Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

More developments in the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, including another hearing today

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*** The Senate had its crack at challenging the proposed mega-merger Tuesday; today it will be the House's turn.

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy will hold a hearing on "Competition in Ticketing & Promotion" at 10 a.m. Eastern/9 a.m. Central today, with a live Webcast accessible from this U.S.gov site.

This time, the witness list seems much more friendly to Ticketmaster and Live Nation: Top execs Irving Azoff and Michael Rapino are once again slated to testify, along with a representative of Global Spectrum Management, which has a contract with Live Nation at its Philadelphia arena. There also are a professor, some lawyers and someone from a think tank called the Federation of Public Interest Research Groups.

The committee won't be hearing from any independent promoters who compete with Live Nation.

MORE DEVELOPMENTS AFTER THE JUMP

*** Roll Call, "the newspaper of Capitol Hill," has reported that Ticketmaster/Live Nation "have enlisted top K Street Democrats to diffuse the outrage [about the merger], hiring lobbyists from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as well as Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher."

The story (which unfortunately requires a subscription to read) continues:

Former Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.), a lobbyist at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, confirmed yesterday that his firm is representing Ticketmaster in the all-stock deal that would create a new $2.5 billion company -- and, some say, an unfair entertainment ticketing and promotion monopoly.

President Barack Obama's new Justice Department also is scrutinizing the proposed union to allay anti-trust concerns, agency spokeswoman Gina Talamona said on Monday. But with the DOJ wheels in motion and no adversarial legislation to derail, Levine said his primary task now is not traditional lobbying around the Capitol -- although that may come, he said.

His immediate job is to calm New Jersey and New York lawmakers whose offices recently were bombarded with angry phone calls from rabid Bruce Springsteen fans who were unable to buy tickets to the Boss's Meadowlands concerts later this spring.

"It's overwhelmingly related to Springsteen," Levine said...

*** Ticketmaster is claiming that the scandal over its handling of the upcoming Bruce Springsteen tour was the result of "a computer glitch"; the company didn't actually intend to steer people away from buying face-value seats and toward buying marked-up "scalped/secondary market" seats through its subsidiary Tickets Now.

It's becoming apparent, however, that this was not an isolated incident -- and that it's continuing, at least in Canada, even in the wake of the Springsteen scandal. The CBC reports:

"More complaints are surfacing about Ticketmaster, this time about inflated ticket prices for Leonard Cohen's upcoming concerts in Canada.

Ticketmaster's website says tickets don't go on sale until Wednesday for most Canadian dates, but the company's affiliated website, TicketsNow, began selling tickets to the shows for hundreds of dollars more than their face value before that.

Tickets to Cohen's concerts were withdrawn from sale by TicketsNow sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. ...

Tickets with a face value of $99 to $250 were being sold on TicketsNow.com for between $568 to $856, plus a service of charge ranging from $85 to $128 per ticket.

The online research firm Hitwise also is reporting some numbers that shed light on Ticketmaster's policy of redirecting its customers to Tickets Now -- a policy the company claims to have changed in the wake of outcry over the Springsteen onsale. The firm reports that:

Following the policy change, there was an immediate impact upon the traffic being driven to TicketsNow from TicketMaster, where the downstream traffic declined from 3.75% for the week ending Jan. 31, 2009 to just under 1% last week.

Of course it is pretty common to look for tickets on the websites of resellers once the tickets have sold out or seats are unavailable. The ticketing websites in Ticketmaster's downstream for the week ending Feb 21, 2009 confirms this type of cross-shopping behavior, typically dependent upon which ticket outlets were handling the main sale and where else tickets were available.

Also worth noting is that Ticketmaster is doing a good job keeping traffic within their own network with 5 (possibly 6 if the merger with LiveNation is approved) out of the 10 ticketing websites in the downstream are subsidiaries or partners of Ticketmaster.


*** The local musical activist group the Chicago Music Commission weighs in on the merger here.

CMC's bottom line: " If this merger is challenged by the Obama Department of Justice, it will try to define the market at issue as broadly as possible (saying the merged Ticketmaster-Live Nation company will play in venue ownership, ticket sales, promotion) and that the merged Live Nation-Ticketmaster entity will use its dominant market power in that large market to unfairly compete against others, resulting in a bad deal for consumers."

*** Finally, it's good to know the folks at Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone magazine read the Chicago Sun-Times. In fact, Hitsville blogger Bill Wyman claims they even rip this columnist off!

I've got no comment on this, other than to note it was really difficult covering the Senate hearing on the biggest story in the concert industry in the last two decades: It was both Webcast and broadcast on C-Span! Maybe they don't have those resources in New York.

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1 Comment

dear sir,

your practice of re-routing the online url of ticketmaster to your site is a blatant attempt at scalping and should be prohibited. i have bought tickets a couple of times now and have been disappointed each time; therefore i will buy no more tickets from you for any reason!
this ploy seems to have been inflicted on the public by some young entrepeneurs in your company that think you can't make money by selling tickets at a reasonable price. they seem to think they have to make a killing on tickets as if it were a one time sale; and you won't - as a company - be able to sell any tickets in the future. this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy as more and more people become aware of your greed.
i'm sending this to all the people on my mailing list to prevent them from being harmed by doing business with you. i hate to have to take time out of a busy day to bitch about this; but i think it's important enough to warrant the effort - negative as it is!


sincerely,

john j. o'brien

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on February 26, 2009 7:13 AM.

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