Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino gave a lengthy interview to music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz last week, offering his perspective on the swirling controversies around his company and its place in the marketplace. In it, he offered some interesting justifications for its policies about ticket pricing and competition.
Perhaps most notably (and picked up in coverage of the interview by media outlets), Rapino offered no apologies for his company’s push for surged ticket prices – which are supercharging its already massive earnings. Artists, he feels, could easily “charge a bit more” for access to their performances – meaning that things like $5,000 “dynamic” priced tickets for Bruce Springsteen aren’t likely to go away soon if his company has anything to say about it (spoiler alert – it does have everything to say about it).
“I’m not saying [prices need to be raised] excessively, but it’s a great two-hour performance,” he explained. “That happens once every three, four years… You don’t have to underprice yourself.”
“This is a great, great product that people will buy, as they’re gonna buy the Gucci bag. They’re gonna buy moments in life where they will step up, and spoil themselves – the big screen TV and or whatever it may be.”
For an entertainment CEO who it was recently revealed saw his compensation rise to $139 million in 2022, it was a real Marie Antoinette moment. It shows that fan complaints about ticket pricing aren’t only being ignored at the pinnacle of the global music business – despite significant negative headlines about them. Live Nation’s leadership doesn’t think they’re going far enough.
He also defended the messy process surrounding The Cure’s North American tour dates – which saw his company’s price surging referred to by Robert Smith as “A GREEDY SCAM.”
“We were proud of Ticketmaster’s side. We did a ton of work with Robert, making sure [tickets] were non-transferable, that it would be a face value [ticket] exchange and verified, doing all we could to put all the roadblocks to deliver his ticket prices to the fans.
“There was a screenshot of a venue, which wasn’t even a Live Nation venue… that showed a ticket service fee of $20 on $20. It doesn’t matter whether we justify the service fee is a good idea or not, we have an industry where we have to build some credibly back.
“I couldn’t defend in any version that we were going to add a $20 service fee to a $20 ticket. We made a decision that we would spend some money, give back the $10, and get it to a reasonable place for those fans.”
Live Nation’s earnings report, issued a week after the interview, showed the company was once again shattering earnings records thus far in 2023, fueued largely by the surging ticket prices he continues to defend.
Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Dave Clark
As long as tickets continue to sell, there is no market incentive to reduce pricing. Fans may complain, but as long as enough of them whip out their credit cards, it’s empty.
As a promoter, I have to know my market and price accordingly. I think Mr. Rapino thinks all his clients are corporations and heavy hitters. Like with sports, events are being priced out of a regular working person’s ability to pay. Because people are true fans, they’ll scrape to afford the experience, but Live Nation owns the venues, the means of promoting the shows, the parking, the concessions – everything is monetized to the enth degree. Fees are ridiculous as well. With record profits and Mr. Rapino’s rather huge salary, everything Live Nation does feels like a money grab. Forgive me if I think Mr. Rapino has lost the thread. It’s a high place from which to fall – remember who got you there.