It's official: Ticketmaster/Live Nation free to devour the concert business

June 21, 2010

Surprising no one who's been following the story, the U.S. Justice Department formally approved the merger of monopolistic ticket brokers Ticketmaster and giant corporate concert promoters Live Nation on Monday, cavalierly dismissing the objections voiced by many independent promoters and consumer advocates.

When these mega-corps had super-well-connected boosters such as Julius Genachowski (the president's long-time friend and Harvard roommate, a former member of Ticketmaster's board of directors) and Ari Emanuel (the Hollywood super-agent and brother of Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a member of Live Nation's board), well, the merger's approval was a foregone conclusion, at least to anyone familiar with Chicago-style politics.

The industry trade Variety has the scoop on Justice dismissing objections to the merger, which included briefs filed by Washington, D.C.'s Seth Hurwitz, of the legendary 9:30 Club, and Chicago's own Jerry Mickelson, co-founder of Jam Productions. Says Variety:

Jam's brief, filed above Mickelson's signature, said the merger "harms the consumer and every competitor in the live entertainment industry. This merger is not about the benefits to the consumer but rather the pursuit of obtaining monopoly power."
Mickelson noted that since [the newly merged Live Nation Entertainment's] predecessor firm SFX began buying up concert promotion firms in 1996, "concert ticket prices for the top 100 tours have risen 142% through 2009 (from $25.81 to $62.57)."
Addressing Jam's objections to the vertical integration of Live Nation, Ticketmaster and LNE's management firm Front Line, the DOJ said the merger "seems unlikely to alter the competitive dynamics in the venue market."

"Unlikely to alter the competitive dynamics"? Really? Ticket prices in this market rise 142 percent, but the merger is "unlikely to alter the competitive dynamics"?

Cynical me, who am I to question that? Especially when I'm also sure that BP eventually will leave the Gulf cleaner and healthier than it was before the leak--the overwhelming proliferation of evidence in the present moment to the contrary.

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