The merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation should send chills down the spine of rock concert fans across the country. This could be the end of any reasonably priced tickets for big name shows.
As Chicago Tribune rock writer Greg Kot points out, the creation of a company that operates the majority of live concert venues in the country, controls the ticketing to those venues and increasingly manages more and more of the artsts that play there, is a situation where it will be “difficult to fathom how this partnership would in any way benefit consumers, and how it could pass muster in a federal antitrust proceeding.”
Bill Wyman, an arts and music writer, has been all over this story, posting numerous items and updates on his HItsville blog. I urge you to head over and read all the posts.
Wyman powerfully debunks the notion that the merger will benefit concertgoers by facetiously stating:
On the one hand you have the company responsible for high concert-ticket prices … and on the other, the one responsible for the high concert-ticket fees. It makes perfect sense that, once having merged, they’d both throw out their business plans, operate completely differently from their previous modes of operation, and act in a way not in the best interest of their stockholders.
For Springsteen fans, the actions of Ticketmaster are already a nightmare. When tickets went on sale for the first leg of Bruce’s “Working On A Dream” tour, fans logging in to buy tickets for popular venues–such as Long Island and New Jersey–were informed that there were no more tickets available for the shows at the list price, and referred to the TicketsNow site–an entity also owned by Ticketmaster, but which specializes in reselling tickets to sold out shows at higher prices: legalized scalping.
All fucking hell is breaking loose over this, especially when people found out that they were being referred to the reseller even though regularly priced tickets were still available. One is also left to wonder how the TicketsNow site had tickets available to sell and already priced, within minutes of the legitimate list price sale starting at 10AM eastern time?
Springsteen posted an apology to his fans and an angry denunciation of the greedheads at Ticketmaster. Bruce called on fans to oppose the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, saying it would make this terrible situation even worse.
A final point for now: the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing. Several newspapers are reporting on this story right now. If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives. The abuse of our fans and our trust by Ticketmaster has made us as furious as it has made many of you. We will continue to do our utmost now and in the future to make sure that these practices are permanently curtailed on our tours.
The New Jersey Attorney General also announced an investigation of the ticket selling process for Bruce’s tour. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ) have sent a letter to Eric Holder, newly sworn in Attorney General of the U.S. asking him to look in to the anti-trust ramifications of the merger.
What I can’t help but take away from this episode, is something mentioned in one of the Hitsville posts on this situation, that the corporate monolith isn’t happy with the inflated ticket prices they charge ($95 apiece for my Albany Springsteen ticket) and the ticket fees they gouge me out of (another $16 per ticket). What they are eyeing is the sky high prices in the reselling/scalping market.
It has long rankled the concert industry that scalpers get away with selling tickets at many times their face value. That’s a increase that makes the 30 percent markup Ticketmaster was getting away with seem paltry.
The Holy Grail would on one level be a true auction of tickets for concerts, where people are allowed to bid up better seats. That would allow the company to milk each show for every last dollar it’s worth. (And the big scalping industry demonstrates that concert tickets are underpriced to a surprising degree.)
The only drawback is that it’s all aboveboard, and the artists would just demand the extra money being made.
So the bigger prize might be merely overseeing the resale market, a much-less high-profile activity. If Live Nation Ticketmaster can sell someone that $125 U2 ticket and then grab a continuing piece of the action as it is resold, that might turn out to be a bigger cash cow than even Ticketmaster.