Angered over negative comments made this week by Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff and Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino about the secondary...

Angered over negative comments made this week by Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff and Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino about the secondary ticket market, the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) is calling for an emergency meeting of its members next month to decide a course of action.

During separate hearings before U.S. Senate and House subcommittees to discuss their companies’ proposed merger, Azoff twice, and Rapino at least once, blasted the secondary ticket market for being a problem, wishing aloud that it should be outlawed.

“The secondary market is a mess,” Azoff told the House subcommittee, and calling for it to be abolished, Rapino told the Senate subcommittee, “We spend $2 billion each year on promoting and producing artists for a 4 percent margin on ticket sales, but we don’t see a dime from the secondary market.”

Both companies have reportedly called on well-connected lobbying firms to try to gain government support for the merger, which is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department on possible antitrust grounds.



“Opposition is beginning to increase against this merger in the secondary market,” said Don Vaccaro, founder and CEO of TicketNetwork, parent company of TicketNews. “Brokers are very upset at the lack of credibility with Michael Rapino’s statements that Live Nation doesn’t participate in the secondary market, which brokers believe is simply not true.”

In an email to its members, the NATB made it clear that it intends to fight. The email marks the NATB’s first public comments specifically about the planned merger:

As you are aware, the NATB Board held a strategic planning session this morning in Las Vegas to discuss, among other things, recent developments including the announcement of the merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation. The Board of Directors and Advisory Board expressed great concerns about Ticketmaster CEO, Irving Azoff’s and Live Nation President & CEO, Michael Rapino’s public testimonies (http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/hear_090226.html) and positions regarding brokers and the secondary market. Both spoke to members of the House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy this morning in what was the second of two Congressional Hearings regarding the merger of their two companies. The first was held on Tuesday, February 24th (http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=3674) where Azoff openly expressed his aversion for the secondary market.

This morning, Azoff reiterated his position and said that he would consider selling their reselling division, TicketsNow. He testified that the secondary ticketing is driving up prices for the fans with absolutely no benefit to the artist. Rapino’s testimony regarding the secondary market was sharp but not contrasting, stating that in the concert business, 40 percent of concert seats go unsold, yet he blamed “scalpers” for concerts that sold for more than they should, claiming scalpers benefit from computer driven bulk purchases that deny fans a chance to see their favorite performer at a reasonable price. He expressed that he would like to “see ticket scalping outlawed” and eliminated and continued with giving an example of what the first step would be to do so (http://blogs.suntimes.com/derogatis/2009/02/live_blogging_the_house_hearin.html).

The battle line cannot be any clearer. Your Association needs your help and the time to act is now! As a result, the NATB Board of Directors has requested your attendance at a special emergency meeting to discuss a plan of action. The meeting will be held within the next 30 days and is open to members and pre approved invited guests. Your feedback and participation at this emergency meeting is urgent. More details will follow next week.

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By Alfred Branch Jr.