Live Nation Spins a Yarn

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

The big news in the record business this week is that Live Nation announced they were taking on the high price of concert tickets. The LA Times reported that Michael Rapino, the 40 year-old chief executive of Live Nation has vowed to drive down ticket prices. He cites the average concert fan only attends two shows a year, and the average cost for each show is $57.

To bring change, Mr. Rapino has decided to go after the greedy giant of ticket distribution. Ticketmaster charges steep arbitrary fees for issuing concert tickets. For example, a cheapie $30 lawn seat to tonight's performance of Sheryl Crow & John Mayer becomes $40 when Ticketmaster tags on its fee. It's hard to justify paying $10 just for the right to get a ticket. But according to Ticketmaster's own policy, fans can rest assured that the dollars they pay actually go to the venues, promoters and artists that present the live show.

Hmmm. Does that mean the Ticketmaster fees go to Live Nation, which owned the venue, to Live Nation which promoted the event and to Live Nation who compensated the artists for performing?

The news about Live Nation's dissatisfaction with Ticketmaster yesterday rings hollow. Live Nation is the largest concert promoter in America owning over 150 venues around the world. Reported earnings just for the secnd quarter this year were $768 million. The company produced more than 29,000 events last year and if anyone wanted to make the price of a live performance affordable, Live Nation could certainly do it. No other promoter is in a better position.

The company originally named Spinco, was the live-performance division of Clear Channel Communications. Spinco spun off from the communications giant in December 2005, renaming itself Live Nation and claiming independence from the radio and advertising empire. But with key executives from the Clear Channel Board serving on the Live Nation Board, the lines between the two companies remain blurred.

Mr. Rapino seems to be attempting to navigate a strategic maneuver to spin his company's profile in the direction of the good guys looking out for the little guy. Tactically interesting if it weren't so patently false.

It's more likely that Live Nation is simply trying to get a better deal from Ticketmaster in future negotiations, or is interested in taking on the role of selling tickets itself. Either way, neither of these organizations should be recognized for their altruism.

If the executives at Live Nation really want to help consumers with the high cost of ticket prices, it's time to stop issuing press releases and start looking in their own backyard.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.