Discounting is hurting the touring business, said the first panel at Billboard’s 7th Annual Touring Awards and Conference, and social media can be a helpful tool – even though its actual worth may be somewhat of a mystery.

In a recession-plagued market, there is a heightened need to move unsold tickets. But this practice has brought many questions about its lasting impacts. Matt Galle, an agent with Paradigm, thinks discounting has hurt the live business. “We trained the buyer to wait until the last minute for discounts.”

Charles Attal, partner at C3 Presents, worries that discounting hurts the people who buy early – the people who care most about the artist. “The superfan gets taken advantage of,” he said.

The need for discounting can vary by artist, venue and market. Rob Beckham, agent with William Morris Endeavor, said he’s not sure there is a country artist other than Taylor Swift who will simply blow out tickets. Attal pointed out that that electronic fans are late buyers while country fans tend to buy earlier.

Kevin Martin from band The Gracious Few (and Candlebox) says his band uses the location feature on Twitter to let people in a market know about an upcoming tour. But Martin pointed out that the band has 17,000 friends on Facebook but has not sold 17,000 albums. “How gracious are you?” he asked jokingly. “The record is only ten fucking dollars.” But the levity masked an underlying issue: what does social media friendship actually mean?

If the artist is Ke$ha, a Paradigm artist, and has hit songs, social media can appear to have a positive impact. But she needs hits before social media can be put to work. A good social media campaign in an absence of hits won’t work. That’s the reality of Top 40, said Galle.

From a venue perspective, Madison Square Garden thinks Foursquare is a great tool, said moderator Liana Farnham, VP, Concert Marketing/Network Integration, MSG Entertainment. MSG did a Foursquare promotion with Phoenix in which fans checked in on Foursquare to enter to win a gold record. In general, she said, Foursquare can be used to let people know about specials, let them know when you’re in a city. “Personally, I get nervous with Foursquare. But I get it from the artist and brand-building perspective.”