Merger would create one big ticket item

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A merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster would create a company in control of the majority of boxoffice dollars, the myriad revenue that can come from ticketing and the unlimited e-commerce potential the fan/ ticket connection brings to live music.

The potential merger would leave other players in the music business marginalized. Plus, the second-largest promoter, AEG Live, run by Randy Phillips, has been under the acquisitive eye of Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

While execs at the three companies are saying nothing on the record, Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce wrote Wednesday that it makes sense for Live Nation to court Ticketmaster just to keep it from combining with AEG.

"If Live Nation thought its primary ticketing competitor and new artist-management competitor was seeking to link up with its largest venue-management and tour-promoter competitor, Live Nation might want to do something with Ticketmaster," Joyce said.

Regardless of the outcome of talks, independent promoters have to be worried that they will be on the outside looking in.

Also, with live music already the most reliable income stream for most artists, labels would have even less influence and would move more solidly into roles as distributors and less as marketers.

A key point is the vast database that would be controlled by a combined Live Nation/Ticketmaster entity. The marketing efficiencies would be enormous, as would the value to sponsors.

Venues, on the other hand, could lose any leverage they might have gained when the landscape held two giants competing for their business. A dynamically priced house could become the norm. The demise of service charges as add-ons is almost a given, and the traditional 10 a.m. public onsale is likely out.

Ticketmaster knows how to sell tickets better than anyone, and Live Nation has repeatedly taken a stance of fan friendliness. A Live Nation Ticketmaster could be a ticket-selling, fan-oriented machine; or it could be the only game in town, and antitrust issues would arise.

And who would be in charge, Ticketmaster Entertainment chief Irving Azoff or Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino? A culture clash to some degree might be inevitable.

Ray Waddell of Billboard reported from Nashville; Paul Bond reported from Los Angeles.
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