Live Nation Boss Says Ticketing Trade Is an ‘Easy Target’
Live Nation Entertainment boss Michael Rapino said the ticketing industry was “widely misunderstood” and an “easy target” for those unhappy with pricing issues, but also admitted work was needed to “build some credibility back.”
Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division is one of the corporations which many blame for dynamic pricing and hidden “junk fees.” Those activities, among others, are the subject of new legislation being developed by the U.S. government – and Live Nation previously announced its support for that work.
“I do think as an industry, we probably do have to absorb a bit better and think a little smarter at what is the add-on fee,” Rapino told the Bob Lefsetz Podcast. “I don’t think it’s justified probably at every ticket price point. At Live Nation, we’ll look at the lower-end ticket prices in the theater and clubs and say, ‘Can we scale them back and make sure [there’s] a defendable fee on a service, on a ticket price?’ It’s been too easy to add a dollar to the service fee.”
He said that recent price increases were associated with a 19 percent jump in Live Nation’s show production costs including fuel, staff and staging equipment. He also said around 80 percent of service fees went to venues rather than Ticketmaster itself.
Citing the example of the Cure frontman Robert Smith’s fightback against sky-high fees, which saw Ticketmaster paying refunds to fans, Rapino argued: “We did a ton of work with Robert, making sure
were non-transferable, that it would be a face value [ticket] exchange and verified, doing all we could to put all the roadblocks to deliver his ticket prices to the fans.” He said of the loss associated with the refunds: “It was a fast decision, we thought it was worth the million dollars or so to send the right message … It doesn’t matter whether justifying the service fee is a good idea or not – we have an industry where we have to build some credibility back.”
But while he accepted that costs should be cleaned out in smaller venues, Rapino asserted that when it came to large-scale shows featuring world-class artists, Live Nation operated in an industry that could “charge a bit more.” “I’m not saying excessively, but it’s a great two-hour performance," he explained. "That happens once every three, four years… You don’t have to underprice yourself.”
He added: “This is a great, great product that people will buy, as they’re gonna buy the Gucci bag. They’re gonna buy moments in life where they will step up, and spoil themselves – the big screen TV and or whatever it may be.”