-- Criticism of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger and the concessions accepted by the Department of Justice is compiled at the Wall Street Journal. Chicago concert promoter Jerry Mickelson makes a good point: there's more to a ticket price than the ticketing company. The cost of talent is the key driver of both tickets' face values and service fees. Competition for talent will remain in the presence of additional ticketing companies. It appears the Department of Justice expects multiple ticketing companies to have the rights to the same events and compete against one another on price and value-added services. Alternatively, this logic implies consumers choose which concerts they will attend based on service fees and not other, more important factors such as desirability of the artist, proximity to residence and day of the week. "I just don't see how this end result helps consumers," he said. "Competing ticket services really have nothing to do with concert-ticket pricing." (Wall Street Journal)

-- The LA Times’ op-ed page chimes in on the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger and finds plenty to criticize. The Department of Justice’s provisions, argues the Times, will only be effective if they’re well enforced. And it wondered just how much consumers would benefit from the increase in competition brought about by the concessions involving AEG and Comcast-Spectator. Concert ticketing lacks the competition of airline ticketing, the Times points out, where multiple vendors compete to sell seats on most flights. And, of course, the Times brings up the topic of service fees. “One thing the settlement probably will not do, however, is end those noxious service charges. Remember, Ticketmaster wasn't the only company imposing high add-on fees. The practice has become institutionalized as a way to generate profit margin for promoters, venues and ticketing companies while holding down the face value of the ticket. When they announced the merger, executives at the two companies argued that it would allow them to eliminate the practice by giving them control over more pieces of the value chain. But in many cases the problem stems from touring acts demanding large guarantees but refusing to set ticket prices high enough to cover them.” (Los Angeles Times)

-- A transcript of Apple's fiscal Q1 2010 conference call on Tuesday. On iTunes: "Regarding the App Store and the iTunes stores, we are running those a bit over break even and that hasn't changed." On the iPod and iPhone: "Given that our expectations of traditional iPod sales will decrease over time, the sequential decline may be a little bigger than we have seen in prior years. We don't have a lot of experience with iPhone, but are certainly gaining some, and given the quarter ended after Christmas, we would expect to see a sequential decline in the March quarter from December, which is we think very seasonal." (Seeking Alpha)