The Dead Nation/Ticketmaster Merger

You've got to read the article in yesterday's Sunday New York Times Business section on Irving Azoff and his consolidated Live Nation and Ticketmaster concert venue monopoly.

If you want to see once more what is wrong with the music industry, go right ahead. I just got angrier as I worked my way through the article.

I know you find more snakes in the music business than you do the Amazon rain forest, but the arrogance of these two companies is what burns me up.

Their business model is built on greed not innovation and greed will work while you have a monopoly but innovation is required to grow.

I don't know where you stand on government takeovers of things, but I am less concerned about that than I am about monopolies being formally approved by the government for the benefit of the few that end up screwing of consumers.

The 43-year old Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino rolled up his concert venue company (22,000 events a year/127 theaters/50 million concert goers) with the company fans love to hate -- Ticketmaster.

Hello, DOJ!

Well, it's done now and the 5-foot-3 62-year old Azoff lives up to his short man syndrome in the article where his "Irving Wins" t-shirts are a premonition of things to come.

Of course, Irving wins!

And Michael Rapino as well.

This is America where if you can make it to the top, you get government approval to not only screw your customers royally but -- and this is really important -- inadvertently screw the future of your industry.

I'm out ahead of this early but that's my prediction -- Live Nation/Ticketmaster will end up being a turkey.

As many of my young readers will tell you, baby boomer arrogance is nice for aging entertainment executives but they don't know jack about the music industry of tomorrow.

Azoff -- as he explains in the article -- thinks he can turn Ticketmaster into a one-stop merchandising store for artists that Live Nation features.

This brainstorm from a consumer-unfriendly company that heaps the following charges on, say, Lady Gaga tickets -- $2.50 as a "facility charge", $15.45 for a "convenience charge" (whose convenience?) and $2.50 if a concert-fan wants to print their ticket at home.

The promoters get some of this extra added profit refunded to them but most of the money stays with Azoff and partners.

Just exactly who I want to support.

I am a great believer in live music and all the many benefits that result from artists touring and performing in front of their public. But I have bad news for Azoff.

Have fun.

Things are changing.

The next generation is built around their cell phones and mobile devices. There is no doubt they would like to go to live venues to see their favorite artists today but they are also a generation that is all about diversity in musical genres.

If you're an artist and you're touring, guess which monopoly you'll be touring with -- Live Nation/Ticketmaster. That sounds like the road to real diversity to me (sarcasm intended).

The old music industry is in its sunset years.

That's why it lives off of catalog artists.

And fights digital growth.

Fails to see file sharing as the free promotion instead of piracy.

And why it is trying to tax the radio industry -- the people who made their artists, the ones that Azoff and Rapino are still getting rich off of.

The Times article is well done and it is really more like an obituary as I read it. More depressing than the Al Pacino Jack Kevorkian HBO special I watched over the weekend that makes you want to actually call Kevrokian.

The music industry of the future, as Azoff and Rapino know -- is not built around venues alone. You have to fill the venues.

For that you need radio right now and Internet, social networks in the future and, yes -- whether they believe it or not -- music file sharing as a promotional tool.

These clowns are running a closeout sale for the next five years or so -- and in my opinion pillaging the industry with their hammer hold on live events.

Ticketmaster by itself should have been shut down for its monopolistic tactics. Ask anyone at a live event what they think of Ticketmaster.

The future of the music industry, therefore, is music diversity.

That opposes where Azoff is going.

Mobile Internet.

Not to sell merch from an untrusted Ticketmaster franchise, but through social networking sites that feed the passion of fans -- your best asset going forward.

It is not about the arrogance of an industry giant and how many toys you die with (that's right, he said it in the piece) - it's about community, mobile access, fairness and the power of people who sell your products for you.

Apple gets away with charging aggressive prices and young people don't seem to complain after they've purchased their Apple devices. Maybe before they have the money to buy them, you'll hear some complaints (I am an Apple shareholder).

Consumer advocates quoted for the Ticketmaster story say "the sky will be the limit when it comes to fees" -- and that is true for the short haul.

Azoff, Rapino and the old titans of the music industry who have ruined it on its way down are so yesterday.

It sounds odd to hear someone say the biggest live venue monopoly in the world is so yesterday when they are just getting started hitting people up for more fees.

But you know what I'm getting to.

In a world that loves avatars, don't get so cocky that people will continue to overpay for a live performance.

In a world that sees thousands of fans at sporting events on their cell phones during the action, don't get so cocky that live events as they are today will always be around in the future.

Arrogance aside.

Beverly Hills bullshit forgiven.

No consolidated media merger has worked.


And these consolidators can't see the future because they are about the here and now.

Because if you want a growth business, don't sell out to consolidators or they'll turn it into a pile of garbage -- after they've gotten rich many times along the way.

Look at radio consolidation.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, are you any better off today than you were before consolidation?

In radio?

In television?

In the music industry?

It seems all of our country is obsessed with consolidating companies that someone else built.

Now, it's time for the builders to come back and innovate new companies and in our space that means new media companies and music initiatives.

Ticketmaster/Live Nation is about the same old thing -- monopolizing music venues and high ticket prices.

That ship sailed with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.

And I know my readers are a step ahead of this -- while music barons get rich in the near term, they will not be able to compete in the next space.

A venue is only a building or structure in which live entertainment is performed.

Filling it?

Better keep your eye on the next generation.

They know something that Irving Azoff doesn't.

Live Nation will one day be Dead Nation.

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