Those hoping for fireworks at a South by Southwest panel provocatively titled "Indie Davids Take On Goliath Ticketmaster-Live Nation" today were disappointed when the discussion remained fairly neutral and respectful. Though some audience members tried to put Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard on the spot, (particularly Chicago music critic Jim DeRogatis with a question about contributions to Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign), he remained cool and ducked the question.
Andrew Kaplan, the talent buyer for Jam Productions Ltd., opened by saying it was hard to break out the effects of the merger considering the effects of the economy on the ticketing business, but said that he had noticed the merger had opened up some new opportunities for competition. In terms of violations of the firewall set up by the DOJ to assure the newly merged companies would not have an unfair advantage, John Read from the US Department of Justice said that while there have been reports of violations, none of them have led to lawsuits. He did encouraged promoters in the audience to be on the lookout for violations and report them, though.
Hubbard added that he speaks with the DOJ on a regular basis and that it made no sense for Ticketmaster to potentially alienate other clients by colluding with Live Nation.
Boche Billions, head of indie booking agency the Billions Corporation, added that he hasn't seen life change drastically for artists since the merger, and Mitchell Frank, owner of Echo and Echoplex, said that most artists simply don't care. The panelists agreed that there was a need to crack down on scalpers and bots that can snatch up tickets and drive prices artificially higher (LCD Soundsystem's recent MSG ticketing debacle is a prime example of this).
"Civility was one of the goals, and I think we accomplished that," Ticketfly co-founder Andrew Dreskin, who moderated the panel, told Billboard.biz afterward. "We talked about the merger from the promoter, club owner, artist, the fan and the ticketing company perspectives. It was fantastic to have Nathan Hubbard and John Read from the Justice Department -- it gave Justice a good forum to address some of the questions and concerns that folks have, and I think it went well."
So on today's panel, at any rate, everyone played nice and remained cautiously optimistic -- but the next year will surely bring more developments and challenges.