Is There a Price Reduction in Ticketmaster’s Future?

The San Francisco MusicTech Summit takes the pulse of the industry.

A LiveNation manager said last week that using Ticketmaster is about as fun as online banking, while Ticketmaster’s “service fees” — which can be as high as $27 per ticket — are driving customers insane and must come down.

Such candid remarks from‘s Noah Maffitt at the San Francisco MusicTech Summit made the essential gathering a huge hit on the web and in-person. Held at the Hotel Kabuki, the thrice-a-year industry summit attracted hundreds of technologists, artists, and middlemen for eight hours of moderated talks. Among the meatiest panelist cuts: Musician Ben Folds, Tim Westergren of Oakland-based Internet radio company Pandora, UC Berkeley’s Dave Wessel, Rhapsody‘s Tim Quirk, and‘s forthright Maffitt.

In the heated panel on technology and the live show, Maffitt essentially said that Ticketmaster’s technology doesn’t warrant the hegemony it possesses over the ticket market, and the company — bought by LiveNation in 2009 — is on a mission to update it. Maffitt didn’t have a timeline for a better, cheaper, less-galling Ticketmaster experience, but he knows the clock’s ticking as alternatives like Andrew Dreskin‘s TicketFly angle toward Ticketmaster’s share.

Music is the preeminent social network, the panelists noted, with just 1.8 percent of people attending shows alone. Problem is: the average Joe goes to around one show a year, and 35 percent of all concert tickets go unsold. (My personal solution: more “two-for-one” specials.)

Other notable highlights included LimeWire ducking out of its headlining appearance because of a brutal court ruling that could allow the recording industry to eviscerate the file-sharing company. The “Music and Money” panel featured a LimeWire cardboard advertisement instead of Jason Herskowitz during a fiery discussion between Rhapsody’s Quirk, Michael Robertson of (the record labels are also suing him), and Cisco‘s Daniel Scheinman.

Superbly moderated by file-sharing data analyst Eric Garland of BigChampagne, the discussion noted that labels are still suing their fans and the tech companies trying to serve them. CD sales continue to fall while digital sales aren’t replacing them. The labels have gotten smaller, and physical product is still their focus. And personal data, like your Facebook friends, is the new marketing gold.

Also, oddly, dance music has been the genre to most successfully and totally divorce itself from the ailing music industry. The production, sales, distribution, and consumption of “dance” music is vibrant and untethered — local artists like Kush Arora own the net, savvy labels like Ubiquity and OM snuggle up with customers and leak them songs, while cracking venues like Mezzanine show people a well-curated, good time via promoters like Blasthaus. Whether it’s A-Trak‘s Fool’s Gold or Diplo‘s Mad Decent, “dance” is on fire, and you would never know it if that ain’t your thang.

Net Radio Notes: Even though the Internet ended the hegemony of a major-label star system backed by Big Radio, the old order is not going quietly into the night. Bagel Radio‘s Ted Leibowitz notes Internet radio stations are still suffering from ludicrous royalties that are extremely disproportionate to royalties paid by satellite radio. The richest, most influential group — terrestrial radio — pays zero performance royalties. Royalties are set in Washington, DC, where the National Association of Broadcasters lobby wields incredible power. These onerous royalties almost killed Oakland’s Pandora, and they gutted the vision of local company Live365. Bagel Radio is still on the air, and the years-long fight goes on.

Miscellaneous Debris

The annual music-craft street fest Rock Make Street is seeking bands to play its third event, reports The Bay Bridged, a co-organizer of the event. This year’s expanded festival, which takes play August 22 in San Francisco’s Mission district, will featured 3 stages, 15 bands, and 100 vendors. Bands must submit their materials by May 31; vendors have till July 19. … Monthly international “ambassadors of dread bass” party Surya Dub will celebrate its three-year anniversary on Saturday, May 29, at Club Six. The event will feature Ninja Tune‘s Poirier, plus the Surya Dub crew. 10 p.m.-3 a.m., $10, $15. … Local band Silian Rail has signed to Bay Area-based eco-conscious label Parks and Records. The duo’s new album, Parhelion, will be released this summer. … San Francisco’s Sonny & The Sunsets have been added to the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival July 16-18 at Chicago’s Union Park, joining fellow SF outfit Girls. … Swing Goth celebrates its third anniversary on Friday, June 11, at DNA Lounge. Set to perform at the “Death Rock Sock Hop” are Lee Presson and the Nails, Fromagique, and Barry Syska‘s Fantasy Orchestra. Plus free dance lessons. 7:30 p.m., $15, $20. … The US Air Guitar Regional Championship takes place on Saturday, June 5, at The Fillmore. The winner that will go on to compete at the national finals in New York on July 22, as well as Live 105‘s BFD on Sunday, June 6, at Shoreline Amphitheater. 9 p.m., $20.


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