The ‘Elephant in the Room’ | Concert Industry Ticket Talk

Last week I discussed concert industry giant Live Nation and its attempts to utilize the web to continue to focus its business truly on the “live music fan.” My post came just days before the Concert Industry Consortium took place in LA, where it offered a space for the Live Nations and Ticketmasters of the world to unveil new biz plans and debate the evolving nature of the concert industry.

It also sparked some great responses throughout the music blog world that should interest you…

As usual, Hypebot has some solid coverage of the Concert Industry Consortium. Here are some highlights of Bruce’s coverage, along with other comments from across the web and a few of my own thoughts:

Live Nation continues its plans to focus on “the fan”…

“At a well attended “10,000 Foot View” panel yesterday, Live Nation head Michael Rapino kept focusing on how LN is going to find ways to connect direct to fans, make the experience for them better, fairer priced, and more convenient. He admits that they can’t make a viable return on just tickets with the venue overheads they have in big arenas, and that is one reason the club level is so important now.”

Once again, Rapino is generally short on deets, but illustrates how Live Nation wants to get into the smaller, mid-size clubs biz, for better or worse. Last week, I discussed some of the practical elements of an evolving Live Nation, sparking some good discussion in the comments section.

TicketMaster, whose CEO Sean Moriarty gave this year’s keynote speech, unveiled a plan to sell downloads alongside ticket listings on Not a terrible idea, but I think Ticketmaster (and all ticket outlets) would be smart to think of dong the inverse of something like this: finding a way to more easily and efficiently place ticket sales in the same context of music sales and promotions (which I’ve suggested before in another context as a prediction for 2007).

Of course, this is just another way for TicketMaster to generate additional revenue. Hey, maybe now they’ll stop charging me in fees what amounts to about third or half of the cost of my actual tickets? Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath for that one!

But clearly more important to the TicketBastard folks is the ever-growing “secondary ticket market” where Stubhub has been so successful (the company was recently acquired be eBay). Seems to be the case…[also via Hypebot]:

“There’s lots of chatter about the secondary ticket (re-sale) market and whether the promoters and acts should control the re-sale thus co-opting Stub Hub and others at their own game by running more auctions etc. Many of non-arena level promoters and agents counter “it’s no big deal”. Ticketmaster stated strongly that they are going after the secondary market too.”

It seems the re-sale market they’re now calling the “secondary ticket market” has thoroughly morphed away from the negative connotation of ticket “scalping.” It is now just another free-market business area to be developed, and the big guns all want a piece of the action. Bob Lefsetz, in his usual abrasive manner, takes these guys to task and says they’re too late, while Fred Wilson follows up on Bob’s rant with a revealing personal tale of his own ticket troubles. He evens suggests that maybe ALL tickets should be auctioned off in some form (one of the better suggestions I’ve heard, that will likely never happen). I do wish we could somehow get the artists more of the monetary value the tickets to their shows actually end up generating. Heck, maybe Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will “invent” another “new” model?

And finally then there’s JamBase’s Andy Gadiel, who also documents his experience at the CIC:

“In all honesty, the comments I heard felt a little bit like major labels complaining about Napster. Shouldn’t people be excited that folks still want to go out and see music?”

Andy’s point that these companies should just be happy people are actually paying to see concerts is a good one. It’s also something Live Nation’s Michael Rapino harped on in last year’s CIC Keynote address. It may be a surprise to people who read this site, but the bottom line is that people just don’t see that many concerts each year (present company obviously excluded). Perhaps there are too many other ways to amuse ourselves? Or maybe there are just too many obstacles to getting people “off their asses” for a Wednesday night show?

Although Andy suggests actual ticket prices are not the issue, he also makes a key point about ticket fees that served as the title of this post and will resonate with any avid live music fan:

“The real elephant in the room which I didn’t hear anybody talk about are ticket service fees (tax). Two $20 tickets to the Fillmore cost $60 in advance when all is said and done.”

Exactly. But as a big live music fan, I lump all these costs and fees in together as the “cost of the show” no matter what percentage of it goes to the band, the promoter, or to Ticketmaster’s ridiculous fees. So any raise in price DOES affect my purchasing habits and overall number of concerts I am able to see each year. Most readers of this site are probably like me and would go to upwards of 20-30 shows a year (maybe more?)….IF we could afford it. I can think of plenty of shows where I honestly factored the extra fees and higher prices into the equation and decided NOT to go.

I feel like the entire industry could be better about making it easier and more enticing for people to go to concerts on a more frequent basis. If it were easier to buy tickets and there were fewer obstacles, that’s just more money to be had right? Instead of trying to squeeze even more money out the big arena shows, why not help generate more “live music fans” like the folks who read this blog?

It’s time for independent bands and alternative outlets to find their own ways to sell tickets and get the “real” value that fans are willing to shell out, be it $10 or $100.

I certainly don’t know what’s the best solution, but maybe Fred Wilson’s auction suggestion ain’t such a bad idea.

So, all of you folks out there see a ton of concerts and buy a lot of tickets…what do you think?