HITS Daily Double
The Springsteen fiasco appears to have galvanized the subcommittee in its collective resistance to the merger.


Proposed Merger Partners Face Some Stiff Resistance on Capitol Hill
Irving Azoff and Michael Rapino felt the heat today in DC, facing intensive grilling by members of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Billed as “The Ticketmaster/Live Nation Merger: What Does it Mean for Consumers and the Future of the Concert Business?,” the hearing sought to determine whether the proposed merger of would serve to benefit ticket buyers or jack up prices. As it turned out, the subcommittee members didn’t appear to “get” Azoff and Rapino’s argument that their proposed merger would benefit both artists and consumers, given the dire state of the entire music sector.

Observers note that this lack of understanding goes back to the emergence of Napster a decade ago, with an ongoing disinclination to pass any legislation that would benefit beleaguered copyright holders. Arguing against the merger were Jerry Mickelson of JAM Productions, the Chicago-area promoter for many of Azoff’s Front Line artists, who characterized the proposed combination as “vertical integration on steroids,” and I.M.P. Productions co-owner Seth Hurwitz, who painted himself as the David to the Live Nation/Ticketmaster Goliath. The only argument of both seemed to be that “big is bad.“

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer pressured Azoff to pledge that he would sell off secondary-market subsidiary TicketsNow, and seemed obsessed with the Springsteen fiasco, which appears to have galvanized the subcommittee in its collective resistance to the merger.

The senators didn’t seem to be swayed by a positive Azoff profile headlined “Can He Save Rock ’n’ Roll?” in Saturday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, wherein Ethan Smith made the point that Azoff has a plan to reinvent the music business at a time when this cannot be said of other ranking music executives.

As to the primary issue on the minds of the subcommittee members, those in the know point out that the acts set ticket prices, not the concert promoters or the ticket sellers. In this sense, it’s worth noting that there has been little or no resistance to the merger on the part of artists.

In any case, it appears that this battle is far from over, and that Azoff and Rapino have their work cut out for them.