What is this? A corporatocracy?

Today, our good friends in the government approved the merging of Ticketmaster and Livenation. The Justice Department, who oversees antitrust policy, says the joint will “preserve competition.”

I sincerely hope they are kidding. If we’re lucky enough to see ticket prices go down, the fees will surely only go up.

The latest in major corporate mergers gives the new company, Livenation Entertainment Inc. an 80 percent stranglehold on not just the concert market, but the music business as a whole.

The merger doesn’t significantly expand the market share of either company. Instead, it creates one company that will have a hand in just about every corner of the music business. – WSJ

This vertical integration gives one corporation a piece of the pie in just about every aspect of music from ticket sales to artist management and concert promotion.

It might as well be Clear Channel all over again. Which, if you don’t recall from the early ’00s, was the corporate juggernaut of last decade, (still) running the majority of radio stations and live music events, along with all the advertising needed to create one giant load of synergy. The conglomerate’s practices weren’t exactly friendly, and it pretty much forced any significant artist to run with Clear Channel stations and venues for fear of being dropped from of all of the subsidiaries.

For a much more recent example, we need only look back a little more than a month. General Electric just sold NBC Universal to Comcast on Dec. 9. With 51 percent in Comcast’s pockets (49 percent is still owned by G.E.), the nation’s largest cable provider now has even more power over what transmits through our tubes and how much it costs.

Consumer choice seems all but lost.

Perhaps today’s merger was unstoppable, but we have most assuredly created one more monster:

Live Nation stages more concerts and concert tours than any other promoter, and owns or operates 75 major venues in the U.S. Ticketmaster sells tickets for the majority of major sports and entertainment venues in the U.S., and has an artist management division that handles the affairs of hundreds of the biggest acts in pop, rock and country. Ticketmaster’s Front Line Management unit represents over 200 acts, ranging from veterans like the Eagles and Journey to newcomers like Miley Cyrus and Kings of Leon. – Wall Street Journal

The only good news? A few restrictions thanks to Obama’s new antitrust chief Christine Varney:

•Livenation Entertainment Inc. will not be able to retaliate against artists that use competitors for ticket services — like when Clear Channel threatened to pull bands like Blink 182 off all its stations in 2001.

•Ticketing and concert promotion will have be sold separately, not as a bundle, within the new company.

•Certain data will not be shared between departments to prevent the stifling of whatever competition is left.

Somehow, I get the feeling government isn’t really working these days. This is a failure of Washington on multiple fronts. These massive mergers are textbook cases for what our country’s antitrust laws are supposed to prevent.

Read the laws for yourself: http://www.ftc.gov/bc/antitrust/antitrust_laws.shtm

“…Certain acts are considered so harmful to competition that they are almost always illegal.”

So much for that.

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