Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 13:42 UK

Live Nation ex-boss rues merger

By Georgie Rogers
6 Music News reporter

Madonna's Sticky & Sweet tour was her first major venture with Live Nation

The former managing director of Live Nation believes a merger with Ticketmaster would be bad for music fans and would bump up ticket prices.

Stuart Galbraith, who helped organise Live 8 and runs Sonisphere Festival, has been making his opinions known to the Competition Commission in the UK.

It is currently looking into the deal between the two entertainment giants.

"A company that would have that level of monopoly would potentially only have a detrimental effect," he explained.

But Ticketmaster claims the 2005 Office of Fair Trading inquiry found that an existing 10-year agreement between the two giants limited UK booking fees.

Less competition

Ticketmaster, the world's largest ticketing company, and Live Nation, the world's biggest concert promoter, announced in February that they were merging to form one company.

Speaking to BBC 6 Music, Stewart Galbraith - who was fired by Live Nation in 2007 for breach of contract - said he was not keen on the idea: "I don't think it would be a good thing.

"I think competition is good for the customer and good for everybody that participates in live music."

And the former Live Nation boss does not agree that a merger would lead to cheaper booking fees.

"I can hardly see how you get two companies which both have a history of charging high booking fees then going, 'Great, let's bring booking fees down'.

"I think you'll actually see the opposite and booking fees go up," he said.

Live Nation responds

Paul Latham, chief operating officer for Live Nation Europe, said it was a "misleading" misconception that the companies demanded the highest service charges in the world.

I think competition is good for the customer and good for everybody that participates in live music
Stewart Galbraith, former managing director of Live Nation

He said that in the UK, the partnership between Live Nation and Ticketmaster had helped to keep ticket prices down, with the inquiry four years ago showing their booking fees were less than other promoters.

As for the US, Mr Latham explained: "Where higher fee structures are more prevalent, that is representative of a culture where artists/promoters/venues/retailers/agents have shared in the added charges pushing them to current levels.

"Live Nation have always listened to the people they serve, be they the artists or the ticket buyers, and in the US where there has been a backlash to excessive service charges we have been running No Service Charge Wednesday promotions for the last two months."

'It's the opposite'

Paul Latham stated Live Nation had no interest in the prices going up.

"We have to guarantee huge sums to artists and it's the artists that benefit from ticket prices going up and it's us that puts up the risk," he said. "We'd prefer ticket prices to come down, because we'd be taking less risk."

Mr Latham added that with record sales in decline, artists were turning to touring to supplement their income, which could, in turn, be bad for them as they were "a long way down the food chain".

"The pressure is on us as promoters to deliver money for them. We stand to lose more if we don't sell the tickets, and one of the reasons you don't sell tickets is if you price them too high," he explained.

Ticketmaster declined to comment.

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