Ticketmaster Acquires Festival Ticketer Front Gate

Ticketmaster announced Tuesday (June 9) that it has acquired Front Gate Tickets, the C3 ticketing division that had been somewhat in limbo following Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment's move to acquire C3 late last year. In a separate transaction, Live Nation has also acquired DIY ticketing platform Universe.

The move furthers LN's aggressive foray into the festival space, where it had been lagging behind in North America to rival Anshutz Entertainment Group (AEG), producer of Coachella, New Orleans JazzFest and more than 20 other festivals.

Ka-Ching! Cashless Wristbands at Music Fests Mean Big Bucks

Front Gate had been owned by a joint venture between C3 and AEG, and some had speculated that Front Gate might end up fully within the AEG portfolio. AEG already operates the AXS ticketing solution across its own large portfolio of arenas, theaters and other venues and sports teams, but AXS is still a much smaller player than Ticketmaster. Given TM's overall industry dominance, it is possible that some observers will sound the antitrust alarm, but the ticketing space is in its most competitive phase in decades due to the lowered barriers to entry afforded in the digital age. This is especially true in the festival market, and a source familiar with the deal says Live Nation has no antitrust concerns with the Front Gate acquisition and, "as a formality," cleared the deal with the Department of Justice in advance.

As the ticketing platform for such festivals as Lollapalooza, Coachella and the ACL Music Fest, Front Gate has been a leader in the festival space and an innovator in RFID wristbands and "cashless" operations at events. If Ticketmaster, the world's largest ticketing company, had a weak spot in North America, it was in this red-hot festival market. The acquisition of Front Gate, as well as Universe, makes Ticketmaster a bigger player in the domestic festival ticketing and access solutions business, where it faces competition from such companies as Ticketfly and eventix.

"Front Gate and Universe have built innovative platforms for their respective verticals, and combined with Ticketmaster's marketing and distribution capabilities we will be able to deliver the best experience for even more fans and artists. The companies continue to build on our commitment to provide the best solution for each segment of the ticketing landscape, combining the specific needs for each occasion with the power of our global marketplace," says Live Nation Entertainment President and CEO Michael Rapino.

"We are dedicated to maintaining Front Gate's fan-focused philosophy and targeted festival-specific functionality. Universe's advanced DIY ticketing and event marketing platform will not only provide event organizers with amazing tools to manage their events, but their plug-and-play distributed commerce and analytics products will also benefit clients across the entire Ticketmaster portfolio, including festivals," says Jared Smith, president of Ticketmaster North America.

Founded in 2003 as an alternative ticketing service for venues in Austin, Texas, Front Gate Tickets quickly became one of North America's leading festival ticketing platforms. In addition to Coachella, Lolla and ACL, Front Gate clients include Electric Forest, Governors, RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest and X Games, among others. Front Gate offers features specifically tailored to the festival market, including RFID-powered access control, experiential marketing, and cashless POS systems that streamline festival entry, sponsorship activations, and concession sales. In 2014, Front Gate processed over $300 million in sales, sold more than 3 million tickets, shipped over 1 million wristbands, and scanned over 2.5 million RFID chips, according to Live Nation. Sources say Front Gate President Maura Gibson will remain with the company in the same position, and the Front Gate brand will also remain.

Universe provides event organizers with marketing and management tools through its unique white-label ticket sales platform, which allows event organizers to embed a customizable "Buy Now" button to sell tickets on any website with no redirect to Universe. The company, which serves "thousands of event organizers globally," according to Live Nation's statement, saw a "seven-fold increase in sales last year."

Live Nation Acquires Majority Stake in C3 Presents

Live Nation's $125 million move late last year to acquire C3 Presents, producer of Lollapalooza, ACL, and several other festivals (and at that time the U.S.' leading independent promoter), followed an earlier similar deal to acquire leading EDM festival producer Insomniac, producer of Electric Daisy Carnival. In April, Live Nation acquired a controlling interest in the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and the 750 acre site it sits on in rural Manchester, Tenn. Already the dominant festival producer in Europe, these latest moves have made Live Nation a formidable player in the North American festival market. Live Nation, AEG (which operates 27 festivals) along with EDM promoter SFX, have been snapping up festivals at a steady pace, a gold rush in what remains the music industry's most competitive space.