Meeting at DOJ on the Ticketmaster /Live Nation merger

Yesterday’s meeting at DOJ on the Ticketmaster Live Nation (TM/LN) merger lasted about 90 minutes. Several civil society NGOs groups showed up for the meeting. There were also several persons from age 17 to 65, who go to live events, play in bands, and preform in local venues. Some of the meeting focused on the impact of the merger on ticket prices, discussing for example how the merger would make it more difficult for fan friendly acts to advocate for lower ticket prices, or local, state or federal governments to enact or enforce various consumer protection measures, as well as noting that the reduced competition in ticketing services (LN is both an actual and a potential competitor and a partner of competitors of TM) will lead to high costs and fees in the ticketing areas. People shared a lot of information about the impact of ticketing costs on events, and the trends of ticket prices.

There was also considerable discussion about the impact of the proposed merger on cultural diversity and freedom. People talked about the “fear factor” associated with the proposed merger: few performers were willing to say anything about the merger publicly. One participant had quite a bit of information about problems that Pearl Jam faced doing live performances after previously speaking out against TM, and there was discussion of the impact of the Clear Channel consolation of radio stations on the quality of radio stations, and the consequences of losing independent stations. The XM/SR satellite merger had led to the elimination of many interesting stations. People didn’t want a single entity determining what acts they would see, or telling acts what to do, or not do. Musicians from lesser known acts didn’t want the TM/LN to exercise even more control than they do now.

Concerns were also expressed over other aspects of freedom. If artists have to deal with a single entity for live performances, they would be even more vulnerable than now when they express views unpopular with management. People talked about the Dixie Chicks experience, for example.

There were several interesting things that came out during the 90 minute meeting. One was that the DOJ clearly understood that the opposition to the merger would not be satisfied with a few divestitures, and this was really an up or down decision for the merger as a whole.

One early question put to us was, would consumers be better off with two vertically integrated companies, rather than one (a not too hypothetical case of TM and LN vertically integrating both promoting and ticket sales). This was not a difficult question for anyone.

My own take was the DOJ is willing to stop the merger, and is devoting resources to build a case against the merger.