Following the lead of several consumer protection groups and the National Association of Ticket Brokers, several of the nation’s prominent independent venue operators and...

Following the lead of several consumer protection groups and the National Association of Ticket Brokers, several of the nation’s prominent independent venue operators and concert promoters have banded together to oppose the planned merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

In an email being circulated to fans and throughout the live entertainment industry, titled “Concert Fans Beware!”, the group of venue operators and promoters urge people and fellow industry members to oppose the proposed deal because it could severely the concert landscape.

“There’s a train wreck about to happen and consumer groups say YOU will be the victim – if the two most powerful corporate interests in the live concert business get their way. But you can help stop the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. The government needs to hear from music fans now. Tell the Department of Justice that you’re against these monopolies amassing illegal power over consumers, before it’s too late,” the email states.

The lengthy email gives the online address at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to write into in order complaints, and it details many of the opinions offered by other groups, such as the American Antitrust Institute, that have opposed the merger. The email also touts the anti-merger Web site TicketDisaster.org.

The venues and promotion companies that signed the email are Minnesota’s First Avenue; Washington DC area stalwarts The 9:30 Club, Merriweather Post Pavilion and The Black Cat; Jam Productions; Metropolitan Talent; Another Planet; Frank Productions; Stone City Attractions; and Rams Head Live.

Audrey Schaefer, spokesperson for 9:30 Club and one of the organizers of the email, told TicketNews that the various companies began sending it out through their mailing lists last week, and she hopes it will reach close to 2 million music fans and industry players. So far, more than 2,000 people have written into the DOJ with their opinion about the merger (the email contains a “cc” function that allows Schaefer and others to monitor the responses).

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people, and it seems like the only two parties in favor of this deal are Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” she said. “We launched this effort because it seems like the people who will be most affected by this merger are the ones with the least amount of information about it.”

The famous Washington DC nightclub, and its owner Seth Hurwitz, is currently in litigation against Live Nation on antitrust grounds separate from what Ticketmaster and Live Nation are being investigated for by the DOJ.

Dante Ferrando, owner of Black Cat, left Ticketmaster as the club’s ticketing agent and signed with Ticket Alternative in part due to the merger, and he told TicketNews that independent club owners and promoters should oppose the deal because their competitive information could be compromised. “No one is going to trust that [Ticketmaster and Live Nation] are going to keep all of the data and records separate for all of these venues and promoters.”

Schaefer agreed, using an experience she had after buying Bob Dylan tickets from Ticketmaster. After buying the tickets, she began receiving emails from Ticketmaster alerting her to when he was coming again to her area, but since Dylan might use different promoters for various shows, those promoters might be able to obtain that customer data which they could then use to their own advantage. A combined Ticketmaster and Live Nation would allow them access to an unprecedented amount of competitor data.

“The concept of there being a Chinese wall in all of this is a fairy tale,” Schaefer said.

She added that possible concessions that the two companies are considering, such as bringing in Comcast Spectacor or Ticketmaster selling its Paciolan primary ticketing subsidiary, would not do enough to level the monopolistic playing field, but Schaefer said there are some moves that could possibly help, none of which would likely gain acceptance from Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

Among her suggestions, Ticketmaster should divest its Front Line Management division, and Live Nation should do the same with its “360 degree deals” with artists such as Madonna and Jay-Z; allow promoters to choose whatever ticketing company or ticketing platform they want to use for their shows; don’t allow Ticketmaster or Live Nation to promote any concerts by acts they manage; divest all entities in markets where the two have a monopoly; and not allow Ticketmaster and Live Nation to make total tour deals, where artists are required to use them for all ticketing/promotion for an entire tour – the two would have to bid on individual locations and dates.

“When you own the venues and control the artists, independent promoters can’t compete,” Schaefer said. “Just selling Paciolan will do nothing; Ticketmaster was already far and away number one in the ticketing market before they bought it, not to mention that they only bought it a couple of years ago.”