Live Nation wants to merge with Tickemaster

June 1, 2009 7:18:03 PM PDT
If you ever go to a concert or show, this could affect you. Live Nation, the largest concert promoter, wants to merge with the largest computerized ticket seller, Tickemaster.

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The Justice Department is currently conducting an investigation into this proposed merger of two giants. Some are already calling this deal both anti-competitive and anti-consumer.

It costs a lot more these days to dance in the aisles, or do just about anything at a concert.

"The ticket price is $49.50. The facility charge is $6. The convenience charge is $11.20 per ticket. The delivery ticket, fast delivery is $2.50 and the order processing fee is 5.15," said Taj James from Berkeley.

One former concert-goer put it more bluntly.

"I stopped going because of the high fees I found," said Morris Dismuke from Newark.

Complaints about ticket fees are nothing new. But the proposed merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster has raised new concerns.

"I think without question, the fees will go up," said Gregg Perloff, Chief Executive Officer of Another Planet Entertainment, which put on an outdoor concert at Golden Gate Park last year. "Our ticket prices in many cases are 30 to 40 percent lower. It's not that we're altruistic. We believe that's the best way to sell tickets. But what Live Nation is trying to do is move their stock price," said Perloff.

Live Nation said it had no one available to comment for this story. Ticketmaster said it would not comment, but Jerry Seltzer did. He runs a shoe company now, and is a former Ticketmaster executive from the 80's and 90's.

"I don't think the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster will affect the service charges that go on the ticket prices. That's still going to be determined by the marketplace," said Seltzer.

He says the biggest cause of high ticket prices is the secondary market, companies like Stub Hub and Tickets Now, which just happens to be owned by Ticketmaster.

"In order to make sure that the money comes in, the promoter will go to these companies and say we will sell you prime tickets before they ever go on sale. And you're going to pay over face value," said Seltzer.

The companies in turn then sell these prime seats at two to 10 times face value, to you the consumer.

That's one of the reasons Bruce Springsteen has been outspoken about the merger.

Ticket buyers on the Ticketmaster website this year were redirected to Ticketmaster's secondary site, Tickets Now, and ended up buying tickets for the Boss' concert in New Jersey at inflated prices.

"I think that draws attention to a larger problem with Ticketmaster that they don't have competitors," said Emily Rusch from the California Public Interest Research Group, or CalPirg. "Our concern is there's not market competition to keep service fees really low and so there will be no reason why the combination of Live Nation and Ticketmaster wouldn't keep increasing service fees."

Recently, Live Nation began handling its own ticket sales. So the proposed merger would essentially eliminate a competitor for Ticketmaster.

"The reason the public should care is really because they haven't paid attention, fewer and fewer good seats are available for a lot of quality shows. The ticket prices have escalated dramatically with one company controlling the concert business," said Perloff.

Live Nation has announced it will waive its fees on lawn tickets at its amphitheaters. The promotion is for 24 hours only beginning this Wednesday at 12:01 a.m.

Similar promotions will be conducted on a smaller scale each Wednesday through the end of the summer.

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