Live Nation Ticketing is live. The bulk of the world's largest promoter's 10-year contract with Ticketmaster has expired and the company has now launched its in-house ticketing company.
"Anytime you have a major rollout, you hold your breath and hope there are no major glitches," Live Nation CEO of global music Jason Garner tells Billboard. "We went live over the [holiday] break and I didn't hear one complaint from anybody about the system."
Garner admits the rollout was "pretty complex, only because we had a bunch of events that had to be transferred from Ticketmaster over to Livenation.com. The rollout went as flawlessly as we could have hoped. I think in general you'd have to call it a major success."
The bulk of the events transferred from Ticketmaster to Livenation.com so far are club shows, as existing ticketing contracts remain in effect for most larger indoor venues. "What we went live with was our own venues, and no amphitheater shows are up yet," Garner points out. "So it was a bunch of small club shows, which in many ways is more difficult because of the volume."
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said in a presentation to investors today that the company has already sold more than 177,000 tickets at 52 of its own venues and expects to sell more than 40% of total tickets at livenation.com in 2009 compared with just 11% last year.
As the launch moves forward, Garner says the primary facet of Live Nation controlling its own inventory is flexibility. "Our goal is always to have a system built around being able to satisfy what the artists and fans want," he says. "We realize in this economy the guy that gets creative and thinks outside the box on ways to create new revenue is going to win. It's about creating new music products for the fan."
The secondary market, as it does in all facets of the live music industry, is sure to play a major role, particularly as the amphitheater season looms. Though Garner declined to discuss specifics, he did say, "We're now able to really work with artists to go out and capture secondary revenue and put it in the gross by controlling revenue. That can offset a lawn ticket going from $25 down to $20. We're uniquely positioned in our amphitheaters because we own them and have access to so many different sources of revenue. That alone, with our own ticketing system, has given us a real flexible ability to meet the needs of this economy."
Live Nation, like the rest of the primary industry, seeks greater control of the secondary market and the revenues it generates. "There's that opportunity to capture revenue that's just escaping right now. The fact that there are millions and millions of dollars in revenues the artist isn't seeing and the promoter isn't participating in, when the artist and promoter are the only two invested parties in the show, that just doesn't make any sense," Garner says.
Another part of the plan is better conceived scaling of the house. "Through simple multiple scalings in the reserved section, coupled with VIP ideas and secondary options, it's an easy mathematical equation that says you can offset a reduced lawn ticket by being a little bit smarter in how your price the reserved," he says. "Its not anything revolutionary. Sports teams do it all the time."
Garner touts the ability for fans to choose and view their seat locations at Livenation.com, similar to the airline industry. "It starts to give the fan a little more comfort that the system didn't just pick a seat for them," he says. "It's incumbent on us to improve access to tickets, price them fairly and really create value in those lower priced levels so fans have access in this economy to the tickets they want."
It is likely that more Live Nation tickets will be priced "all-in" as opposed to service charges being added on. "We're trying to strip the structural rules off and say to artists, 'How do you want to reach your fan? All-in price, status quo, a lower service charge on the lawn? We're just trying to be real flexible and keep options open so we can serve artists," Garner says.