Ticketmaster & Live Nation: The Boss is skeptical. Should you be?
So much for the belief that concert promotion behemoth Live Nation would launch a viable rival to Ticketmaster. News came this week from the Wall Street Journal that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are on the verge of merging. If it comes to pass, the combined company -- Live Nation-Ticketmaster Entertainment, according to the WSJ -- would essentially control the live music business.
Bruce Springsteen isn't happy about it. After reports that Ticketmaster was re-directing log-in requests for tickets to their secondary-seller site, TicketsNow, Springsteen posted a message to fans on his site blasting the company. He also warned fans to be wary of the reported merger:
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.
He isn't the only one worried. In this Times story from David Colker, Tiffany Hsu and Randy Lewis, antitrust attorney Timothy Mathews of Chimicles & Tikellis notes the merger could squeeze out all competition.
That could certainly be bad news for fans, especially those who were hoping that a heated Live Nation/Ticketmaster competition would lower the cost of tickets and service fees. Billboard's Ray Waddell writes the merger "would create a company in control of the majority of box office dollars, the myriad revenues that can come from ticketing and the unlimited e-commerce potential the fan/ticket connection brings to live music."
Additionally, with Tickmaster's recent alignment with Front Line Management, and Live Nation's much-ballyhooed 360-deals with the likes of Madonna and Jay-Z, the company has direct access to a bevy of major acts, from the Eagles to Christina Aguilera. Live Nation has also aggressively been expanding into artist merch and fan clubs via its MusicToday partnership, and also has deals in place to sell MP3s downloads.
So to recap: A combined Live Nation / Ticketmaster would have stakes in venues, ticketing systems, artist merch, music distribution and artist management. In one swoop, Live Nation Ticketmaster Entertainment could essentially become the world's largest record label -- and the only one that matters, as live music is the only reliable income stream for major artists.
Industry blog Coolfer takes a level-headed approach, noting that there is "no clear indication that a Live Nation-Ticketmaster Entertainment tie-up would hinder competition or raise prices for consumers. People are painting worse-case scenarios."
Perhaps, but if there's no sudden change in the cost of tickets, the effect on already struggling record labels may be more immediate. As Waddell notes, "labels would have even less influence and would move more solidly into roles as distributors and, to a lesser extent, marketers." When an artist can go straight to a management firm with direct access to everything from concert promotion to digital distribution, there's suddenly even less incentive to sign with a middle-man.
This is good news to anyone who believes artists should be signed and promoted based primarily on their ability to fill concert venues and sell merch. But everyone else? Might want to listen to Springsteen on this one.
Photo credit: EPA