment argues this will benefit the consumer, due to a tighter control over promoting and pricing. This might actually be true. Ticketmaster has dominated ticket sales in music for decades, with over 80% of tickets being run through them in 2008. When Live Nation tried their own hand at ticketing, their service was met with a lot of criticism, crashing websites, and service fees that were even more off-the-wall than TM's. A merger could prevent shoddy competition with terrible service.
Another consideration is that the second hand market is inflating ticket prices, not Ticket Master. Supply = demand, it's our society and it's our economy. The Boss costs a lot of money, get over it. But if price caps could be enforced, by one large ticket wielding organization, then the scalpers lose their edge. TM already has a (mildly unpopular) new "paperless" system of ticketing; the ticketholder simply presents their ID and credit card at the door to get in. All stuff that isn't always ideal, but prevents scalpers from charging hundreds for a $50 show.
But that is only their side of the story. Many disagree with the glorification of the merger... specifically, everyone else.
Let's hear from TicketDisaster, a leading organization of people hell-bent on exposing the evil lobster-people running this show:
The settlement leaves several important issues unresolved, we believe. Notably, the secondary ticketing issue remains unsettled. Ticketmaster has signaled that it intends to use questionable "innovations" such as paperless ticketing to extend its monopoly power over the secondary market. We believe that this may constitute an unfair and deceptive trade practice. We therefore urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to maintain a watchful eye and ensure that consumers continue to benefit from a robust secondary market.
While today's decision is not the strongest in terms of protecting consumers, competition, and choice in the industry, it is all the more reason why consumers should continue to stand up and voice their concerns with this live entertainment monopoly," said Gary Adler, counsel to the National Association of Ticket Brokers. "The fight is not over. Our efforts to protect the rights of the consumer by exposing Ticketmaster's anti-consumer activities, including the use of paperless ticketing and excessive fees, are still priority number one.
Obviously this is not a black and white issue. It is easy for finger-pointing from the general public, especially those who do not have an understanding of large event ticketing, or the concert industry in general. To be totally fair, this doesn't totally effect those who attend smaller venue shows and smaller bands, but it will be interesting to see what happens to venues like Terminal Five... a large-ish venue promoted by Bowery Presents that uses Ticketmaster services.
Smaller promoters, whom many of us would champion as the "indies" of the concert business, will have to be a little more inventive with their efforts to expand now that the biggest game is town is ready to take the bottom out of the industry. For those worried about smaller companies bowing to Ticketmaster, think of it this way:
"It's like having your own little burger restaurant, and then asking McDonald's to come in and help you," he said. But that doesn't mean independent companies can't thrive by exploring alternative technologies and ticketing Web sites. There are still plenty of options for those working on a small scale, he said.
"Now it's up to us to think about different ways to get around these people," - Billy O'Brien, Independant Promoter
I like this analogy. Because as far as Ticketmaster goes, no one is loving it. -joe puglisi