The Q-and-A session at today’s Live Nation-Ticketmaster hearing hadn’t even begun when the mud-slinging started.
In their opening statements, small concert promoters, Jerry Mickelson, chairman of JAM productions, and Seth Hurwitz, co-owner of IMP Productions, brought in to represent opponents to the merger, expressed vituperative outrage at a merger that they believed would increase the dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster.
Calling the merger “vertical integration on steroids,” Mickelson said that the combination would consolidate power between two of the most powerful businesses in entertainment, and Live Nation and Ticketmaster would “use their combined market dominance to monopolize the entire music industry,” eliminating competition in terms of venue management companies, record labels, ticket sellers and concert promoters. In fact, he later charged that the combination would be far worse than the monopoly-like nature of Clear Channel in 2000, when it owned the concert promotion business it later spun off as Live Nation to avoid antitrust charges.
Hurwitz, meanwhile, seethingly described how Live Nation became the monolith it is today, and agreed that a combination with Ticketmaster would enable the concert promoter to dominate the industry before getting to his biggest point of concern: that the merger would indirectly force smaller concert promoters who sell tickets through Ticketmaster to share all of their ticket sales information with one of their biggest competitors in Live Nation.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino later insisted that there should be a firewall between the concert promotion and ticketing division in their combined company, agreeing that it’s not fair for Live Nation to have access to such info.
That was really the only news from the event, which began with Live Nation and Ticketmaster trying to explain their rationale for merging (It’s the economy, stupid!) and quickly devolved into a discussion of Ticketmaster’s arrangement with TicketsNow that directed Bruce Springsteen ticketbuyers to the ticket-reseller’s Web site, which isn’t really relevant considering that Ticketmaster agreed to stop linking its customers to TicketsNow.
Chuck Schumer grilled Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff on how much money Ticketmaster made from tickets bought for the Springsteen show through TicketsNow, which he didn’t know on the spot, understandably, and why he would’ve bought such a company, even though Azoff wasn’t CEO of Ticketmaster when that deal was done.
In fact, we actually felt kind of bad for Irving Azoff. Even though he’s technically the CEO of Ticketmaster, he’s not a CEO, he’s a manager who was placed in the CEO position when his artist-management company, Front Line, acquired Ticketmaster, and he won’t be CEO of the combined Live Nation and Ticketmaster.
There was also quite a bit of discussion about whether the merger will raise or lower ticket prices and whether the merger would put smaller concert promoters out of business. We’ll let you guess who came down on which side of those issues.