Rife with grandstanding, posturing, a stunning lack of understanding of the industry on the part of politicians, humor, compelling characters and no small amount of drama, the subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights hearing on the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger on Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C., was nothing less than fascinating.

Positively riveting. That was good Internet TV, man. It even had a dramatic title: "The Ticketmaster/Live Nation Merger: What Does it Mean for Consumers and the Future of the Concert Business?" It makes one want to add "and the future of humanity?"

Once a sort of closed society, an underground of the music business filled with pirates, poets and visionaries, the concert business on Tuesday was laid out there for the world to see. As a guy who has covered this business and its characters for more than 20 years, I was kind of proud to see this former stepchild get so much attention. And, like a fan who discovered Bruce Springsteen in a club back in the early 1970s, I felt a twinge of jealousy that the mainstream media, Wall Street and, God help us, politicians, were horning in on my turf - our turf - this coolest of businesses.

I think the four men who testified that are actually part of this business, who know it and live it and survive in it, did a fine job of stating their cases and presenting their arguments. Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, Jam co-owner Jerry Mickelson, and I.M.P. co-owner Seth Hurwitz, all men I know and respect, performed well in this spotlight. We saw Mickelson's toughness, Hurwitz' passion, Rapino's vision and Azoff's intellect and rapier wit.

This David A. Balto fellow, "senior fellow," actually, from the Center for American Progress Action Fund (sounds like a very conservative organization), I do not know and I can't say his histrionics impressed me. I will say that he made his points well, primarily "Big equal bad. Small equal good. Fans mistreated. World ends." Azoff and Rapino could use a "fellow" like that on their side.

I'd like to think I've maintained long, healthy relationships with the players in this industry because I'm fair and I present all sides of an issue, I hope in a way that provides insight on a given tour, concert, deal, etc. I have to be Switzerland. As a journalist, I can't take sides, and I won't here, except to say this merger faces, in the words of another well-known conflict, a long, hard slog.

It appeared to me that the politicians- Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) - came into this with preconceived notions and knowing full well which side of this issue Joe Public will be on. Rightly or wrongly, fans have spent many years hating on Ticketmaster, and they don't mind going after Live Nation, either. Again, big is bad, small is good. Small cares about you more. Big is only after the money, screw you.

Life simply isn't that black and white. Frankly, both Mickelson and Hurwitz have taken a hard line about the anti-competitiveness of the post-consolidation concert world for many years, and they're both still in business. I think they're in business because they're smart, savvy, instinctive promoters and great talent buyers, which they already were before this craziness began back in the mid-1990s. By the way, Senator Kohl, don't you own the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks? Don't they play at the Bradley Center? Isn't that a Ticketmaster Building? Just asking.

Still, independents like Hurwitz and Mickelson have legitimate beefs and concerns and I applaud them for taking a stand. Letting a competitor have access to your sales data is like KFC giving that secret recipe to Popeye's. That should not be allowed to happen. Likewise, I've heard plenty of people, including my friends who are fans, bitch about trying to buy tickets on Ticketmaster at onsale and immediately being referred to TicketsNow, the secondary site. Rapino and Azoff, respectively addressed those two issues in what I feel is a candid manner. Of course, they kind of had to, given they were being grilled. They have a plan, and maybe the could have presented it a little better, but this wasn't exactly the friendly confines. As an aside, how much would I love to interview these guys under oath, forced to answer every question? If that were the case, I feel certain I'd ask better questions than these politicians did.

The politicians, particularly Schumer, tried to bully the big boys. But the big boys didn't back down. They've endured much tougher conversations, as have Hurwitz and Mickelson, just not in the public eye. They've been thrown out of worse places than that. Again, it was fascinating to watch all of these guys, these concert business playas, doing their thing. I'd put any of the four up against any politician, any time.

The fact of the matter is, no one really knows what the fallout will be if this merger goes through, but it puts the focus squarely where it needs to be in the music business: on the live thing. Because, regardless of how this shakes out, the live thing is king. And these four gentleman represented the live thing well indeed.

Ray Waddell is Billboard's executive director of content and programming for touring and live entertainment.

For the latest news on the merger click here.