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Ticketmaster Made Me Do It

It has been way too long since I’ve last written, but isn’t that always the case…? I am writing today ’cause Ticketmaster’s CEO, Irving Azoff, spoke at D7 — the All Things Digital conference. Kara Swisher asked questions and it’s written up here….
In the conversation she asks about many things, including the proposed merger with Live Nation. I could write a whole bunch about the proposed merger, maybe even a short novel, and I could actually argue both sides, so I won’t delve into the full argument, but I will comment briefly (in italics) about the whole article, which includes the merger.
Music Labels — they missed an opportunity to monetize digital music and suing your customers isn’t the right thing to do. Duh, really….
Merger with Live Nation — anyone can write a program that does what Ticketmaster does. Bruce Springsteen is uninformed about the merger and others are in the ticket biz like Phil Anschutz and Warner Music Group. True, but it’s the difficulty of converting to a new system (and contracts) is what keeps clients. Think about how you hate your bank, but you don’t leave ’cause it’s a pain in the ass to change all your info, auto-pay stuff, etc. Rumors are that if the merger goes through, AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) is going to leave and start their own system, much like Live Nation tried to do, but I think it will be successful unlike Live Nation’s.
Ticket Pricing — TM is a collection agency and prices are set by the promoter/band/customer, not TM. Should do more dynamic pricing, but not auctions which take too much time. Yup, TM has always gotten the black eye for pricing and service charges that their clients knew about in advance, and they get a cut of it! Dynamic pricing would be a difficult thing for Ticketmaster to do. Their old back-end system (called the host) can’t handle it well and it would have to be done with duct tape and superglue. Could be done, but is the public ready for concert ticket prices changing all the time like airline tickets…?
Secondary Market/TicketsNow — wouldn’t have bought it, may sell it. With variable pricing and VIP packages, the gap between primary and secondary ticketing is narrowing and being blurred. I agree, why should a broker make large sums of money for taking a nominal risk? That money should go to the promoter/artist who worked hard to create the product and took the risk of booking the show.
Data Ticketmaster Collects — available to artists if they ask, but not sophisticated as to how they use it. I remember the days when I was at Ticketmaster…. We would provide the data to those that asked, but we would also VERY quietly provide it to others as well. In the mid 90’s, we provided information about sales, etc. to ASCAP/BMI instead of paying for a license for our music-on-hold that we played, if I recall correctly (I had to do a lot of categorizing of the data (wrote a script to do so) so that it was more usable by those that were getting it, but I didn’t deposit any checks or anything, just told to do X task for Y <smile>). Who is buying what in the music biz is *hugely* important and only Ticketmaster has this data and they know its value!!!
The ticketing business, along with the whole music industry, has changed; there is no argument about that. But that idea that this merger needs to happen in order for Ticketmaster to survive in this changing environment is just absurd. While I’m sure there will be benefits to it, the only one that really requires the merger is Live Nation. Without it I think they are kind of stuck in a business with really thin margins that now needs to watch the bottom line like a hawk every quarter… not a good combo!
I was at a huge ticketing conference recently and I was talking to an old friend of mine that I worked with at Ticketmaster, he now runs one of TM’s biggest competitors. He had an interesting comment about TM and other companies competing with ’em…. He said, “Competition just makes it more expensive for Ticketmaster to do business.”
Sadly, he’s right… as Irving Azoff said, “any of you guys can write a program….” but what they can’t do is spend the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, it takes to land a huge client like the Staples Center, etc. And if i can cut a deal, TM will just come in and make a richer offer… it’s kind of like the Godfather, “an offer you can’t refuse…”