It's unlikely Ticketmaster's ticketing relationship with Live Nation will be renewed when it expires at the end of next year, based on an internal Ticketmaster memo obtained by Billboard.biz.

The memo states, in part, "While it has been our sincere desire to create a new long term partnership [with Live Nation], we now believe it is doubtful we will extend our agreement when it expires at the end of 2008. Live Nation has been a valued client for a very long time and we believe we've taken every reasonable step possible to facilitate a renewal, but they seem intent on a direction for their business that leaves us no viable way to work together."

The contract between Ticketmaster and Live Nation dates back to 1998 and Live Nation's predecessor, SFX Entertainment. Venues acquired as part of Live Nation's House of Blues acquisition last year are contracted with Ticketmaster through 2009.

Ticketmaster struck the deal with what became Live Nation as consolidator Robert F.X. Sillerman rolled up concert promoters and their amphitheaters into SFX, and the deal held forth when Clear Channel Communications bought SFX for $4 billion in 2000 to form Clear Channel Entertainment. After Clear Channel spun off CCE to form the independent, publicly traded Live Nation, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino publicly expressed an interest in tapping into new revenue sources, including concessions and ticketing (Billboard, March 4, 2006).

Now Ticketmaster is preparing to move forward without a client -- one of 9,000 that represents what sources say is about 10% of Ticketmaster revenue. "We are now conducting our business with the clear understanding that our partnership with Live Nation is more than likely coming to an end," the memo states. "We will continue to fulfill our obligations under the agreement until it expires and Live Nation will receive outstanding service from us every step of the way."

Live Nation has appeared to be setting itself up to handle ticketing in-house. Last year, Live Nation acquired a 51% interest in Musictoday, the acknowledged leader in the direct-to-fan space through artist e-commerce and fulfillment, and artist fan club ticketing. Through Live Nation's acquisition of a stake in CPI, the company also acquired another player in that realm, UltraStar. Live Nation has also significantly ramped up livenation.com to the point that its unique visitors are approaching 3 million per month, second (if distantly) only to Ticketmaster's 21 million unique monthly visitors as a live entertainment destination.

Sources close to the relationship say Ticketmaster sells between 14 million and 15 million tickets per year to Live Nation events (music, theatrical, family shows, motorsports), generating about $100 million in service-charge fees for Ticketmaster, which saw revenue of nearly $1.1 billion in 2006. But more than the millions of dollars a year in rebates that service charges from ticketing can generate, it is likely that much of what is driving Live Nation's decision is the value of ticket-buyer intelligence and data, and the inherent value
in marketing and sponsorship it holds.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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