Live Nation-Ticketmaster Merger Approved in U.K.

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The proposed merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster took one giant step toward becoming a reality yesterday as the U.K. Competition Commission approved of the union, which would join the biggest ticketing and artist management company with the largest concert promotions company. The last obstacle to the proposed merger is approval from Canada and the United States, where the Department of Justice is reportedly in the final round of review before finally deciding whether to allow the massive venture.

According to Live Daily, the U.K. Competition Commission ruled "the merger will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in the market for live music ticket retailing or in any other market in the U.K., including live music promotion and live music venues." The merger had previously been approved in both Norway and Turkey.

As Rolling Stone previously reported, when Live Nation launched their own ticketing service in January 2009, the move seemed designed to loosen Ticketmaster's grip on the ticketing industry. The two companies then engaged in an arms race of sorts, as Ticketmaster paired with Front Line Management while Live Nation signed artists like Jay-Z and Madonna to powerful 360 deals. After only a few months, however, the two bulked-up companies decided to merge, which drew skepticism from many corners of the music industry.

"We are very pleased with the Competition Commission's decision to clear the merger. Today's clearance is an important milestone in the regulatory review process, and brings the companies a step closer to creating a new kind of live entertainment business," managing director of Ticketmaster U.K. Chris Edmonds said in a statement. "During the course of this merger process, we have listened to our fans, artists and other parties. We have reassured them that by combining the resources of these two companies, we will deliver a better live music experience for the entire sector."

As Rolling Stone previously reported, a wide variety of interested parties from members of Congress to Bruce Springsteen have questioned the proposed merger. Its opponents argue that Live Nation Ticketmaster would have a monopoly on the touring industry by controlling both a large share of the ticketing and major venues in the U.S.. Recently, the National Association of Ticket Brokers, the National Consumers League and several other antitrust and consumer groups teamed up to attack the merger with a new Website called TicketDisaster.org.

"As the Department of Justice reaches the final round of reviewing this merger, only one question must be answered: will the merger lead to increased prices, poorer service, or less innovation? In this case, the answer is all of the above, which is why this merger needs to be blocked," reads a statement on TicketDisaster.

When rumors of the merger first emerged, Springsteen — whose fans faced a debacle when they were inadvertently redirected to Ticketmaster's secondary market site TicketsNow and paid higher prices for E Street tix — wrote, "The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing. If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives."

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