Suspicions Run High at Ticket Confab
Author: Dave Brooks
Date: July 23,2008

LAS VEGAS
— Is it a marriage of love or convenience? That was the
question of the day at the National Association of Ticket Brokers
conference at the Wynn Hotel.

At the close of
the Friday meeting, Ticketmaster officials had put their best foot
forward to convince brokers that they would continue to play an
important role at the recently acquired TicketsNow, although it
could be a changing, evolving role. For their part, many of the
brokers were as intrigued by the offer as they were skeptical.

“Ticketmaster is going to need us in the short term,”
said broker Barry Rudin of Barry’s Ticket Services in Los
Angeles. “They can’t buy every ticket, so there will be
a role for those of us who choose to adapt to the new market. We
know there will still be a market, we just don’t know what
type of inventory is left over for the brokers.”

Ticketmaster
CEO Sean Moriarty said his company would not squeeze brokers out of
the fold, embracing what he described as a
“partnership” where brokers continue to supply much of
the inventory, while Ticketmaster brings its marketing savvy and
internet reach to more eyeballs.

“Consumers are learning that tickets are always available at
a price,” Moriarty said, later adding that before the
TicketsNow acquisition “we knew that people would come to
Ticketmaster looking for inventory and we knew we wouldn’t
have what they were looking for.”

Moriarty said
merging the Ticketmaster and TicketsNow platforms created a new
tool “that would be very important to the consumer”
where he can tell consumers “there’s always a ticket
for a price. We want to give the consumers a relatively complete
picture of their options.”

Transparency,
explained Moriarty, would be critical for the two platforms to work
together, a comment that elicited a few chuckles from those in
attendance. During an earlier panel on the primary market, several
brokers expressed frustration at Ticketmaster’s policy of not
publicizing how many tickets are released during an on sale.

“That
would be virtually impossible,” said Joe Freeman, senior vice
president assistant general counsel for Ticketmaster, explaining
that the company’s often contractually obligated to stay mum
on ticketing inventory for its venue clients.

“One of
our key advantages is our direct tie to the primary
inventory,” said Derek Palmer of Tickets.com. Secondary
ticketing companies that have the ability to reissue tickets
through the primary provider — often through electronic
delivery methods like email — will have a clear advantage
over brokers who must mail their tickets.

“The way
the system currently works, the only people making money from the
secondary market are FedEx and Google,” said Greg Bettinelli
who is overseeing Live Nation’s ticketing initiative.
Bettinelli hinted that the new Live Nation platform will likely
feature electronic deliverability for secondary tickets, while
Tickets.com is currently working with StubHub to reissue baseball
tickets sold on the platform.

TicketsNow CEO
Cheryl Rosner said she expected Ticketmaster to eventually develop
the means to reissue and electronically deliver tickets sold on the
TicketsNow platform, but added the company is currently weighing
all its options.

Freeman said
the other advantage Ticketmaster will have over small brokerage
firms is Internet credibility, adding that “every time a fan
comes upon a questionable site, it’s an unsatisfying
experience and we all lose.”

It was those
calls for change that brought an air of tension over the group, who
raised their grievances against a number of primary ticketing
issues that made resale harder. One audience member complained that
the recent Tom Waits tour’s plan to go ticketless and
essentially ban resale was bad for the brokerage community. Freeman
replied that Ticketmaster was purely an agent of the artist and had
to meet their wishes. Another broker said it was unfair for a team
to yank a broker’s season tickets if they sold them to a fan
who misbehaved during a game.

At one point
during a panel, TicketNetwork CEO and President John Vaccaro said
he believed Ticketmaster was attempting to shut brokers out of the
business. Freeman called the comment “bass ackwards”
and added “we didn’t just make an investment into
TicketsNow to hurt brokers.” — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for
this article: Barry Rudin, (818) 990-8499; Joe Freeman, (310)
360-2344; Sean Moriarty, (213) 639-6100; Greg Bettinelli, (310)
867-7068; Cheryl Rosner, (877) 800-3434