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Ticket to Ride

Posted by David Polakoff on February 20, 2009

The Windmills of My Immediate Mind

Media Business Strategies – David Polakoff

Ticket to Ride

If I stop going to concerts and music festivals, then every musician I like retired or is dead. I take great pleasure in attending live concerts and festivals, sports, and theatre – I’ll travel significant distances for great events. The excitement of attending live performance, however, is tainted by the overwhelming feeling of being gouged at every angle of venue related interaction. The announcement of the Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger has churned up the ire of the fan’s plight.

As I read in context of a Rolling Stone article

“The current model is broken, pretending a ticket is $75 when the fan understands the ticket is $100,” Nathan Hubbard, Live Nation’s CEO (his quote from October 2008).

“In many cases we are losing money at the door because of the money we pay to the artist – subsidizing it in other ways, “Hubbard says. “Service fees are historically the way we do that.”

We read and hear daily about the broken recorded music business, the broken newspaper and magazine business, the broken radio business, and the broken television business, we really should be hearing about the broken concert business.

Yes, we hear about the cyclicality of when big name acts are on/off tour and we heard about the impact of 2008 summer gas prices on concert attendance; the country’s economic woes hit hardest towards the end of the 2009 summer concert season – I’m sure nerves are frail for the 2009 season. But gas and recession are environmental forces; not business model issues. Losing money at the door means, “You need a new song (The Who).”

The live performance and touring model needs innovative re-design – especially if in the current model everyone – artists, promoters, ticket agents, venues, music labels, and fans, is at each other’s throats. There are just too many people biting at the same apple. It is hard to believe when you see ticket, refreshment, souvenir, and parking prices, that even with additional sponsorship and advertising underwriting, everyone is not making huge money.

First, it is time to return to the fan basics – we want to hear and see (and not from a football field distance away) the band and their music. Both fans and most bands would likely prefer venues more intimate (than stadium and arena shows). Second, the devoted fan (avid concertgoer; music purchaser; band web and mobile space follower – the one spend lots of money on the artist, over time) needs ticket price affordability. Third, venue exclusive deals for ticket sale services and the band guarantees that accompany them are part of the current poisonous mix.

The broken concert business model is not an easy fix, but in this economy, and with the music industry woes as the foreshadowing that is driving fixes to the rest of the media industry; now is the opportunity for re-tuning.

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