Screwed again?

>> Saturday, February 14, 2009

And in other bad news, Ticketmaster and Live Nation are attempting to merge. If successful, instead of two mammoth corporations exercising undisputed control over live concerts at larger venues (and many mid-sized ones, as well), there will be only one.

This one's a funny one because it's an instance of bad news that doesn't actually make things worse than they already are--I mean, obviously there's a major antitrust issue, and it would be great if the Department Of Justice took time off from sweeping possible war crimes under the carpet to step in and prevent a monopoly with a vertical and horizontal presence in the music industry, but the sad truth is that it really doesn't make that much practical difference as to whether you have one corporate behemoth charging $200 for tickets (before service fees, including the three-dollar fee for printing the damn things yourself) or two corporate behemoths charging $200 for tickets. They don't even have to engage in formal price-fixing at this point: "They're charging $200 for The Police? Well, shit, I guess we can charge $200 for The Eagles!" And so it goes.

And then they'll wonder why the industry is struggling.

Now, here's a sort of interesting question. You may or may not have noticed--I think it probably depends on where you get your news--that a number of President Obama's top DOJ picks are Recording Industry Association Of America attorneys and/or former copyright-extension advocates. Appointments have included Tom Perrelli and David Ogden as well as Donald Verrilli. Mr. Perrelli, who represented the RIAA on a number of cases involving alleged file sharers--cases in which he argued for expansive discovery procedures and a broad reading of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act while defending his client's failure to comply with DMCA notice provisions--will be in charge of the antitrust division. Anyway, the question is whether there's a conflict-of-interest if DOJ goes after the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger when the RIAA--a former client of these guys--potentially has an enormous vested interest in the outcome? Although there's a subsidiary question, too, as to which way that interest runs: on the one hand, cutting a deal with a ticket-retail Borg could be lucrative for the RIAA, but (on the other hand) the conglomerate looks more like it would be a threat to RIAA labels.

One is reminded of the "Whoever wins, we lose," tagline from Aliens Vs. Predator, actually.

Although there's been a bit of hyperventilating on the net over the DOJ appointments--go scroll through recent entries in Slashdot and Boing Boing, I'm too lazy to chase down the posts and comment threads myself right now--I'm not really sure the RIAA lawyers going to DOJ is going to have much effect on policy. It's the legislature that's involved with extending copyright and defining piracy--the DOJ simply enforces those laws. And it's the Library Of Congress that sets royalty rates--if you're concerned (as you probably should be) with the fact that internet "radio" will probably be dead within the next few years, it's yet again the legislative branch that has something to say about it. Assuming that DOJ merely enforces the laws that are on the books, the fact that a significant number of upper-level DOJ lawyers are former music-industry insiders doesn't amount to much, really. (You didn't really think the DOJ was going to take up the question of whether the RIAA violates antitrust or racketeering statutes any time this century, did you?)

I'm very nearly tempted, in the end, to steal the wonderfamazing Ms. Janiece Murphy's recurring Who Cares? Magazine feature and slap a bigassed Who Cares? on all of the above--Ticketmaster and Live Nation conspiring to find a new way to screw the music-loving public, the DOJ being overrun by lawyers who formerly spent their time suing grandmothers and housewives and college students and twelve-year-olds on behalf of billionaire corporations so out-of-ideas that all that's left for them to do is to sue their customers. But, clearly, I do care, it's just that there's not a lot to be done for the situation. Well, that's not entirely true: you can write your congressperson about internet royalty rates or to complain about the next round of extensions to copyright (it's now author's life + Avogadro's number, right?) or latest proposal to castrate Fair Use doctrine; you can hope that your letter or petition somehow weighs more than the sack of money that the industry lobbyist brought to that expensive lunch last week contributed as a matter of civic duty to your public servant's re-election campaign (sorry, I think I was about to imply something about legislators' personal integrity--my bad).

But really what it's time to do is get ready to pay even more for your music habit if you've got one. In a time of recession, this may mean really looking around for your spare change: bend at the waist, extend your arms, and grab your ankles for stability. I'm sure there's a dropped penny down there somewhere. You just need to relax and focus your attention on the ground.

If you don't think about it too much, maybe you can even learn to enjoy it.


5 comments:

Leanright,  Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 2:19:00 AM EST  

100% in agreement with you.

That's all.

Shocked?

vince Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 8:23:00 AM EST  

I also agree with you, but much of the music I listen to and purchase is from mid-tier and independent artists, where concerts are done at smaller venues not associated with Ticketmaster.

I vote with my money, and in these economic times, I'm very picky about what I purchase music-wise. I don't go to concerts if I have to use Ticketmaster, and I don't buy DRM music.

I care, but my way of dealing with the stupidity is by not contributing money to it.

Jim Wright Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 10:55:00 PM EST  

I can't remember the last concert I went to. I won't pay ticketmaster, period.

I like small bar bands anyway, and I'm happy to pay the cover for a night of good beer and a small venue. But not if ticketmaster is involved. Fuck 'em.

Random Michelle K Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 11:19:00 PM EST  

Is this a good time to mention that Mountainstage comes regularly to Morgantown, and the WVU arts series has allowed me to see artists from Liz Phair to Bruce Hornsby & Ricky Scaggs and Muddy Waters to Nickel Creek (three times).

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