As a young musician, Nathan Hubbard ’97 joined his bandmates on stage at South by Southwest, the Austin-based celebration of up-and-coming performers. Last week, Hubbard returned to the festival for a decidedly different gig in his latest role as CEO of Ticketmaster.
Hubbard was one of five panelists who addressed the issue of ticket pricing, and judging the from panel’s title – “Indie Davids Take On Goliath Ticketmaster-Live Nation” – he had his work cut out for him. A politics major at Princeton who earned his MBA from Stanford, Hubbard became the CEO of ticketing for the concert-promotion giant Live Nation in June 2008. In January 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice approved Live Nation’s merger with Ticketmaster, putting Hubbard at the center of one of the most scrutinized deals in the entertainment business.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the South by Southwest panel was generally “low-key and free of invective.” Panelist John Read, a lawyer for the Justice Department, said that while the government continues to investigate complaints, the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger has not created the significant price hikes that critics predicted. “It’s still early,” he said, “but so far things are OK.”
Hubbard, in an interview with Wired last week, promised more sophisticated pricing in the future, noting that while fans of sports teams can choose from 10 or more price points, music venues usually offer just three choices. He also said Ticketmaster is exploring “dynamic pricing” that uses supply and demand to set prices. The overall goals, he said, are to “engage more fans through better pricing” and “get more butts in the seats.”
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