With all the recent buzz about a possible merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, we found Billboard Magazine's annual listing of the top earners in music even more intriguing than usual. It seems the majority of those millions come directly from touring and ticket sales, leaving us wondering just what's at stake for artists and fans in this possible merger?
Billboard's annual Moneymakers List ranks the top 20 earning artists. The numbers represent album sales, concert ticket sales, ringtone sales and digital track sales, but it's not an even spread. The top five MoneyMakers are also the five acts that earned the most on tour, and -- because not supporting albums -- in the exact same order of touring revenue earned. In the top ten, a total of eight were also top earners on tour; each of the 20 artists or bands on the full list toured in some capacity in 2008, and for the majority, touring generated the most revenue. Conversely, the artist who sold the most singles -- Lil Wayne -- and the artist who sold the most records -- Taylor Swift -- came in 12th and 16th on the list respectively.
Knowing all this, it's not surprising that the Justice Department is investigating the possible merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation to determine if the combination would create an unfair (and illegal) monopoly in the market. Ticketmaster is the world's dominant ticket seller, and Live Nation is the world's top concert promoter.
So basically, not only would one big company control the ticket prices, fees and procedures for just about every major and semi-major concert you attend, they'd also be raking in their share of the profits of those top-earners. The top five alone add up to more than $7 billion. And that figure could get even higher for a company that controls enough of the industry to set the market standard on ticket prices. You know if Bruce Springsteen -- one of the people who stands to benefit from the merger -- called the Ticketmaster redirection of his tickets "a pure conflict of interest," then it's probably not good for those of us who stand to lose money from the deal.
In an open letter to his fans, Springsteen went further: "The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan … would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing."
We know times are hard, and merging builds stability, but excuse us if we have trouble feeling sorry for an organization that took its share of more than $7 billion last year. Competition keeps prices low and music fans happy. Hopefully the Justice Department will agree.