Ticketmaster Suffers from Consumer Pullback


Music fans around the world have a love-hate relationship Ticketmaster , which provides a seemingly infinite variety of live events, at a cost. Now the company is feeling the impact of the recession -- ticket sales in the second quarter fell 18 percent to $312 million, accounting for just over half the company's revenue. To be fair, about half of that decline was because concert promoter Live Nation's deal launched its own ticketing business, ending a longstanding partnership that had generated revenue for Ticketmaster. The company also took some costs for its planned merger with Live Nation , which is awaiting government approval. Excluding $5 million in merger costs, quarterly earnings per share dropped to 20 cents, from 41 cents per share in the year-earlier quarter, on 7 percent lower revenue of $355 million.

The big headline of the company's earnings call was what the company calls the "triumph" of its new paperless ticketing offering and "all in pricing." Ticketmaster has taken to including all the extra service fees and costs in the ticket price to be more clear, and to avoid the critique that it piles on tons of fees once music lovers are already committed. Meanwhile the innovation of paperless ticketing will allow paperless tickets to be transferable between people. CEO Irving Azoff's proof that the new technology is a success is the fact that Bruce Springsteen and Trent Reznor, huge critics of Ticketmaster's fees and past resale policies, have "embraced" the new paperless system.

What's next for Ticketmaster? Azoff says the merger with LiveNation is on track to go through by the end of the year. He wouldn't give any projections for ticketing sales, which seem like a pretty good indicator of consumer confidence, but he did say that sales in August were weaker than sales in July.

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