As the concert business follows the record industry into the toilet, with tickets for Coldplay and Springsteen shows currently going for as little as a buck, John Seabrook reports on how it got there in this week's New Yorker magazine. You won't find much you don't already know in his lengthy analysis, unfortunately; and it's hooked to a metro-section fairy-tale of how a couple of devout Springsteen fans lucked into front row screaming space. Nevertheless, it provides a decent rundown of how the concert biz reached its currently consolidated state of dysfunction as Live Nation and Ticketmaster lobby congress for permission to merge into the greatest concert monopoly of all time. (Big-time manager Danny Goldberg: "I'm not a big fan of consolidation, but it's better than anarchy.")
Promoter John Scher, however, puts the situation in terms the common dude can easily relate to:
"SFX [the events group now owned by Live Nation] said to acts, 'How much are you making on this tour? Two hundred and fifty thosuand? O.K., we'll pay you three hundred and fifty thousand for every date on the tour.' Soon, eighty per cent of the headliners are doing national tours, for inflated guarantees. What's the result? Live Nation can't make money. So they go to Ticketmaster and say, 'We need a bigger piece of the service charges.' So Ticketmaster raises its service charges. And then what happens? The public gets fed up. Six- to eight-dollar beers, expensive hot dogs, outrageous parking fees, and expensive tickets--who needs it? So all that starts to erode the business, then gas prices go up, then the economy tanks. And then Michael Rapino stands up in front of Congress and says the business model is broken, and therefore Live Nation has to merge with Ticketmaster. Well, who broke it?"