Live Nation Expanding Into Russia
Live Nation Expanding Into Russia

Innovation the Theme as Live Nation Posts Steady 2011 Financials
-- Live Nation is clearly intent on pushing forward rather than protecting what it has. In the company's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call, the company's executives talked extensively about the initiatives to improve platforms, engage consumers and sell more tickets.

Live Nation Revenue Down 4.2% in Fourth Quarter

The financials held steady. Live Nation posted revenue of $5.38 billion in 2011, up 6.3% from $5.1 billion in 2011. Concerts revenue rose 2%. Chief executive Michael Rapino called concert demand "stable despite economic uncertainty" and credited "improved execution" for growth in adjusted operating income. The promotion side of the company continued to evolve and expand. Live Nation added offices in South Korea and Croatia. It launched 10 new festivals in 2011. And it took advantage of the rise of electronic music by promoting 148 electronic concerts and festivals that brought in nearly 700,000 attendees.

Full-year ticketing revenue jumped 14.5% (6.7% if the 25-day pre-merger period in the first-quarter of 2010 is included for comparative purposes). Ecommerce increased 64.3% to $144.4 million. Revenue from the Artist Nation management segment of the business rose 8.5% to $393.1 million as key artists were "far more active" in 2011 than in the previous year, chairman Irving Azoff said. Sponsorship revenue grew 11.1% to $179.7 million.

Estimated North American attendance increased to 31.06 million in 2011 from 30.7 million in 2010. International ticket sales declined slightly to 15.7 million, helping pull down total attendance about 1%. Ticketmaster's ticket sales rose 11% to 141.4 million.

In the fourth-quarter, concert revenue dropped 12.1% to $694.4 million and ecommerce had a healthy gain of 63.3%. The other segments experienced single-digit gains: Artist Nation 6.7%, ticketing 6% and sponsorship 1.6%.

Tracking the time given to certain initiatives during earnings calls is usually a good indication of companies' objectives. Innovation was a recurring theme in Thursday afternoon's call. "We made data a priority in 2011," Rapino said. The company consolidated nine data sources into one LiveAnalytics database with over 200 million fans and 110 million who have opted in for email updates. In addition, the company acquired BigChampagne to help drive Live Nation's sales and fan engagement.

Rapino also emphasized the investment in improving the Ticketmaster platform. The company will invest $75 million on the overhaul and spent about $15 million in 2011, chief financial officer Kathy Willard said. Ticketmaster plans on launching new search and inventory services as well as additional venue reporting and yield-management tools, Rapino said.

One notable innovation is Pricemaster, a dynamic pricing tool created in partnership with MarketShare that will allow ticket prices to fluctuate according to changes in demand. Rapino said dynamic pricing is going to be used for "most" of Live Nation's amphitheater shows this year and 100 of those shows are already confirmed by artists. Of course, Pricemaster will need to win the support of artists to be successful. Live Nation is starting internally with Live Nation promoters and Front Line artists. "Most" have been through training and can "easily" sell it to artists for the summer concert season, Rapino said. Azoff is already on record about Front Line artists' support of dynamic pricing. "Every major artist is understanding the upside here," he said in August.

Rapino said the company expected "continued, strong consumer demand" in 2012 and forecasts both concert revenue and ticket sales will finish the year with single-digit gains. Numerous signs point to a steady 2012 for Live Nation. Front Line signed Mariah Carey and entered into a multi-rights deal with Big Time Rush (Columbia/Nickelodeon), Azoff said during the call. Ticketmaster will launch apps across all platforms in all markets. A handful of festivals will be launched this year, bringing the total to 50 around the globe. And the company will continue to expand.

On Thursday it announced the formation of Live Nation Japan, a joint venture with Creativeman Productions in Tokyo.

Spotify Gets Up to Speed With New Features
-- Spotify now offers gapless playback and crossfade, among other new features. It's hard to say how big a difference these features will make, but it brings Spotify up to the speed of some competing music players. Gapless playback is especially important for some genres, namely DJ mixes, where songs tend to flow into another without a break. It's obviously not a major feature for listeners of single tracks and playlists. But for those people who want to experience an album as it's meant to be experienced, heaving to hear short gaps between songs can be a big annoyance.
( Spotify blog)

Restorm Launches Music Licensing Platform
-- Restorm, a developer of online tools for marketing and monetization, has launched an online music licensing platform called rightclearing (yes, all lower case letters). The service provides a simplified solution for licensing music for a variety of commercial and private uses. A partnership with Rumblefish gives rightclearing customers access to that company's catalog of five million songs. One interesting feature allows the customer to drag and drop a file to the online interface to get a list of suggested licensed songs available for purchase. Artists get 100% of the prices they set and can set up licensing shops on their websites and Facebook pages.
( Restorm blog)