Thanks to U2, Live Na­tion can mas­ter the ticket busi­ness

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

It’s per­haps just as well that Live Na­tion has just signed the cov­eted box-of­fice draw that is U2, as the con­cert pro­moter is soon to em­bark on a what could be a very bloody bat­tle. Tick­et­mas­ter cur­rently is­sues the tick­ets for most Live Na­tion shows – a deal that ac­counts for more than 15 per cent of Tick­et­mas­ter’s an­nual $1 bil­lion rev­enue. That part­ner­ship is due to con­clude at the end of the year.

Any­one buy­ing a ticket for a gig, with their an­noy­ing “con­ve­nience” charges, knows that there is a lot of money in the ticket ser­vice busi­ness. As pre­vi­ously noted, con­certs are one of the few growth ar­eas of the mu­sic in­dus­try. And it’s not just the rev­enue from ticket sales that’s at stake: there’s also all the con­sumer data (e-mail ad­dresses, etc). And that’s pre­cious to an ever-ex­pand­ing com­pany such as Live Na­tion.

Live Na­tion and Tick­et­mas­ter are two of the gi­ant pow­ers in the mu­sic busi­ness. The lat­ter will not be thrilled by Live Na­tion muscling in on its ter­ri­tory. But now that Live Na­tion has the exclusive rights to both Madonna and U2 live per­for­mances, the com­pany is op­er­at­ing from a po­si­tion of con­sid­er­able strength.

As it stands, Live Na­tion sells a lim­ited num­ber of tick­ets to shows through its web­site. The com­pany will now have to ei­ther greatly ex­pand its own small in­ter­nal tick­et­ing op­er­a­tion or link up with an­other out­side tick­et­ing agency.

Ac­cord­ing to Live Na­tion chair­man Michael Cohl: “Tick­et­mas­ter is al­ready our ri­val. We’re now look­ing at not just con­tent [ shows], but at hard­ware [a tick­et­ing sys­tem] and we’re try­ing to line up as much of both as we con­sider mean­ing­ful and ben­e­fi­cial.”

Cer­tainly, when it comes to launch­ing a new tick­et­ing ser­vice, it does help to have what is known as “de­sir­able in­ven­tory” in the shape of U2 and Madonna.

It is un­clear if U2 had any part in mov­ing Live Na­tion into the tick­et­ing busi­ness. The New York Times says the deal “may of­fer ways for the band to ad­dress prob­lems that arose on its last tour”. At the be­gin­ning of the Ver­tigo tour, the band of­fered mem­bers of its on­line fan club ac­cess to tick­ets be­fore they went on gen­eral sale. Some fans com­plained that in­stead of get­ting the best seats in the venue, they ended up with the worst.

There’s no sug­ges­tion that Tick­et­mas­ter (which han­dled the Ver­tigo tour) was in any way to blame for the pre­sale fi­asco. U2 were greatly an­noyed by how some of their most loyal fans felt short­changed. It hap­pened be­cause of a sud­den, mas­sive de­mand for the best seats in the house – and also, it is be­lieved, be­cause so­phis­ti­cated ticket touts had joined U2’s on­line fan club in the knowl­edge that it is com­mon for a band to of­fer the best seats to club mem­bers.

As part of the deal, Live Na­tion is now re­spon­si­ble for run­ning of U2’s of­fi­cial web site. “We feel we’ve got a great web site,” says Bono in a state­ment. “But we want to make it a lot bet­ter.”

With Live Na­tion due to un­veil “Ticket­na­tion” (or what­ever it will be called) at the end of the year, it’s dif­fi­cult to know what fur­ther ar­eas of the mu­sic busi­ness are now left for the com­pany to buy up. Chair­man of global mu­sic Arthur Fo­gel be­lieves Live Na­tion is now un­stop­pable in re­shap­ing the tra­di­tional bound­aries of the mu­sic in­dus­try map. “It’s clear that the lines that were in place his­tor­i­cally are break­ing down. Com­pa­nies such as us are best po­si­tioned to ex­e­cute on that bas­ket of rights.” bboyd@ir­

U2: “prob­lems on their last tour”

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