Jim Carroll: Amazon will have a fight prying gig business from Ticketmaster

The unstoppable online behemoth may meet its match taking on Live Nation-owned ticketing agent

 

The live music business may be about to get lively thanks to the arrival of a monied new player on the pitch. Amazon has quietly added live music and festival tickets to the never- ending list of stuff it’s selling on the site. If you want to buy tickets for the upcoming Bestival or Camp Bestival, for instance, you can now do so on Amazon Local.

One of the key differences about buying the tickets from Amazon is that the price you see on the page is the price you pay when you check out. It’s not like Ticketmaster or other ticketing services, where service charges and other transaction fees are loaded onto the final price. For example, a weekend adult ticket for Bestival currently costs £196 (€277) on Amazon versus £216 (€305) on Ticketmaster.

So, says you, it will only be a matter of time until we’ll be able to buy tickets for all events through Amazon and give the much-loathed Ticketmaster the heave-ho. If only life was that simple.

Despite the welcome arrival of competition in the field, it is highly unlikely that we’re going to see a rush of live shows moving to Amazon, for several reasons.

Where to begin? First, there are the existing ticketing contracts, which Ticketmaster will have with many venues. While tickets for some shows are currently available from a number of ticketing agencies, Ticketmaster usually controls the majority of the inventory, and thus most ticket buyers have to deal with them.

There will also be long- standing agreements in place with concert promoters to ensure they use Ticketmaster to flog the tickets for their shows. As we saw from various cases before the Irish courts in recent years, rebates that depend on the volume of business the promoter does with Ticketmaster are another reason for promoters to stick with the ticket-selling giant.

And don’t forget the fact that Live Nation now owns Ticketmaster and so has a financial interest in promoting shows.

The manner in which tickets are sold is a prime example of inertia in the live music business. Despite the huge changes brought about by technology on the record side of the business, the gigs and festivals side of the house continues to operate in much the same way as was standard a decade or longer ago.

The same players are in place, which ensures there’s a cosy permanent establishment prepared to keep things firmly old-school, often to the detriment of paying customers. When it comes to innovation, it really does seem as if the live music business just doesn’t want to know.

It will be interesting to see if Amazon’s entry into the market is a sign of things to come. As we’ve seen from other business sectors such as book publishing, Amazon’s arrival usually means a massive shake-up for existing players.

However, in this case, Amazon may find that the vested interests around the live music, gigs and festivals business turn out to be a much harder nut to crack.

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