Tough times for Ticketmaster/Live Nation?

June 16, 2010

Music industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz can be a difficult read--HE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE SHOUTING ON HIS LEFSETZ LETTER BLOG (to say nothing of being endlessly redundant)--but everyone in the music business reads him because, well, he's often the first to root out the kernel of what becomes a much bigger story.

During half a dozen chats that I had with concert industry insiders last week at the Event and Arena Marketing Conference, and in numerous other conversations with people in the business of late, the recurring prediction about the recently merged concert-industry behemoth Ticketmaster/Live Nation has been that recent layoffs, rivers of red ink on the profit statements, and the general unwiedlyness of the massive corporation that many of its own employees call the Death Star will inevitably cause it to crash and burn, much as many in the oil industry are predicting that the disaster in the Gulf will lead to the demise of BP.

The only debate centers on whether regional independent promoters will then emerge from their bunkers to pick up the scattered pieces of the business, as in the days of old, or a new, unwieldly corporate behemoth like AEG will take over where Ticketmaster/Live Nation leaves off.

In any event, Lefsetz has an intriguing item today about Ticketmaster/Live Nation canceling hundreds of under-performing shows this summer as consumers finally balk at high ticket prices and the unpleasant experience of patronizing the company's prison-like venues (which locally include the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island, the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, and the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin). And this on top of it already losing the two mega-tours that were to have been the centerpieces and cash cows of its summer, U2 and Christina Aguilera.

Here's Lefsetz:

Live Nation cancels shows.
Unilaterally.‚  Supposedly 200 at CAA [Creative Artists Agency] alone.
This has been the buzz of L.A. for days, but has gotten no mainstream media attention.
We know it's been a bad summer"‚  But this bad?
The concert giant is trying to save itself.‚  Which is the exact opposite of its behavior since its inception, which was about overpaying to decimate the competition.
They've achieved their goal, but at the cost of their bottom line.  And when the Ticketmaster kickbacks don't make up the difference, when there aren't enough people in the venue to profit from food and beer sales, never mind a cut of merch, drastic measures are necessary.  This on top of a no secondary market booking policy that was instituted months back.
You may be on the outside, laughing, but unless you're a consumer, you're in trouble.‚  The giant that overpaid and didn't demand you give back on a losing show? That company is gone.  Replaced by one struggling for not only its survival, but a good share price (oftentimes in reverse order).
[Ticketmaster/Live Nation CEO] Michael Rapino has gone on record that if he doesn't pay, someone else will.

Locally, the only previously announced and on-sale concert that Ticketmaster/Live Nation has canceled is the Chick Corea Freedom Band at Charter One tonight. But we'll be watching for more; it's hard to imagine that other evenings such as REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar (Charter One, July 18; top ticket price $76 plus service fees), the Goo Goo Dolls at the same venue on July 20 ($49.50), or Creed in Tinley Park on August 15 ($20, a price that shows the promoters hedging their bets for sure) are doing gangbuster business.

 

 

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