Ticketmaster charges…still amazing after all these years

Truth be told, I haven’t gone to many concerts recently since becoming a father almost two years ago. But when I heard Tom Petty was going to be playing Summerfest during an upcoming trip to Milwaukee, I had to buy a pair. Here is how Ticketmaster is currently bending music fans over…

Ticket Price US $105.00 x 2
Facility Charge US $12.00 x 2
Convenience Charge US $15.20 x 2
Tickets/Items US $264.40
Order Processing Fee US $5.20
TOTAL CHARGES US $269.60

Wow, $59.60 in fees to print two tickets. This never ceases to amaze me. There is no way that Ticketmaster is that fat or inefficient. A good portion of the money goes back to the venue in the form of an exclusive contract with Ticketmaster, which allows Ticketmaster to have a monopoly…which allows them to raise prices without consequence. And they’re going to merge with Live Nation?!?

Ridiculous.

Ticket Master-Live Nation merger hits another snag

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Earlier this year, Ticketmaster and Live Nation attempted to merge companies. Since Ticketmaster is the largest ticketing distributer in the country, one could understand why the Justice Department would balk at a union with Live Nation, a huge concert promoter. Smaller production companies feel they would lose out on events if this deal goes through. They’re right, of course. The merger would create a ticketing powerhouse, one that has the ability to simultaneously sell and promote their own events. Negotiations may be starting back up in Washington, but they’re also receiving harsh criticism in the UK.

The U.K.’s Competition Commission issued a provisional ruling on Thursday that the union of the L.A.-based firms “could severely inhibit the entry of a major new competitor, CTS Eventim, into the U.K. ticketing market.”

The commission’s ruling echoes objections of witnesses who assailed the merger as anticompetitive at U.S. congressional hearings early this year.

Prior to the merger announcement in February, Bremen, Germany-based CTS agreed to provide ticketing for Live Nation’s British events, and it has enabled the U.S. promoter to operate a ticketing platform, which competes with Ticketmaster, in the U.S. since January.

A Live Nation-Ticketmaster alliance could erode CTS’ position in the U.K. market by cutting the number of tickets made available to the smaller firm, the commission said. “This could lead to higher net prices … and/or lower service quality or less innovation in the market,” the ruling stated.

Ticketmaster is one of the most hated companies in the world. They’re the schmucks that invented the 40 percent surcharge to see your favorite band. This deal wouldn’t benefit anybody but the companies. The bands, fans, and independent operators would all get screwed.

I never understood why venues didn’t just sell tickets exclusively in-house. I know you can buy tickets at the box office, but why can’t you also order them online? The venue would only have to hire a couple more employees to process the orders and send out the tickets. They’d tack on a surcharge to pay the staff, but it wouldn’t be as monstrous as they one utilized by Ticketmaster.

There has to be better way!

Jon Fine argues against the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger

Does anyone like Ticketmaster or Live Nation? Will anyone shed a tear if the government steps in a prevents a merger? Jon Fine argues in BusinessWeek that opposing the merger is a political lay-up for the Obama administration.

If there is a political downside to doing so, neither I nor anyone I talked to can discern it. Here you have not one but two companies that are despised, be it for high ticketing fees or tight control of what was once an exquisitely local business, by a large portion of their key customers. (That group includes a sizable contingent of youngish music fans who likely skew Obama-ward in their politics, to boot.) How despised are these companies? One is commonly referred to as TicketBastard, as a simple Web search shows. Historically, this is possibly the one that was hated less. Live Nation changed its name from Clear Channel Entertainment in 2005, when that name was provoking frothing at the mouth. (It’s telling that the combined entity would be called Live Nation Entertainment; representatives declined to make Michael Rapino, the CEO of Live Nation who would maintain that role in the proposed new company, available for comment.)

Ticketmaster and Live Nation announce merger

The merger is valued at $2.5 billion and the surviving company will be called Live Nation Entertainment.

The deal is subject to the usual legal issues, including regulatory review, and there’s sure to be some pressure against it from the music industry and others who see this consolidation as a threat.

—Management: A lot of ego to fit into one space … Barry Diller, chairman of Ticketmaster Entertainment, will be chairman of the board with Michael Rapino, now CEO of Live Nation, as CEO and president, and Irving Azoff, now CEO of Ticketmaster, as executive chairman and CEO of Front Line.

—The name change: Dropping the Ticketmaster brand in favor of Live Nation could be the first step toward distancing the new company from the negative press surrounding the long-standing ticketing giant. A WSJ source said management wants to diminish the impression that the “company is out to gouge” consumers—as concert-goers have long complained about the service fees Ticketmaster tacks on to ticket prices.

It will be interesting to see if this passes the anti-trust test. I suspect they will have some trouble, but who knows.

The news is coming at a time when Ticketmaster is struggling with some bad press following the Springsteen ticket fiasco.

Bruce Springsteen has responded to his fans’ outcry following Ticketmaster’s problem-laden sale of his Working on a Dream tour tickets earlier this week. Countless fans reported technical malfunctions during the onsale, while others complained that Ticketmaster forwarded them to the company’s secondary ticket site, TicketsNow, even though seats were still available through Ticketmaster. The New Jersey Attorney General has also announced an investigation into the sale. Ticketmaster has since issued an apology to Springsteen, and vowed to make amends to confused fans.

“Last Monday, we were informed that Ticketmaster was redirecting your log-in requests for tickets at face value, to their secondary site TicketsNow, which specializes in up-selling tickets at above face value. They did this even when other seats remained available at face value. We condemn this practice,” Springsteen and his tour team said in a letter posted on Bruce’s official site. “We have asked this redirection from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow cease and desist immediately and Ticketmaster has agreed to do so in the future and has removed its unwanted material from their and our site.”

As for the merger, Bruce wasn’t very supportive of that idea.

Springsteen isn’t keen on the idea of a Live Nation Ticketmaster merge either. “A final point for now: the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing,” Springsteen writes. “If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.”

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