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Bono on the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger: "I haven't really spent any time thinking about it"

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During a brief audience with Bono following U2's radio promo event at Metro Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to ask the singer one question about the single most important story in music today: the proposed merger between the controversial ticket broker Ticketmaster and the huge national concert promoter Live Nation.

Last year, U2 hopped into bed with Live Nation in a big way, signing a 12-year global contract allowing the American promoter to handle all merchandising, digital and branding rights as well as touring for the Irish band. And on its last tour, U2 faced significant criticism from fans--including one who questioned the band during the promo event--who were angry about Ticketmaster's handling of the specially-priced fan club tickets, an inordinate number of which seemed to wind up in the hands of scalpers.

Surprisingly, given the facts that the band is gearing up to work with these two companies for what is expected to be one of the top-grossing tours of 2009; that U2 made $25 million from selling its stock in Live Nation in December, and that the merger was the subject of two recent hearings on Capitol Hill as well as an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department, Bono said he had no opinion on the mega-merger.

"I'm not... I haven't really spent any time thinking about it. I'm just thinking about this [promoting 'No Line on the Horizon']," the singer said.

I noted that he had just responded to a fan who was angry about ticket sales on the last tour.

"I genuinely don't... I haven't had a minute to consider [the merger]. Is it definitely going to happen?" Bono asked.

I responded that it is now in the hands of the Justice Department.

"The thing that I have spent any time thinking about is this marginalization of musicians in music," Bono countered, changing the subject. "And that disturbs me. And it doesn't really affect me, but I've seen it particularly affect songwriters. It's very difficult for songwriters to get paid. If you're a band, you can develop a relationship with your audience through online, through playing live shows. But where's the next Cole Porter going to come from?"

Or the next Leonard Cohen, I interjected, since Bono had just played Cohen's music. Big mistake--this allowed the singer to go off on a long tangent about Cohen's genius, getting away from the topic at hand. We were then interrupted by a Chicago fan eager to glad-hand the musician: Nick Pritzker, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Hyatt Development Corporation.

The irony here was rich, since a massive infusion of cash from the Pritzker family was instrumental in establishing Ticketmaster shortly after the company was launched. ("Does your family still have a piece of Ticketmaster?" I asked Pritzker, trying to get the mini-interview back on track. "No, I don't have a piece of Ticketmaster," Pritzker said. "But we started it.")

As Bono began to edge away, I told him that the Ticketmaster/Live Nation story was the biggest I've ever covered as a music journalist. That gave him pause.

"What's your biggest worry about it? Just let me know," Bono said.

I told him the merger could create one giant corporation that will dominate live music in America to such an extent that there will be few options left for artists who want to work with any indie promoter, since the company will control so many venues, and they will have no option to sell tickets through any system other than Ticketmaster's. "Pearl Jam went up against Ticketmaster in the early '90s and learned that the hard way," I said.

"I remember," Bono replied.

"You really should read up on this," I said.

"I will," Bono promised. "There are only so many hours in the day. But we're going to be in that [touring/concert] system soon, so it better work."

And with that, he was off to continue saving the world... or at least to head to Boston for the next and final stop on the band's whirlwind promotional jaunt.


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16 Comments

Bono is a man that has an opinion on everything. The silence on this issue is deafening. Even the biggest artists are too afraid to speak out. Doesn't that say something?

Billy Corgan's letter hardly counts. Not because he's managed by Irving Azoff who runs Ticketmaster - but because there's no way the words on that paper were his own. It was corporate speak through and through.

Wow, way to make the story about you, Jim.

Bono: "Sorry kids, I'm too busy jousting with cosmic evils that have been plagued mankind since the dawn of time to address a corrupt system upon which I could have a disproportionate and positive effect."

Come on Bono, time to choose a side. Your hypocrisy on this issue is disheartening. Either you are with Ticketmaster/Ticketexchange.com/Live Nation or you are against the fans. In this age of transparency you can’t have it both ways. As we learn more and more about specific bands and their inside deals with Ticketmaster it’ll be interesting to see how they spin it. And how we, the fans, react.

Pearl Jam might have learn the hard way but they still sell tickets through thier fan club and obviously picked a side. Come on Bono. You can tell people to feed the world but can't take a stance on a Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger?

Bono has made a stand already, he just had the PR people put a positive spin on it. Remember, he said tickets for this tour will include low priced tickets for the poorer people (read, upstairs crappy seats) and higher priced ones for the richer people (front 10 rows). This is Ticketmaster's new strategy, sell the really good seats for a lot of money, ie auctions, VIP seats, etc. So, Bono has already sold out, the rest is all window dressing...

These companies need to be torn apart piece by piece. Ticketmaster really raped us U2 fans on the last tour (so many tickets went right to scalping agencies). Bono needs to step up for the consumer on this one. There will be no competition if these two companies combine.

I haven't paid much attention to U2 since, like, 1982 -
but I simply don't look to Bono to save the world so I'll
cut them slack for going for the big money at this stage
in their career.

(Krusty the clown voice) "they dumped a dump truck
full of money on my front lawn!!"

arena concert ticket prices are for chumps who don't
mind being ripped off or just couldn't tell the difference
between spectacle and entertainment, anyway.

Billy Corgan is fat and evil and stupid and vain and greedy.

Ever notice when someone who likes to "save the world" is asked a question that forces him to choose between enriching himself or fighting for the little guy......they always choose enriching themselves. Bono is such a hypocrite!!

I think Bono asked a good question. What is the biggest worry about this? The real damage was already done by Live Nation the past few years, this move or one similar is inevitable.
U2's deal with Live Nation has been in place before this merger was even on the horizon, if you read between the lines maybe U2 dumping the Live Nation stock in December is a reflection of how they feel about the matter.

Don't confuse the way things should be and the way things are. Should Live Nation be allowed to do this or have been allowed to consolidate radio ownership, live performance, and management into a monopoly? Of course not, but it has already happened.
Realistically what is an artist to do? They can't fight the system because they will lose. Pearl Jam has never recovered from the Ticketmaster battle in my opinion. Record companies are clueless and dying. Albums are now loss leaders to advertise other avenues to generate income for artists. Live Nation provides that business model -like it or not.

next person that mentions pearl jam better also mention that the ticketing system they put in place for their "non-ticketmaster tour" saved their fans a whopping .25-50 cents per ticket.

Actually, Len (and to anyone else who hasn't seen this already), the lower priced tickets are $30 GA pit. So, they aren't the "upstairs crappy seats."

U2 produced their most exciting album since Achtung Baby and restored my faith in them. And here they are doing the same stuff they have been doing since the start of this decade. I can't believe that Bono really has nothing to say on this issue ( I really think Satan Azoff is making them not say much). U2 does not need this, they are not in danger of losing money, they could have done what Radiohead did. They are a brand name and they sell themselves, they do not need a corporation to behind them. I think as fans, and I mean true fans like myself is to send a messege to all of the artists who are with Live Nation, if the merger goes through, and boycott there live shows. I know that wont happen, U2 will still sell out, but what a great vision. The tour is a financial disaster, and maybe they will wake up. This is against everything they stand for..or have stood for. I still love your album guys and when you come to my town I will play my U2 cds loud and have my own concert in my living room. I can't afford you anyway.

I'm attending a Live Nation concert tomorrow night. Actually, it's a Blue October concert -- but Live Nation own both the venue and the online ticketing mechanism, which is what enabled them to extort a spectacular $12 per-ticket charge out of me on top of the $30 tickets themselves.

At that concert, I will be wearing an old-school hand-lettered shirt reading "LIVE NATION BLOWS." Of course, it will be concealed until I'm through the front door, since I'm not a total idiot. After that, we'll see what happens.

In the era of media consolidation, I fear that even the great Bono cannot save us from vultures who seek to exploit the key chokepoints between artists and fans. (It might even be disingenuous of him to try.) The longer we wait, the sooner we'll wake up to a world in which the service fee costs even *more* than the concert does -- or more likely, one in which the distinction between those charges is simply abolished entirely.

I know Bono is "Only" Human, but how dis-appointing that he feels the need to "Insult" the intelligence of his loyal fan base. What a bummer. He is truely a Spade on this one, so call him what he is. His new name is SPADE BONO TWO FACED.

Does Bono have to know about everything all the time?
Give him a break!
Now that he was asked about it and has probably been thinking about it he can always be asked the same question again and explain how he feels about the merge.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on March 10, 2009 10:26 PM.

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