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Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge


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The world's largest concert promoter and its biggest ticket-seller tonight agreed to join forces in a controversial "merger of equals" that will create a new giant of the entertainment industry.


Live Nation, whose vast roster of artists includes Madonna, Coldplay and U2, is to merge with Ticketmaster in an all-share deal worth about $800m (£550m).


But the planned tie-up, which would create a dominant force in concert promotion and ticket sales, has already sparked competition concerns in the US.


Charles Schumer, a senior Democratic senator, said: "This merger would give a giant new entity unrivalled power over concert-goers and the prices they pay to see their favourite artists and bands.


"It must be viewed sceptically and scrutinised with a fine-toothed comb by the justice department and the federal trade commission."


The musician Bruce Springsteen has also come out against the deal, which has been on the cards for some days. "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," he wrote on his website last week.


Shares in both companies slipped amid fears that the deal could be blocked by anti-monopoly regulators.


The combined group would have revenues of $6bn and sell more than 150m concert tickets a year, promoting some 22,000 concerts. It would handle more than 200 artists and run more than 140 venues, including the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and the Fillmore in San Francisco.


The companies said the deal would allow them to "improve the live entertainment experience and drive major innovations in ticketing technology, marketing and service". It would also increase attendance at live events and "strengthen and enhance the direct connection between artists and fans", the companies said.


Live Nation has capitalised on the travails of the traditional record industry, signing up acts such as Madonna, Jay-Z, U2, Shakira and Nickelback.


As the economics of the music industry shift from recorded music to live performance, Live Nation has been well placed to cut "360-degree" deals that cover recording rights and concert promotion as well as other revenue streams such as merchandising. The deal comes less than six weeks after Live Nation ended its 10-year ticketing relationship with Ticketmaster and promised to introduce its own service.


Under the merger, Ticket­master investors would get 1.384 Live Nation shares for each Ticketmaster share. The Live Nation shareholders would be left with 49.99% of the combined group, to be called Live Nation Entertainment; Ticketmaster shareholders would hold 50.01%. Live Nation's chief executive, Michael Rapino, would take the same job at the new group, with Ticketmaster's Irving Azoff executive chairman.


The veteran media mogul Barry Diller, Ticketmaster's chairman, would be non-executive chairman of a board with seven directors from each firm.


"An equal partnership will allow the companies to get through this difficult period," he said. The companies said they were looking to close the deal – which is set to make savings of about $40m - in the second half of the year, on condition that is gets approval from Ticketmaster's lenders, both sets of shareholders and US regulators.



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At least in the UK we have Seetickets/Gigsandtours and Ticketweb to break up the tickermaster monopoly.


But it's bad news because unconfirmed rumours claim that Ticketmaster and Live Nation are to merge with Satan himself to form a new company called LiveTicketBastard in order to offer concert goers an improved gig experience.


New features to benefit the music lover include enhanced profits, less competition, redundancies and scalping plus all the brimstone you can eat...

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Ticketmaster-Live Nation: A straight ticket?




Concertgoers likely won't get fooled again by ticket fees if Ticketmaster is allowed to merge with concert giant Live Nation.


Industry observers expect those annoying add-on charges to disappear. That's "the one positive of the merger," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert journal Pollstar.


Don't expect tickets to get any cheaper, however. That $75 ticket with $15 in extra charges may simply be priced at $90.


"The business will get its pound of flesh but with a more fan-friendly method," predicted longtime Minneapolis promoter Randy Levy. "I see this as a neutral situation for the concertgoer. Nothing changes the supply-and-demand [nature] of the business."


The $2.5 billion merger, announced Tuesday, put the spotlight on a rarity in today's economy: a bullish business. Concert revenues actually have risen as the rest of the music industry struggles against the tide of changing technology and illegal downloads. The average box office gross in North America was up 18 percent last year while average attendance jumped 6 percent, according to Billboard magazine. During the same period, sales of recorded music fell 15 percent.


While fans expressed fears about the deal, which would combine the world's leading ticket agency and the world's top concert promoter, industry experts are uncertain about the effect on consumers.


"Whether ticket prices go up or down is more reflective of the economy and the acts themselves," said Xcel Energy Center General Manager Jack Larson, who participated in a conference call with 45 arena managers this week. "Acts usually dictate what the ticket price is."


Still, the deal would put unprecedented power in the hands of a man Larson called "the king" -- Irving Azoff, chief executive of Ticketmaster and a leading music manager whose Front Line Management Group works with about 200 acts, including the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen, Christina Aguilera, Guns 'N Roses, Neil Diamond, Morrissey, Jewel, New Kids on the Block and Jimmy Buffett. Live Nation also is involved in management as part of its so-called "360 deals" in which it has concert, management and merchandising contracts with U2, Madonna, Nickelback and Jay-Z, among others.


Azoff is known as an aggressive manager who maximizes profits for his acts. He broke the $100 ticket barrier in the mid-1990s with the Eagles. At the same time, it was Azoff who introduced a no-fee policy with the Eagles' tour last fall. While he's likely to broaden that policy -- a move that might mollify critics of the merger -- skeptics fear he'll push prices higher.


"Irving is king of the whole thing; he has a master plan," said Larson, who exchanges e-mails with the mighty manager several times a year.


In a conference call Wednesday, Azoff said: "The goal of this company is going to be to get more artists to work and fill more venues and fill more seats."


He says other promoters would be given a fair opportunity to compete: "We think that it will be a more level playing field, and there's no real barrier of entry for anybody to expand their promotion areas."


Fans, Congress object


Nick Mancuso, a Minneapolis music lover, dislikes the add-on fees but objects to the proposed new "invisible" fees.


"That makes it frustrating, because I don't know how much is going to the artist. The higher price is justifiable, say, if more [money] is going to the Fine Line [Music Cafe] to make it a better place to listen to music. Ticketmaster wants to make their tarnished image better. I can't believe they charge $2.50 or whatever to print your ticket at home but it's free if they mail the tickets to you."


Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., have urged the Justice Department to reject the merger.


Ticketmaster's practices caught their attention this month when fans trying to buy Bruce Springsteen tickets online instead were directed to the company's affiliated ticket-scalping site, TicketsNow.


Springsteen himself raised objections to the merger in a posting on his website: "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."


Of course, power over pricing ultimately sits with the artists: How many more millions do they want? How much first-class comfort do they need?


Fleetwood Mac charged $125 for its top ticket in 2003 at Xcel Center but is asking $150 for its return engagement in March. At the same time the band is trying to cut back on touring costs, switching from a Boeing 738 airliner to a Lear Jet that will carry only the band.


"We absolutely cannot afford to take that [738] plane because of the price of fuel and the price of renting the plane," singer Stevie Nicks said this week. "Everybody but the principals of the band are on a bus, and we are on a small plane."



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