Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Just Married :: Live Nation and Ticketmaster

You’re in a band. You want to get your tickets to your fans so they can see you’re show. Simple, right? With online ticketing, for the past year or so you’ve basically had two options: Ticketmaster or Live Nation. The above photo is an actual plot for world domination made up by Live Nation in 2007.

With these conglomerated ticketing corporations, fans will often sit in front of a computer, refreshing the page since an hour before the sale time, only to find that not even ten seconds after they’re released, they’re sold out. Ticketmaster and Live Nation have long been suspected of payola. Essentially meaning that tickets are given out to everyone and anyone they see fit, in exchange for promotion or payment, ensuring that the general ticket consuming public does not get their tickets. If by the grace of the ticketing deities a fan does somehow make it to the payment page, they then have to face a slew of fees. Venue fees, ticketing fees and even charity fees (which defies the meaning of ‘charity’). In addition to these issues, most contractually obligated bands selling through these companies are barred from playing any venues that aren’t hosted by the ticketing agencies.

It’s about to get more complicated.

With the musical landscape changing and becoming more and more fragmented due to digital mediums, fewer bands can fill up entire stadiums. The result, Ticketmaster and Live Nation are merging. If you’re worried about it being more monopolistic than it already is, the Department of Justice has your back. They’ve allowed the merger, but on the condition that they license their ticket selling software and sell a division of Ticketmaster, essentially creating two competitors, AEG and Comcast-Spectator. The latter will deal mostly with college sports. If Live Nation Entertainment controls all those arrows in the middle of that photo up there...I wonder if ticket prices will go up? And because smaller venues and shows have smaller fees, the new company, called Live Nation Entertainment Inc., is focusing on large arena concerts, which will most likely leave those smaller acts and venues behind.

But what are you going to do? It’s not like you have any other options.

An interesting alternative to this system might be found with a company called Brown Paper Tickets. They call themselves ‘the first and only fair trade ticketing company’ and profess that they are a ‘not-just-for-profit’ group. Any artist or venue can sell tickets through the website for free and buyers will always pay a flat fee. Under ten bucks is .99 cents and over ten bucks is $1.99. And they donate 5% of their profits to charity. The tickets are secure, complete with holographic foils, black light imaging and bar codes, and they even have a print at home option. There’s no contract, so you’re not bound to anything. The company will even print you extra tickets if you decide you want to sell them through your website or another service. There’s also a bunch of services available to every artist or event producer, including marketing.

If more bands and venues start working with Brown Paper, the ticketing world could have its first fair trade rival.

Published in Performer Magazine, April 2010 issue.

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