New Ticketmaster Book a Scintillating Read for Sponsorship Buyers and Sellers

By Lesa Ukman Nov 8, 2011

Just finished a must-read for anyone in sports, event or entertainment marketing: Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped by Dean Budnick and Josh Baron.

A front-row view of the business of ticketing and all the businesses it touches—Madison Avenue, Wall Street, IT, radio, hospitality, artist management, concert promotion, sponsorship, fan clubs, licensed merchandise, scalping, venue management and more—Ticket Masters traces the complex, often conflicting interests among bands, talent agents, concert promoters, stadium managers, ticket agents and the ticket-buying public.

A garage start-up in 1975, Ticketmaster's rise began in 1982 when Hyatt Hotels owner Jay Pritzker purchased the company for $4 million and installed Fred Rosen as chief executive. Rosen’s focus was concerts rather than sporting events, in part because sports fans could circumvent ticket service fees by purchasing season tickets. Rosen also noted that concert fans were willing to pay higher prices to see a group who might not tour again for a year or more.

However, gaining traction would require courting not the ticket buyers but the concert promoters. With the balance of power shifting from promoters to bands in the ’80s, Rosen was able to secure exclusive rights to ticketing from promoters in part by offering a rebate that climbed to 30 percent or more of ticket service charges.

Ticket Masters details the company’s showdowns with anti-trust regulators and bands like the Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam and String Cheese Incident. It also traces the last 35 years of changes that enabled Ticketmaster to flourish, such as the rise of technology, pop music, outdoor arenas, corporate sponsorship, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and media consolidation.

The book includes interviews with concert promoters Don Law, Barry Fey, John Scher and Brian Becker, EMCI founder Jay Coleman, former CAA exec Tom Ross, USA Networks’ Barry Diller, and Fred Rosen, in addition to Jerry Weintraub—who managed John Denver and promoted concert tours before becoming a film producer—Michael Cohl, who lured the Stones away from Bill Graham, and SFX founder Bob Sillerman, who consolidated the concert business buying PACE, Cellar Door, Avalon, Delsener/Slater, Bill Graham Presents, Contemporary Group, Concert/Southern Promotions, Blackstone, David Falk’s FAME, Magicworks, Event Merchandising, Livent, Hendricks Management, and others. The authors point out that Sillerman’s vision was not about rolling up the entertainment business but rather aggregating an attractive audience to sell to sponsors.

1975: Ticketmaster is founded by two Arizona State University students 
1982: Jay Pritzker purchases company for $4 million, bringing in Fred Rosen and beginning a period of growth
1991: Main rival Ticketron is acquired, giving the company market dominance. 
1993: Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen pays $280 million for controlling interest in Ticketmaster
1996: Ticketmaster goes public, launches online, travel and magazine ventures. 
1997: Barry Diller acquires 47 percent of company, merges online service with CitySearch
1998: Diller's USA Networks buys out Allen’s stake, acquiring the remainder of Ticketmaster
1999: Diller spins off online operations into a new public company, retaining 60 percent ownership. Contract signed with SFX giving Ticketmaster exclusive ticket rights for seven years
2000: Acquisition of Admission Network and ETM Entertainment Network
2010: Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger approved, debut of Live Nation Entertainment


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