Live Nation Nixes Some Service Fees

Live Nation is opening the summer season with a promotion every Wednesday that eliminates some ticket fees, the surcharges that have caused fans to revile its soon-to-be merger partner, Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc.

Live Nation is scrapping fees for U.S. amphitheater lawn seats this summer in a 24-hour sale on its Web site starting at 12:01 a.m. in every local time zone on Wednesday. Fans will save around $9 to $12 on a ticket that typically costs $20 to $25.

Artists playing at the 43 Live Nation venues covered by the promotion include Aerosmith, Coldplay, Phish, Nickelback and Kid Rock. Five million tickets are up for grabs this Wednesday.

The company plans to continue the promotion, though on a smaller scale, every Wednesday this summer.

“We know people hate fees,” said Live Nation’s chief executive of global music, Jason Garner. “We just want to have one day to say to fans, ‘We’ve heard you loud and clear and appreciate your support. Escape and enjoy a great show.'”

Despite the recession, the company said in May that ticket sales for its summer concerts were ahead of last year’s pace. Still, there’s room to sell many more tickets. Live Nation says about 40 percent of all concert seats go empty. And for a typical summer concert, more than half of the 13,000 lawn tickets at a 20,000-capacity venue are left unsold.

Ticket surcharges usually help pay the ticket-selling company — often Ticketmaster — and the venue owner. The artists typically collect most of their revenue from the base price of the ticket.

By launching its own ticketing Web site in January, Live Nation became able to cut the surcharge in hopes of making that money up in other ways from people coming to the venues it owns.

Live Nation’s move to sell its own tickets also threatened to take a 15 percent bite out of Ticketmaster’s annual sales. But the companies announced merger plans in February. This proposed combination of the largest ticket-seller and largest concert promoter sparked an antitrust investigation that is still ongoing. The companies expect their merger to be completed in the second half of the year, assuming regulatory approval.

Ticketmaster experimented with its own kind of no-fee tickets starting last year when it baked the surcharges into the price of tickets for Eagles concerts.

After the merger, Garner says, the combined company might adopt the promotional formula Live Nation is trying.

“If it works, everybody benefits,” he said.