Friday, January 29, 2010

More on Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger

It occurred to me later, after I saw that Irving Azoff, manager of the Eagles is the CEO of this new company, that the Eagles were the first band who broke that $100 ticket price barrier, with tickets for their "Hell Freezes Over" tour going for the outrageous sum at the time of $150. If you think this guy isn't going to jack up prices as high as he can, you got another thing coming.

Anyway, here is some good commentary on the merger from the Springsteen fan site, Backstreets. There is a link in there to a good article, too.

Talk about your Blue Mondays. On January 25, the U.S. Justice Department’s Anti-Trust Division officially approved a “watered-down” version of the merger between ticket-sales agency Ticketmaster and concert-promoter/venue-owner Live Nation, creating a new company called Live Nation Entertainment. (One of the better initial reports/analyses of the deal can be found here.) In reality, there’s very little “watered down” from the original proposal first made a year ago, which essentially will solidify and strengthen what many considered to be a live-entertainment monopoly already since Pearl Jam et. al. unsuccessfully sought restrictions on Ticketmaster from the Anti-Trust Division back in the ’90s, during the Clinton presidency. Springsteen fans in particular should be appalled that not a single item in the “significant changes” ordered by the Justice Department even pretends to address the blatant conflict of interest that is Ticketmaster’s wholly-owned “secondary ticket market” (legal scalping) subsidiary TicketsNow, the source of so many problems for fans who attempted to buy tickets during the Working on a Dream tour last year.

Speaking of conflicts of interest, one of the other "concessions" that the new company surprisingly did not have to make allows it to keep its artist-management wing, headed by Irving Azoff, to boot. To understand just how anti-artist and anti-fan this move is, just remember that when Springsteen was forced to mount his famous lawsuit against former manager Mike Appel, Bruce's major source of revenue to sustain him and his band through that period came from their live performances. Any artist managed by Ticketmaster could be restrained from repeating such a strategy now, with the new company's increased power to control access to venues, ticket sales, etc. Even if you're an artist who's not directly managed by Azoff, if you don't like any aspect of how you or your audience get treated by Live Nation Entertainment, it now will be even more difficult, if not impossible, to oppose the company's policies and continue to make a living as a professional musician.

This latest action (or, more accurately, inaction) from the Anti-Trust Division comes in spite of the public opposition of many, including Bruce Springsteen, his management and touring organizations, and many of his fans who wrote letters, sent e-mails and/or made phone calls urging the Anti-Trust Division to stop this merger. As Springsteen's official website previously noted, "[T]he 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." Barring any significant actions from Congress or the President (who still could actively oppose the Anti-Trust Division's ruling if they chose to do so), it looks pretty certain now that we're headed further down that road.

Despite the discouraging news, however, the battle isn't over just yet. Click here for more information.
- January 27, 2010