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Op-Ed: The New York Times Article: A ‘Nothingburger’ – By Bob Lefsetz

Live Nation Rules Music Ticketing, Some Say With Threats”:

A big nothingburger.

You might remember David Carr taking down Tribune management. A surgical strike revealing unknown information that could not be ignored.

This is not that.

The problem with today’s society is legs, as in longevity, as in staying power, as in staying top of mind. But in a world where movies play for weeks rather than months and this morning’s news is forgotten by tonight and Trump’s faux pas are in the rearview mirror shortly after they’re revealed if you want to make a big splash and last…

You’ve got to tell us something we don’t know.

And the NYT article failed to do this.

Furthermore, it failed to educate the public as to the realities of ticketing.

You can’t get a good ticket at face value. That’s the story in ticketing, that’s what people are concerned with. But truthfully, there have been plenty of stories about this and the public no longer cares, except for a sliver of fans who believe they should be able to buy front row tickets at face value the day before, everybody else knows it’s a game of pre-sales and connections and resales and if you don’t know this you probably only buy once a year, and should we have that much sympathy for you when we don’t protect you in other areas? Come on, if you want to buy a car and do no research into the game you’re gonna get ripped-off, same deal in tickets.

I’m not lauding this game, but this is what the business wants. Because oftentimes the only profit in the show IS the ticketing fees, promoters give the rest of the revenue to acts. The de-emphasized point in this article is Live Nation’s other revenue streams, most notably sponsorship. Live Nation rolled up a ton of festivals and sold opportunities to Madison Avenue, for this you’ve got to laud them, not excoriate them.

As for AEG… It let Live Nation buy FrontGate. Can you force a competitor to double-down? It appears not.

But the truth is concert promotion is a mature business. And the profits come from disruption, not fighting the last war.

The last disruption was festivals. It was a way for promoters to make much more money. The barrier to entry was low, but it turned out without deep pockets you oftentimes couldn’t make it, which is why LN and AEG dominate here now. If you want to solve today’s problems, innovate, don’t regulate.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster won the last war. What is the next war?

I’m not sure. Virtual reality? Private overpriced concerts? Come on, the arena experience, the default in this business, is absolutely terrible, you can see the act on the big screen but it sounds like crap. And the truth is people are willing to pay beaucoup bucks to be up close, why not let them?

Or maybe it all goes destination. Once upon a time Vegas was for oldsters. Then came Branson and now current acts play Sin City. Why not make the fans fly in as opposed to dragging the acts all over the globe, doing drugs to stay intact, to the degree they can.

And when it comes to ticketing…

Ticketmaster is notoriously built on spaghetti code. Creating the new on top of the old is not only difficult, but oftentimes impossible. Steve Jobs transitioned Apple from OS 9 to X, but that was a leap most punters are unaware of the difficulty of, it was herculean.


We’re gonna see breakthroughs in ticketing. And whether Ticketmaster achieves those…

That’s a more important story than this NYT one. VCs laying down dollars to topple the edifice. Better wins, not always, but usually. Ticketmaster took down Ticketron by allowing you to pick your seat. AND paying the buildings. Could there be a new economic model? Believe me, a venue and or team will switch if they can make more money, they don’t care who appears in their building if their bottom line is better. And sure, you can fight the old war with old ways, bundling, threatening to withhold, but it’s hard to see a systematic effort by LN here, there’s no smoking gun, certainly not one that will energize the government, which is always two steps behind and a dollar short. The government always gets it wrong, with Microsoft…then again, the European Union is positively cutting edge with its privacy concerns. You think you live in the greatest country in the world, but that may be untrue.

The game changes.

Microsoft ruled with Windows and Explorer. Then Google made search that worked which generated an advertising juggernaut and then Facebook came in and stole its thunder, hell, does anybody go past the first search link anymore?

So when it comes to ticketing…

The issues are…

Facial recognition. Do you think that’s just to open your phone? If you’re buying an 8 instead of an X, you’re missing the point, and staying behind.

Security. The #1 issue in promotions today. Who cares what you book if no one comes.


There are a lot of issues, a lot of runway in ticketing.

But none were discussed in this article.

As for Jared Smith’s response… It was eloquent and delineates the issues better than the NYT, befitting someone who does this every day, but it got no traction:

“Ticketing, Vertical Integration and the NYT’s Recent Article”:

But that doesn’t matter, because neither did the NYT article. Which didn’t tell the insiders anything they didn’t know and wasn’t sexy enough to grip the outsiders.

A failed opportunity, not even a bunt.

When you get people’s attention deliver.

Or don’t play.