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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Column: From here we go corporate

On Monday, the Department of Justice officially approved the merger of Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticketing company, and Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter.

Somebody just put a hotel on Boardwalk.

The merger itself wasn’t exactly news to any of us – plans for the union of these two industry conglomerates spread across the music business like wildfire roughly a year ago.

But the Department of Justice essentially ensured the death knell of the modern music industry by approving this merger Monday. And it’s not just in terms of concerts, either. With this approval, we’re seeing a dramatic consolidation of the music industry from the label to the recording studio to the ticket box. It’s the complete corporate ownership of artistic freedom, and it’s enough reason to be annoyed.

Live Nation Entertainment, the merger’s new title, is a vertical monopoly taller than any of its potential competition. Instead of two exorbitant “convenience charges” competing against one another, there will be one – and it will surely be high.

Sure, the Department of Justice placed several checks on the Live Nation Entertainment’s ability to control the market, such as a required divesture of Ticketmaster’s software-based subsidiary Paciolan. But who are they kidding? Other ticket competitors such as the Anschutz Entertainment Group, Comcast-Spectator or the Chicago-based promoter Jam Productions don’t stand a chance against Live Nation Entertainment, even with their government-granted protections. The new merger is basically an industry-wide Wal-Mart, with plenty of predatory potential and without the lower prices.

Ticketmaster’s success throughout the decade – despite the proliferation of their inflated “convenience charges” that everyone still seems to hate – is a bitter reality itself. People don’t have much of a choice when it comes to buying tickets for major shows, so you can’t blame their aversion to an additional charge on an already ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary ticket price. They’re huge, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Besides, major corporate labels are nothing new to us. They stifle art, they dictate songwriting, they whine about MP3 sharing. Live Nation itself now “signs” artists – bringing yet another level of the music industry under wing of this new vertically integrated giant. Jay-Z, Madonna, U2 and Shakira have already followed suit, granting Live Nation all recording, touring and merchandise decisions.

While CEOs at Live Nation and Ticketmaster argue for the streamlining of the industry and efficiency that this merger will bring, it’s hard to believe their incentives are worth the control they’ll have. If they’re referring to free downloadable ringtones with every ticket purchase, I don’t care.

Discounted bundle packages of tickets and band merchandise won’t draw me in, either. No matter how much I like the band I’m seeing, I’m never going to buy a backstage meet-and-greet pass because I’m not a 12-year-old.

Granted, a merger will save the coffers of the two companies. It will probably make it a whole lot easier to see Miley Cyrus at Madison Square Garden. You’ll probably walk away with a free T-shirt, too.

Yet it all comes along with the collapse of music industry. This isn’t news, either, but the merger is only hastening the process.

If this is the six-foot-hole it’s falling into, it’s going to be an expensive burial. Shakira will be there to sing the eulogy.

JUSTIN T. HO realizes the main solution is to support the local scene. He also realizes he’s being really cliché and idealistic. Check out KDVS.org, Artsweek or just pay attention to local events. Or you could e-mail arts@theaggie.org.


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