March 27, 2009 By Alfred Branch Jr.
While a specific plan of attack did not emerge Wednesday during a discussion among members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, the trade association agreed to continue its opposition to the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
The three-hour meeting was held in a hotel near the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and attracted about 70 ticket brokers from around the country, who gathered to listen to renowned ticket industry expert Dr. Stephen Happel of Arizona State University, and attorney David Balto, Senior Fellow for Center for American Progress.
Balto testified against the merger before a Senate subcommittee last month, and both speakers again voiced their opposition to the merger, but the specifics of their remarks were not made available.
Wednesday’s meeting was called by NATB legal counsel Gary Adler after he and NATB members read negatives comments made by Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff and Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino about the secondary ticket market.
But, whether the NATB’s opposition to the merger can help sway the government into disallowing the deal remains to be seen. One NATB member who did not attend the meeting called it an exercise in “spinning our wheels.”
“I think it may be inevitable,” the broker said about the planned merger. “The sad thing is it will hurt both fans and brokers. There will be more auctions for tickets and higher prices. Ticketmaster and Live Nation won’t need us [brokers] because they’ll be able to deal directly with the end users, the fans, but they’ll end up paying higher prices.”
However, NATB President Tom Patania, owner of New Jersey-based ticket brokerage Select-A-Ticket, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the deal could be stopped, in part because of the growing number of opponents to the merger like Reznor.
“The fact that there is a second round of questions being asked by the U.S. Department of Justice in its investigation into the merger is a good sign,” Patania said. Soon after the announcement of the deal, the Justice Department launched an investigation into it on antitrust grounds. “There are some monopolies that are good, and some that are bad, and Ticketmaster and Live Nation would fall under the category of a bad monopoly. If you look, prices never go down and they won’t in the future if they’re allowed to merge.”