Live Nation, Ticketmaster Merge After Approval

The proposed marriage of Live Nation and Ticketmaster has the blessing of government regulators. After nearly a year of scrutiny, the Justice Department filed a proposed settlement on Monday that would allow the nation's largest concert promoter and its biggest ticket broker to merge — if certain conditions are met.

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It has taken nearly a year of scrutiny, but government regulators have now given their blessing to the proposed marriage of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. Yesterday, the Justice Department filed a proposed settlement that would let the country's biggest concert promoter and the country's biggest ticket broker merge - if they meet certain conditions first.

Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE: Justice Department officials say the settlement requires some concessions that are supposed to create more competition in the ticketing business that Ticketmaster currently dominates. U.S. Representative Brad Sherman of California says the department did well, considering.

Representative BRAD SHERMAN (Democrat, California): The Justice Department had a very weak hand. This is vertical integration, which our antitrust laws generally allow. They were able to successfully negotiate for significant concessions.

ROSE: In order to close the deal, Ticketmaster has to license its ticketing software to AEG, the nation's second-largest concert promoter behind Live Nation. And it has to spin off part of its ticketing software and its ticketing business to another competitor, but that's not enough for some critics.

Representative BILL PASCRELL (Democrat, New Jersey): The Justice Department decision is a charade. There is a whole history on both of these dudes here, that have absolutely worked against the consumer.

ROSE: That's Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey. Last year he introduced a bill called The Boss Act after Ticketmaster was caught selling tickets to a Bruce Springsteen show on the lucrative resale market before the show had actually sold out.

(Soundbite of song, "Hungry Heart")

Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (Musician): (Singing) Lay down your money and you play your part, everybody's got a hungry heart...

ROSE: Ticketmaster may be willing to give up some of its stranglehold on ticket sales, in order to get what Live Nation has - artist management and the venues where those musicians play. Both companies declined interview requests for this story.

Glenn Peoples is a senior analyst at Billboard.com. He says the new company, to be known as Live Nation, would have more flexibility in what it can charge for tickets.

Mr. GLENN PEOPLES (Senior Analyst, Billboard.com): There are seats that aren't being filled at a lot of concerts, and so some of the prices are going to go down so they can get people in there so they can get their parking money, so they can get their beer money, so they can get their merchandise money. And on the other side of it, the good seats, the in demand seats by people who really place the most value on these events, well, they're going to be paying more.

ROSE: Ticketmaster is limited by artists and venues who want to keep prices low to sell more tickets. But that helps create a thriving secondary market for the most popular concerts. The new Live Nation might be able to squeeze some of those middle men out. Congressman Brad Sherman said that would be good for artists.

Rep. SHERMAN: The highest prices are when you have to pay scalpers. And I believe that these changes will make sure that when you buy a ticket the majority of that money is going to the band you're a fan of rather than ticket resellers.

ROSE: But Congressman Bill Pascrell says that would be lousy for consumers.

Rep. PASCRELL: This merger guarantees to me that the average music fan can expect the ticket prices to continue to go up, now that one company is going to control nearly every segment of the live industry.

ROSE: Right now, Live Nation and Ticketmaster account for nearly 83 percent of all tickets sold at major venues in the U.S. Before they can merge, the proposed settlement must still get court approval.

For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.

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