January 30, 2010 / 7:06 AM / 10 years ago

Likely winners and losers in Live Nation merger

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - As the dust settles on the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, here’s a look at who benefits — and who doesn’t.

WINNERS

Irving Azoff: None of the concessions mandated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) threatens executive chairman Azoff’s vision of building the ultimate management/venue/promoter/ticketing/content consortium. Perhaps most important, he can still focus on his primary goal of maximizing growth opportunities for his Front Line Management clients, even as he fends off conflict-of-interest concerns.

Michael Rapino: Since his 2005 promotion to CEO of what became Live Nation, Rapino has been at the helm of a company that has been long on vision and short on profits. Still, Live Nation remains the world’s leading concert promoter, and the merger with Ticketmaster provides obvious juice to Rapino’s vision of extending the company’s business relationships with artists beyond the razor-thin profits of concert performance. Now that Live Nation has firmly established a strong position in promotion, ticketing, venues, merchandising and sponsorships, expect a move into recorded music next.

Comcast-Spectacor: Through its acquisition of Ticketmaster’s automated ticketing service subsidiary, Paciolan, Comcast-Spectacor and its venue management division, Global Comcast, will add to their portfolio an up-and-running ticketing company and its 200 ticketing clients, which include college athletics programs and performing arts organizations. Comcast-Spectacor has enjoyed a friendly relationship with Live Nation, but that could change once they start competing for clients.

Anschutz Entertainment Group: With the help of Ticketmaster’s ticketing software, AEG and its concert division, AEG Live, will be able to establish their own ticketing business and gain some valued time and space to plot their future in the market. Meanwhile, the DOJ’s restrictions on Live Nation’s ability to share data from its ticketing business with its promotion and artist management divisions don’t appear to apply to AEG.

LOSERS

Secondary ticket vendors: By allowing Ticketmaster to keep ticket reseller TicketsNow, the DOJ did little to protect the interests of secondary market leader StubHub and other local and regional resellers. There’s no doubt that the newly merged company will seek to dominate ticket reselling, with distribution and artist relationships on its side. “It’s definitely a huge threat,” says Don Vacarro, CEO of ticket aggregator TicketNetwork. “(Live Nation) will funnel even more tickets to the secondary market because the DOJ is giving them carte blanche.”

Independent promoters: While indie promoters have survived the promoter consolidation that created Live Nation by being nimble, niche-oriented and often better promoters, they’re now up against an even more formidable opponent. Those who have spoken out publicly against the merger have to wonder if they’ll get a realistic shot at promoting artists affiliated with Live Nation.

Record labels: The fact that labels weren’t even a participant in the most important music deal of the new millennium speaks volumes. Labels have been attempting to become players in concert promotion and merchandising, with varying degrees of success. As recorded-music sales keep falling, the center of gravity in the music business is shifting from labels to the revenue opportunities centered on touring.

JURY’S OUT

The DOJ: Approving the merger while establishing the framework for increased competition through AEG and Comcast-Spectacor should be considered “a substantial achievement on the part of DOJ,” says Jim Rill, a former assistant attorney general for antitrust during the George H.W. Bush administration. But the lighter-than-expected conditions imposed on Live Nation worry opponents of the deal, such as Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, a founding member of the anti-merger TicketDisaster.org coalition. “The DOJ has asked consumers, independent promoters, ticket brokers, artists and venue owners to take a very large leap of faith,” Greenberg said in a statement.

Consumers: The DOJ would have had a tough time proving the alleged anti-consumer aspects of the merger, given that ticket prices had already surged in the wake of Live Nation’s roll-up of the promotion business, while consumers’ willingness to pay higher prices suggested the increase was at least in part a market correction. But while fans are going to get what’s been touted as a dazzling array of artist-related products and a watchful government eye on ticket prices, will they celebrate the combination of a deeply unpopular ticketing giant with the world’s largest concert promoter?

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