Op-Ed: Irving – By Bob Lefsetz

Where's the outcry from the acts?

Other than Bruce Springsteen, who's complaining about fairness after
taking a $110 million check from Sony and making a deal with Wal-Mart,
I don't hear a plethora of acts lining up against the Live
Nation/Ticketmaster merger.

Shouldn't they be up in arms?

Fuck the fans. Yes, you heard me right. The fans have been fucked
forever,
and their only avenue for equalization is to stop buying tickets.
It's kind
of like a junkie saying no to the heroin dealer. Unless you're
willing to go cold turkey, you've got no power. And the acts that can
sell tickets know this. Which is why they're staying mum.

Those superstar acts… Do they want to admit to the kickbacks from
Ticketmaster? Yup, those service fees… Not only does money go to
the promoter, who the act has beaten up, but to the acts themselves.
In some cases, the acts are in cahoots with Ticketmaster to scalp
their own tickets.
The acts are guilty as hell, and Ticketmaster has been taking all the
heat.

The acts that can sell tickets. And that's all we've got today, acts
that can sell tickets and those that can't.

Anyway, it comes down to this. If you're a musician, would you rather
be in business with Irving Azoff or Doug Morris? Irving or Lyor
Cohen, Steve Barnett, who's ever running the ship over there at EMI…
The labels have fucked the acts for eternity. At least the consumer
knows how much he's paying for a ticket. At least he can buy in ones
and twos. But the act has to make a long term deal with a label and
if it ever sells any music, there will never be an accurate
accounting, never mind that the lion's share of the revenues will
reside on the label's side of the ledger. As for the future? The
label wants more. The label used to say they made you a star,
they're entitled to record revenue, make your money on the road.
Now they
want a cut of that money to, whilst doing NOTHING for it!


And on the other side you've got Irving Azoff. Who Don Henley so
famously said might be satan, but at least he's the EAGLES' SATAN!

Ask any act. That's who you want on your side. Satan. Not someone
in bed with the label, being fed acts by the company chairman, in bed
with the corporation more than the talent, but someone who'll live and
die for you, who'll take on all comers, all in the name of protecting
your good name and making you tons of money.

Sure, you might say the Eagles charge a lot for tickets. But Irving
said no to the Super Bowl and gave up on fan clubs when all they
rendered was fan unhappiness. Now you buy packages directly from the
act. Not only is the act happy, getting all that revenue beyond
regular ticket price, SO IS THE FAN! The fan knows exactly what he's
buying, and in the package comes a great seat and special treatment.
EXACTLY WHAT THE FAN WANTS!

Do I think Clear Channel, er, Live Nation, and Ticketmaster should
merge?

My fan hat says NO FUCKING WAY! But I'm no longer an ignorant fan.
I'm
privy to the inner workings of the sausage factory. And even though
Irving Azoff can be as trustworthy as Christopher Hitchens undergoing
waterboarding, something's got to change in this business. The major
labels and their CEOs have to be displaced. Actually, they're doing a
good job of self-immolating. Rather than license new technologies,
they've seen half of their recorded music revenues EVAPORATE! All the
while making a land grab for their acts' rights and suing the end
consumer. These guys have to go!
And who is going to replace them?

Maybe, in time, a twentysomething will round up all the developing
acts and change the system, but we need a revolution now. I hate
Wal-Mart, we all do. But under the aegis of a green initiative, the
Eagles did an exclusive with the retailer and sold a shitload of
product, GUARANTEED! All the labels could do was bitch that the
numbers were inaccurate, until Journey sold a ton of product, priced
cheaply, and AC/DC blew out a ton more. Point is, Irving did well by
his artists. Like I said, the consumer may not be paramount. But if
you're on the creative side of things, Irving wins for you. He gets
Christina on every awards show known to man. Now Jennifer Hudson. Do
you think that shit happens by accident?


And Rapino, who's Steve Jobs light, a spinner of a reality distortion
field himself, has got innovative ideas, but no power. He wants to
share gate receipts with the act, he wants to sell merch, he wants to
record and sell videos. But he just doesn't have any acts. Irving
delivers 200+ acts with Ticketmaster/Front Line. Who'll now do a deal
with Rapino, at arm's length, because you know Irving never screws his
clients, which is why they don't leave him, which is why he doesn't
need contracts. Hell, he charges 15% when so many other managers
charge 20%!

If you wanted to cry the foul of monopoly, that ship sailed back in
1996, when Sillerman rolled up the concert promoters to create
SFX/Clear Channel/Live Nation. Most of the promoters took the dough.
Like today's managers and agents. They want the money first and
foremost. They didn't fight the roll-up, agents/managers/acts LOVE
the roll-up! Now they get national, sometimes INTERNATIONAL
guarantees, for the lion's share of the money! As far as crying about
the lack of competition, there was never a pocket this deep!

And if Live Nation is so heinous, why did U2, savior of the world,
with an
equitable image to a fault, make a deal with the concert promoter?
Believe
me, without Live Nation's deep pockets, U2 wouldn't be doing a stadium
tour in the U.S. this summer. Their last stadium tour TANKED! But
now they've got that Live Nation safety net…

As for rival managers… Kwatinetz imploded, Terry seems to be eager
to invest more time on the yoga tip, Cliff Burnstein does not seem
desirous of being a world-dominating world-beater and Coran Capshaw
wants this ubiquity/power, but so far he's only been able to lock up
one superstar, the Dave Matthews Band. So, the management ship sailed
too. Irving wasn't the only one who could roll up the acts in theory,
but he was the only one who could do it as a practical matter, because
the managers he made deals with and their charges BELIEVE in Irving.

We can categorize Irving's faults all day long. But he wants change.
He wants the artist in power. Are we gonna give him the ball or are
we gonna continue to live in Doug Morris' world, where the acts are
serfs, paid in lip service, and forgotten as soon as their recorded
music sales start to stall? Come on. Get off your high fucking
horse. Consolidation occurred years ago. Sure, the Live
Nation/Ticketmaster merger gives too much power to too few people and
marginalizes a lot of competitors… But haven't these competitors
marginalized themselves already? Not only the labels, but so many of
the managers?


We need change. We're only gonna get it by taking big steps.
Emotionally,
the Live Nation/Ticketmaster is a no-go. But intellectually, it's our
best way out. Only by stealing power from the major labels, only by
giving the acts control of their own one stop shop, which they'll have
with Irving protecting them, can we make equitable progress.

As for the fans? You're the ones keeping the secondary market alive.
You're the ones paying hundreds of dollars to sit up close. Sure,
Tickets Now is owned by Ticketmaster, but StubHub is not. I don't see
you boycotting either if you truly want to go to the show.

We've got major problems in the music business. First and foremost,
the lack of traction for developing acts. Does Irving truly care
about developing acts? I don't think so. There's not enough money to
be made.
So, independents, much younger than Irving, can develop the acts of
tomorrow and change the paradigm. But wouldn't it be great if the
acts were in control? If talent ruled?

This merger is a closer step to that than you can ever imagine.


Sure, Live Nation controls a certain number of venues. Sure,
Ticketmaster does 80% of the ticketing. But we've learned through
Live Nation's ticketing fiasco, that despite the act-inspired ticket
fees, Ticketmaster does a better job of distributing tickets than
anybody else. Maybe they'll come up with an auction system, that
eviscerates the secondary market. In order for this to happen, you
need an artists' representative in power. And that's Irving.

I'm not drinking the kool-aid, I'm just being practical. Sure, people
shouldn't be allowed to steal music on the Internet, but they did.
The
whole industry fought this piracy for a decade to no avail. Now we're
going to fight the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger in the name of
protecting…
Exactly what? The independent promoter? Who's almost history, except
for a couple of indie giants like JAM and Seth Hurwitz's operation?
The power of the labels, who've helped kill this business? The
managers who lost their clients to Front Line?

Come on. Stop dreaming. This is a dirty, ugly business. It needs
change.

Sure, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are merging primarily to raise
their stock prices, but there are synergies. And we need hope. I'd
like to believe this merger can benefit this industry rather than face
another decade of internal squabbling, which will continue to leave
the customer disenfranchised.

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