29 December 2009

how to fight Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, effectively

TBH I never have had a problem with Live Nation. strangely and happily, I've had v. good ticket karma with Live Nation. (this is the only way I can explain how I got a 3rd row ticket to see Morrissey this year, haha.) not so much with Ticketmaster. so I have this terrible feeling about what would happen if Ticketmaster effectively "ate" Live Nation and they merged into one. they're the two biggest national ticket sellers in America. if only for my being selfish, I'm sure my overall ticket karma would suffer!

but really, I'm writing this post because this has the potential to really stop the music business in its tracks and it will affect us as consumers as well as our friends, the bands we love to see live. as a music blogger, a music lover, and a lover of live music performances, I try to encourage people to go to more concerts and support musicians. my friends who are less keen on music will pass on concert tickets a lot of the time b/c of the high prices, no doubt with whatever's tacked on as "convenience" and "handling" fees. less people will be going out to hear good music. that to me is the greatest tragedy. not to mention musicians are already losing a ton of money on illegal downloading, so the only viable source of income they have left is with touring. if people don't attend concerts, they can't make a living. you may say "cry me a river" when we're talking about U2 or Bruce Springsteen, but for my friends who are just starting out, they depend on their royalty checks and whatever cut they get from a tour. so trust me, it matters to them. and while we're on the topic of the Boss, I hope you have not forgetten what happened to the fans that were mysteriously redirected to a resale Web site and paid higher fees than they should have. click here to read more from 50 concerned Congressmen. for more recent news, check out ticketdisaster.org.

I'm not happy with either company's "convenience" and "handling" fees. a recent purchase of a pair of Muse tickets ended up taking on an additional $28 over the face value for the tix. um...can we say ridiculous? I had already requested the tickets be mailed to my house for free.

us in the D.C. area who regularly attend club concerts know we can get around these by showing up in person to buy our tickets at the 9:30 Club (and pay an extra $1 per transaction fee - not bad, not bad at all) and the Black Cat (and pay nothing but the face value for the ticket). 9:30 Club has recently defected from Tickets.com to Ticketfly, and the Black Cat has joined the Rock and Roll Hotel, going with Ticket Alternative instead. if I can avoid any extra fees, I avoid them. but sometimes when you love a band, you'll pay extra...and presumably, Ticketmaster/Live Nation bank on us paying for the convenience. and you know if no one is competing with them, the fees will magically increase. and we'll all feel it.


us Washingtonians have already received the call from Seth Hurwitz and the 9:30 Club peeps about fighting the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation in this country. a similar merger has already taken place in Britain and we need to mobilise American music fans to fight the same thing from happening on our side of the pond.

problem is, the email we received gives an email address (antitrust.complaints@usdoj.gov) and no direction. like all bureaucratic red tape, it's actually quite complicated to draft an email or letter that has all the necessary pieces for them to take your complaint seriously. I doubt shouting at the DOJ will help, so I've done the legwork for you and snooped around their Web site to figure out what you need for a legitimate claim. so don't say you're too busy or it's too complicated b/c I've simplified it for you.

taken from http://www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm (my notes in red):

Information from the public is vital to the work of the Antitrust Division. Your e-mails, letters, and phone calls could be our first alert to a possible violation of antitrust laws and may provide the initial evidence needed to begin an investigation.

To report antitrust concerns to the Antitrust Division:

If you do not think your concerns involve the antitrust laws, you may want to visit the Department of Justice site for more information or send an e-mail to AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.

Please keep in mind that the Antitrust Division is prohibited from giving legal advice to private individuals.

Related items on this page:

Step 1: Fully Describe Your Concern

If you have information about a possible antitrust violation or potential anticompetitive activity, use the following questions as a guideline to describe your complaint:

  • What are the names of companies, individuals, or organizations that are involved? Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
  • How do you believe they have violated the federal antitrust laws? (For details on federal antitrust laws, see Antitrust Laws and You.) yes, they will be violating American federal antitrust laws if their merger is approved. specifically, they will be violating all three major antitrust laws - the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act, and Federal Trade Commission Act.
  • Can you give examples of the conduct that you believe violates the antitrust laws? If so, please provide as much detail as possible. hmm. I guess this is speculation, since it hasn't actually happened yet. I suppose you could paint the bleak picture? see my discussion above.
  • What is the product or service affected by this conduct? Where is the product manufactured or sold, or where is the service provided? the product is concert tickets, the service is concert performances by bands/singers/entertainers etc. the service is provided at your local concert venues.
  • Who are the major competitors that sell the product or provide the service? this may differ depending on where in America you are. I believe in the D.C. area it'd be TicketAlternative, Tickets.com, and Ticketfly.
  • What is your role in the situation in question? I'm a consumer and I will be affected by the decreased competition between ticket sellers.
  • Who is harmed by the alleged violations? How are they harmed? other consumers and the musicians/entertainers themselves. consumers may not be able to afford tickets. musicians/entertainers will likely no longer have a viable livelihood.

Step 2: Submit the Concern to the Citizen Complaint Center

You may submit your concern by e-mail, regular mail, or phone.

Citizen Complaint Center
Antitrust Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Room 3322
Washington, DC 20530

1-888-647-3258 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) or 202-307-2040

How We Handle Your Complaint

The Antitrust Division's Citizen Complaint Center (CCC) facilitates communication of your concerns to the Division's legal staff. When you submit a complaint to the Antitrust Division, the following occurs:

  1. The CCC creates a record of the information you have provided.
  2. The CCC conducts a preliminary review of your complaint for possible antitrust violations.
  3. If your complaint raises sufficient concern under the federal antitrust laws, the CCC will refer it to the appropriate Division legal section where additional research may lead to a formal investigation into the reported conduct.
  4. If the Division decides to review your complaint further, you will likely be contacted within one month of submitting your complaint.

In some instances, the volume of mail, e-mail, and phone traffic on a particular issue is such that we cannot respond to each message individually. We would like you to know, however, that all incoming correspondence is forwarded to the appropriate staff within the Antitrust Division, and you can be assured that your voices and views are being heard.

Confidentiality Policy and Privacy Policy

Our Confidentiality Policy and Privacy Policy apply to all complaints received by the Antitrust Division.

Criminal Antitrust Leniency Program for Corporations and Individuals

Individuals or companies who (a) believe they may have been involved in criminal antitrust violations and (b) cooperate with the Antitrust Division can avoid criminal conviction, fines, and prison sentences if they meet the conditions of the Division's Leniency Program.

Leniency application instructions, the Division's corporate and individual leniency policies, model leniency letters, and other information regarding the Division's Leniency Program are available on the Leniency Program page.

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