Handicapping The Upcoming Ticketmaster/LiveNation Hearings

mariasci | February 23, 2009 4:15 am

Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee’s “Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights” (wshew) will hold a hearing on the proposed Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger, and Jim DeRogatis provides a preview. He notes that the committee includes Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who has criticized Ticketmaster’s policies in the past, and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, a music-biz advocate from Utah who may have a personal interest in the biz’s future. As the Democrats control the committee and are thus the ones who called the hearing, it is unlikely that they will be taking a particularly positive view of the proposed merger.

They will presumably object to the fact that Ticketmaster and LiveNation are, in effect, each others’ clients, but not each others’ sole clients, thus causing all sorts of anti-competitive quandaries for venues not served by LiveNation and providing a very strong impetus for them to choose that particular promoter over others. More problematic is Ticketmaster’s acquisition of the giant artist management firm constructed by Irving Azoff, and the installation of Azoff as the head of the company. Having four negotiating partners (artists, venues, promoters, ticket sellers) under one roof would certainly not seem to be good for anyone except the merged company. This might not be the actual strategy behind the deal—as I said earlier, I’d pin it more on desperation—but it certainly sets off some bells for antitrust regulators, and while those laws have been laxly enforced over the past eight years, the newly empowered Democrats may be interested in reviving them.

Their hand is probably tipped from the witness list, which, in addition to the LN and TM head honchos, has two clearly in opposition: Chicago-based concert promoter Jam Productions, and David Balto from the liberal (sorry, “progressive”) Center For American Progress. Actually, there’s no particular evidence that Balto will be on the anti- tip, as the Center’s Web site doesn’t indicate any interest in media consolidation or the music biz. Still, I guess… liberals are against big companies? And hate The Eagles? Oh wait, Balto was “the policy director of the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission” so there you go.

The hearing will be webcast tomorrow starting at 2:30 p.m. ET so DON’T MISS IT. Or do, whatever.

Washington considers the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger—with input from Chicago [Sun-Times]