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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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I don't know much about how company merges work, but I've been quite turned off by Ticketmaster in recent months, especially after hearing of the whole Springsteen ordeal a few weeks back. I'm not against monopolies, but they can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands.


Who I have always disliked is Senator Schumer, and his thought of "unrivalled power over concert-goers and the prices they pay" is rather concerning, methinks. With competition, there was balance.

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Live Nation, Ticketmaster Wanna Merge, Take Your $$$


It's been nearly fifteen years since members of Pearl Jam testified before of Congress about Ticketmaster's virtual monopoly over the concert-ticket business. But right now, that monopoly looks to become a whole lot less virtual.


As Billboard reports, today Ticketmaster and live-music promotion leviathan Live Nation announced their intentions to merge in a massive $2.5 billion deal. If they squeeze this one by antitrust officials, the massive company will call itself Live Nation Entertainment. It will oversee not only the country's largest ticket sales companies but also some of America's largest concert venues, the biggest tours, and 360 touring/recording/everything else deals with titans like Jay-Z and Madonna.


The combined companies expect to save $40 million annually in the deal, but, as a post on Wired magazine's Epicenter blog points out, that $40 million could possibly come at the expense of the people who actually buy the tickets that these companies sell. Of particular concern: Ticketmaster's secondary ticket-seller service TicketsNow, which auctions off tickets rather than selling them at specific fixed prices.


Last week, Ticketmaster incurred the wrath of both Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell when Ticketmaster automatically directed Springsteen ticket buyers to TicketsNow, which offered the tickets for sale at way-increased prices. Ticketmaster, then, was basically scalping tickets to its own shows. On Monday, Toronto resident Henry Krajewski went so far as to sue Ticketmaster for selling its own tickets at inflated prices. As Billboard reports, he got the TicketsNow automatic redirect when he tried to buy Smashing Pumpkins tickets last year.


In a statement, Springsteen himself decried the practice: "Some artists or managers may not perceive there to be a conflict between having the distributor of their tickets in effect 'scalping' those same tickets through a secondary company like TicketsNow-- we do." Springsteen managed to elicit an apology from Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff, who offered refunds to people who had bought the overpriced TicketsNow tickets.

But as Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk points out, who's going to stop Ticketmaster from engaging in the same practices when they essentially own everything?


Here's Van Buskirk:


"While the combined company might take the opportunity to ditch the 'convenience' fees that are detested by fans -- or at least internalize the fees (which are divided between Ticketmaster, the promoter, and sometimes the performing artist and other parties) -- the idea of bypassing the primary ticketing market entirely and introducing them directly into the TicketsNow auction system could give prospective audience members with more cash to burn a big edge over impecunious fans -- even if those other fans are quicker on the draw when it comes to buying tickets.

"In other words, thickness of wallet -- and not quickness of response -- would become the salient factor when trying to buy tickets for hot shows."

So if Ticketmaster and Live Nation decide to start selling tickets through an auction system, rather than on a first-come first-serve basis, the days of obsessively refreshing websites when big shows go on sale will end. People who can outbid the rest of the world on those big tickets will be able to buy straight from the source, and the rest of us will be left out in the cold. Awesome.


Springsteen, for one, isn't happy about this possibility. In that statement, he went on to decry the pending 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."


To be fair, Ticketmaster and Live Nation haven't announced any plans to switch over to an auction system just yet. But don't be surprised if it happens.


Billboard reports that previous antitrust investigations of Ticketmaster could force antitrust regulators to give this deal extra scrutiny, which could in turn prevent the deal from becoming official for a year or longer. We can only hope.

Posted by Tom Breihan on Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 3:15pm



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Concerts are just a luxury, a form of entertainment.

What I'm scared about if there is a move to the auction system is that I will never be able to see a major concert again. How else is a university student going to be able to see a U2 or a Coldplay if they have to compete with established people with well paying jobs to see a show.


What I hope is that if this is the case, and they move to an auction system that bands will find alternate ways to sell their tickets.

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