LN & Viagogo Go Dutch

When Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently signaled his interest in entering the secondary ticketing market to a Goldman Sachs conference audience, he didn’t let on that his company was on the verge of a deal to do exactly that – at least in the Netherlands.

U.K.-based ticketer Viagogo and Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts division announced an agreement to join forces in the northern European outpost, the first such strategic partnership between a concert promoter and ticket reseller.

A co-branded Web site has been developed, called Live Nation Ticket Trade powered by Viagogo, to provide Dutch fans with a way to buy and resell concert tickets securely and with transactions guaranteed. LN, in turn, not only shares in the revenue but the all-important market data that comes with it.

Tickets not available through Live Nation’s primary ticketing system – whether for sold-out shows or charity auctions – can be obtained through Viagogo’s system, which is capable of validating and reissuing legitimately obtained tickets.

"It’s clear that fans want a convenient, safe and secure way to purchase tickets on the secondary market," Mojo Concerts chief marketing officer Roberto Traxel said in a statement. "This partnership with Viagogo ensures that music fans can confidently purchase tickets for our events in the Netherlands through Live Nation Ticket Trade that are 100 percent guaranteed to be valid."

It has to be considered a landmark agreement – the hostility of the music industry toward ticket resellers and auction sites like eBay and StubHub runs long and deep. That anger is understandable, given that the perception of resellers and auctioneers is generally akin to that of scalpers who profit from an industry they have made no investment in.

The secondary ticket market has been giving promoters fits as far back as "the days of the Romans and the gladiators," Viagogo CEO Eric Baker acknowledges. The solution for the concert industry, he said, is to embrace it.

"You have three choices as an industry: Pretend it doesn’t exist, say you’re going to get rid of it (and, after you get rid of it, get rid of death, taxes and gravity), or try to work with it and embrace it for the best possible solution in the world we live in," Baker told Pollstar.

If the name Baker rings a bell, it should. Baker co-founded StubHub as a college student at Stanford University in California in 2000. He has since left that company and put out the Viagogo shingle in Europe. It should be noted that Viagogo opened a U.S. division in August 2006 and made no bones that it wants to challenge the dominance of Baker’s former company.

"What’s happening now is people are becoming educated as to the difference between online secondary ticketing with Viagogo and what we would call ‘touting’ over here," Baker told Pollstar from his London office. "We are the solution, not the problem."

Rapino apparently agrees. Though neither Live Nation nor Viagogo disclosed the terms of the agreement, including the revenue split, they are clearly testing the waters in the Netherlands. Baker and a Live Nation spokesman told Pollstar there are no immediate plans to expand the partnership beyond that country, but didn’t rule it out, either.

"Viagogo is a global company. We operate across Europe and across North America, Live Nation is a global company, and the music industry is a global industry," Baker said. "We’re launching in the Netherlands, but we all work in a global environment. We hope to see lots more. When you have a seminal event like this, you have to start somewhere."