A few updates on what continues to be the biggest news story the American live music industry has ever witnessed (bearing in mind that the final word on the merger is still awaiting approval from the Justice Department).
1. According to a recent column in The Business Insider, even though Live Nation's stock price has fallen 80 percent in the last year, top executive Michael Rapino, last seen sitting beside Ticketmaster chief Irving Azoff on Capitol Hill, got a $550,000 raise. (And in these difficult economic times!) Somebody thinks he's doing a good job, it seems.
2. Hypebot.com notes that, while attendance at Live Nation events has dropped 22 percent for the first quarter from last year, Rapino says that precipitous plummet was "in line with our plan and, despite challenging economic times, fans are buying concert tickets at a healthy pace." Hey, this kind of insight is why the guy deserves that raise!
3. In the midst of slow ticket sales, Live Nation has a new idea for boosting revenue at its many venues across the U.S.: Charge more for hot dogs, beer and merchandise! (This according to The Business Insider again.)
4. Oh, yeah: The company is trying to bury its egregious parking fees, too. (As if there isn't anything but empty space around a venue such as the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.)
5. The American Antitrust Institute last month issued a paper "urging the Department of Justice to 'just say no' to the proposed [Ticketmaster/Live Nation] merger now under investigation." (The PDF is here.) Among the conclusions: "Live Nation Entertainment would be a vertically integrated enterprise with dominance or substantial power on five market levels. The new entity would therefore be able to use its strengths in some markets as leverage to gain customers or compliance in others. This vertical integration would effectively frustrate new entry because, as a practical matter, it would require firms seeking to compete seriously against Live Nation Entertainment to enter the industry on several levels at once. The second factor is that the merged entity would likely enjoy market power not just as a seller but also as a buyer. In essence, the company's market dominance would benefit it in both ways."
6. Finally, though there is still no word on whether the Justice Department will approve the merger, The New York Times is reporting today that President Obama's top antitrust official is planning to "restore an aggressive enforcement policy against corporations that use their market dominance to elbow out competitors or to keep them from gaining market share." Which is to say that this may not be a done deal after all.
Gee, if the merger fails, does that mean Rapino will only get a $225,000 raise next year?