The proposed merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster is clearly not in the best interest of the music business or the consumer, according Anschutz Entertainment Group president/CEO Tim Leiweke.

The proposed merger "troubles us," Leiweke said during a keynote Q&A with Billboard's Ray Waddell today (March 5) at the Billboard Music & Money Symposium in New York. "It's not good for the industry." Later, he added, "I find it ironic that some think this merger will fix the business" and result in lower ticket prices."

The Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger is now before the regulatory review of the U.S. Justice Department. "I trust [the Justice Department] to do the right thing," Leiweke said, noting that "we can't have one entity" dominating the live music business.

Leiweke pointed out that Live Nation produces two-thirds of concerts held at the country's top 50 arenas and top 50 amphitheaters, and that Ticketmaster accounts for 94% of the ticketing. "This merger won't create a new idea on how to sell more tickets," he said. "It's all about the bottom line." Consequently, the consumer will ultimately end up paying more, he predicted.

Later in the session, Waddell asked Leiweke how AEG's relationship with Live Nation was before the proposed merger and if it has been impacted since the Feb. 10 announcement. "It was better and yes it has," he responded.

Still, he hopes to continue doing business with the live entertainment company. "Our arenas are always open to them," he said. "They used to be our largest client, but they only did three shows at the Staple Center (in Los Angeles) in the last year." (An executive from Live Nation tells that the company has promoted six concerts at Staples Center in the past 12 months.)

Lieweke also reiterated that AEG does not plan to follow in the footsteps of Live Nation by signing "360" deals with artists. "We view ourselves as partners to the labels, not their competitor," he said.

The AEG chief said that labels do a good job of developing and distributing artists, but added that AEG wants to step up to the plate more and help develop acts. The future of the concert business, he added, depends on the company pursuing such a strategy.

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