Under the codename “Project Showtime,” Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff reportedly tried to drive potential merger partner Live Nation out of the ticketing business by aggressively courting several major secondary ticket companies, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The brokers Azoff reportedly met with during the summer of 2007 – about the time Live Nation was announcing its intention to break away from Ticketmaster as a client – are a who’s who of the leadership of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB): the owners of Ace Ticket; Barry’s Tickets; Gold Coast Tickets; Total Tickets; Elite Ticket Service; and Alliance Tickets. Ticketmaster was looking to buy the six brokerages for about $25 million each.
Also included in the discussions were representatives from Madison Square Garden (MSG) and AEG Live, according to the Journal, but the deal fell apart due to “mutual distrust.”
Azoff had yet to officially join Ticketmaster at the time, but his company, Front Line Entertainment, was partially owned by the ticketing giant, and the thought was that with a contingent of big-time ticket scalpers on its side Ticketmaster could vanquish Live Nation. Almost a year later, Live Nation and MSG flirted with teaming up for ticketing, which sent Ticketmaster into a tizzy. The matter came up because MSG’s contract with Ticketmaster was coming up, but MSG quickly resigned with the company.
As soon as Ticketmaster and Live Nation announced their plans to merge earlier in the year, Azoff began trashing the secondary ticket market, even going so far as to say he never would have bought Ticketmaster’s own ticket scalper, TicketsNow, had he been at the helm when the company made the $265 million acquisition.
In the fall of 2007, before the deal fell apart, the brokers were reportedly part of the scheme to scalp Van Halen tickets, according to the Journal, which was a major story that year. As part of the deal, the brokers were given hundreds of premium seats to sell, and then split the proceeds with Van Halen and Ticketmaster. The band is one of Azoff’s clients, and the plan reportedly led to Van Halen making at least an extra $1 million on that tour.
The reported deal with the brokers paints a sobering picture of the lengths Azoff and Ticketmaster would go to in its quest to remain the world’s dominant ticketing company, and also shines a light on just how much power the company could have if it also hooks up with the world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation.
Critics have said that the proposed merger could have a devastating effect on the secondary ticket market because the two could potentially shut out brokers at will.