The antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on the proposed merger of the controversial ticket broker Ticketmaster with the giant national concert promoter Live Nation tomorrow, and the scheduled witnesses include Jerry Mickelson, co-founder of Chicago-based Jam Productions, one of the largest of America's few remaining indie promoters.
Though it is now in the minority among major U.S. cities, Chicago remains a deeply competitive market for live music, with Jam and Live Nation often vying for major arena shows, and Jam maintaining a firm grip here on smaller theater gigs. In 2005, Jam won a $90 million verdict against Live Nation in a highly publicized anti-trust suit after testimony that included executives at the larger company boasting that they'd love to "crush, kill and destroy" the regional promoter.
Also scheduled to testify in Washington, D.C. are Irving Azoff and Michael Rapino, the Ticketmaster and Live Nation executives set to become the reigning braintrust at the new Live Nation Entertainment, and David A. Balto, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a self-described "think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action, combining bold policy ideas to help shape the national debate to expose the hollowness of conservative governing philosophies."
Presumably, the Center for American Progress group stands in solidarity with Jam in opposing the merger, though Mickelson has so far declined to comment on the issue.
The subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights is chaired by Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and its members include Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has called for an investigation into Ticketmaster's handling of ticket sales for the upcoming Bruce Springsteen tour, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, an outspoken critic of music piracy who also dabbles in music-making himself as a singer.
Entitled "The Ticketmaster/Live Nation Merger: What Does it Mean for Consumers and the Future of the Concert Business?," the session begins at 2:30 p.m. Eastern and will be Webcast on the committee's site at http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=3674.