February 10, 2009 By Allison Reitz
After a week of speculation, a merger between top ticketing competitors Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation is likely to be announced within the next day. The merger would create the most powerful ticketing and artist management company of its kind, sparking fears of a monopoly within the industry.
Talks reportedly began last evening, February 8, and a deal was reached the same night, though neither company has yet confirmed. Any imminent fusion is likely to find Ticketmaster and Live Nation as equals, with each company keeping a 50 percent holding in the new entity.
Sources on both sides of the merger believe the Live Nation team headed by CEO Michael Rapino could quickly be removed in favor of management led by Ticketmaster Chairman Barry Diller and CEO Irving Azoff. The New York Post quoted one source as saying, “Irving’s spent a lot of time being Rapino’s buddy, but what he really was doing was getting to know Live Nation’s business so he can take the whole thing over.”
However, industry insiders and consumer advocates as to whether such a merger would create a monopoly, edging out competition while raising ticket prices for fans.
“This deal is not in the best interest of fans,” said Michael Hershfield, co-founder and CEO of secondary ticketing company LiveStub, in a statement today. “This deal would mean that Live Nation would have direct access to Ticketmaster’s ticketing solution, including its resale marketplace TicketsNow. Live Nation could potentially harness TicketsNow and begin to office performers the opportunity to list tickets on the resale system without every listing in the primary market.”
Ticketmaster is already in hot water with fans and legislators alike. The company was recently accused of pulling a “bait and switch,” redirecting fans to premium-priced Bruce Springsteen tickets on subsidiary resale site TicketsNow just minutes after public onsales for the upcoming tour began.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal initially considered launching an investigation into Ticketmaster because of the Springsteen ticketing case, but he now says the investigation should be extended to the potential Live Nation merger.
“I am deeply disturbed that Ticketmaster may be exploiting its market dominance — funneling consumers to its subsidiary in order to inflate profits,” Blumenthal said in a statement. He later added, “This experience heightens my concerns about antitrust and consumer protections raised by Ticketmaster’s possible merger with Live Nation. I will be discussing with other attorneys general possible investigation of such a merger.”
Even Springsteen himself spoke out against the proposed merger while criticizing Ticketmaster’s sale practices. The iconic musician noted that a merger could only result in more issues, and he urged fans to take action.
“The only 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,” Springsteen wrote in a statement with Jon Landau and his touring team, adding, “If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.”