Last week, we briefly mentioned how sad it was that Ticketmaster/Live Nation’s boss Irving Azoff seems so confused into thinking that stronger protectionism really is better for content creators. In that post, I mentioned that last year I spoke with a few top Live Nation execs, who appeared to understand the value of treating customers right, and looking for ways to enable CwF+RtB-style business models. They even talked about using companies like Zappos — a company which has built up incredibly loyal customers though amazing customer service, even if it means taking a big financial hit itself — as an example to learn from. I have to admit that I was impressed, but realized the company had a huge negative image to overcome — and that merging with Ticketmaster wasn’t going to help. Still, I thought that it would be quite a story if the company really could embrace that kind of thinking and rebuild its reputation.
So far, it doesn’t look good. Beyond Azoff’s bizarre anti-consumer tweeting, the company’s plans seems to be about as tone deaf to consumer concerns as you can imagine. Now, obviously, this is a giant company, and it has Wall Street investment bankers to please, so it has to tell some sort of numbers-based story. But, the story it’s telling is basically “we can squeeze more money out of consumers and artists overseas, so we’re going to focus on that,” which isn’t compelling to anyone (artists, fans or investors — who note that the company hasn’t had as much success overseas).
It seems like perhaps there’s a tale of two views at Live Nation: one that’s actually focused on building out a sustainable business, and the other that appears to have gotten data happy. I’m a big fan of collecting and analyzing as much data as possible, but it’s possible to get lost in that data at times, and lose sight of the big picture. So, right now, the data is telling Live Nation that US fans don’t want to pay as much, and US artists want a bigger cut. So it wants to focus elsewhere. But, it seems to be forgetting to figure out why that is. Azoff seems to want to blame file sharing, but that’s a red herring. Perhaps the company should look at the company’s own image and how widely it’s hated out there. People pay for Ticketmaster/Live Nation tickets in spite of the company, not because they like the company.
Azoff apparently scolded investors asking him questions about the company’s poor performance, blaming them for not “getting the message.” This is the same approach the company recently took in trying to explain its ticket fees, saying that the problem was that fans just didn’t get what Ticketmaster was doing. Blaming everyone else for just “not getting” you, isn’t an approach that’s going to win over many people. You need to actually start showing people through actions.
One of the reasons why the company’s margins might be so tight in the US is that it has focused on trying to squeeze every last dime out of fans without giving them enough value in return. Zappos isn’t the cheapest retailer out there, but people buy from them because they know the experience is worth it. Perhaps Live Nation/Ticketmaster should take a step back from the data and look at ways to actually wow fans and artists with an experience that over-delivers, rather than has them holding their nose every time they have to hand over money. That is, why not focus on actually adding value, rather than looking for every nook and cranny to charge people more.