Company Town : From Ticketmaster, It’s Live! Magazine
Ticketmaster Corp. made its name by beating competitors in the $1.6-billion live entertainment ticketing industry. Now the Los Angeles-based firm is entering another ferociously competitive business: magazine publishing.
Live!, a glossy monthly conceived by Ticketmaster President and CEO Fredric Rosen and devoted to “celebratory” coverage of live entertainment from music to theater to sports, has launched the magazine with a cover story on rocker Bruce Springsteen and an initial circulation of 500,000. The magazine is scheduled to hit newsstands Tuesday, with subscribers receiving issues as early as this week.
Ticketmaster sources said the company will spend as much as $20 million for the start-up, which they do not expect to turn a profit for at least three years.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years,” said Rosen, who added that the magazine will focus on “the positive aspect of why people leave the house and do things. . . . There are enough places already to find negative news.”
Ticketmaster executives know something about negative news. The privately held company--which is 80%-owned by Seattle billionaire investor Paul Allen--made headlines during a 14-month dispute with the rock band Pearl Jam, which contended that Ticketmaster charged concert-goers excessive service fees. The group ultimately gave up plans for a nationwide concert without Ticketmaster, but not before winning the sympathy of many fans.
Rosen and Publisher Carole Ference deny that the magazine will be used solely as a promotional tool. But they note that its initial subscriber base grows out of a monthly guide that lists Ticketmaster events; that guide will now be included in Live!. The cover price will be $2.95, with an annual subscription rate of $18.
Publishing industry analysts expressed doubts that Ticketmaster, for all its clout and marketing reach, will be able to compete for readers and advertisers with several more established players, notably Time Warner Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly and Wenner Media’s Rolling Stone. Live! Editor Annie Gilbar, a co-founder of Time Warner’s In Style, has promised a soft-edged approach, which may have trouble standing out in a crowded field, some experts said.
“Ticketmaster is a big critter,” said John Masterton, an editor at New York-based Media Industry Newsletter. “But I find it hard to believe that a company that makes its living promoting live events will publish a magazine with enough of a tough bite to become a must-read.”
Masterton compared the concept of Live! to that of airline in-flight magazines, which are “easily digestible but also forgettable.”
But Ticketmaster has defied the odds before. When Rosen joined the company in the early 1980s, it was a tiny software firm with just $1 million in annual sales. Competitor Ticketron led the ticketing market for rock concerts and sporting events.
Rosen gradually won over venues nationwide by developing a more efficient computer system and offering better financial terms. To do this often meant playing hardball with tour promoters and aggressively hiking prices for consumers. By 1991, Ticketmaster had purchased the remnants of Ticketron, its only major competitor. In 1994, it reported revenue of $240 million.
Ticketmaster executives hope to use their 23-million-household database, as well as phone services and ticket envelopes, to reach potential readers of Live!. Major advertisers on board for the first issue include Calvin Klein, Chrysler, Estee Lauder, Guess and Toyota.
Ference, a veteran publisher with previous stints at House Beautiful and the defunct Connoisseur, describes the target readership as upscale professionals with a median income of about $52,000. “But it’s less of a demographic [consideration] than an issue of focusing on people who go out of their homes and love the experience of live entertainment,” she said.
Gilbar said she and her 20-member editorial staff will cover music, theater, dance, opera, sports and even such seemingly offbeat topics as circuses. The March issue will feature a cover profile of Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders. Neil Simon, Carrie Fisher, Robert Palmer and Pat O’Brien will write regular columns.
Gilbar predicted that Ticketmaster’s contretemps with Pearl Jam will not preclude access to other heavy hitters.
“Pearl Jam is one small--and popular--rock band,” Gilbar said. “We want to move on beyond that. . . . If Pearl Jam had a great story, we’d want to do it.”
Rosen, promising that Live! will not be used as a public relations arm of Ticketmaster, pointed to an article in the premiere issue about old ballparks.
“Fenway Park is not a Ticketmaster client,” he said, “but it’s a great old ballpark” and was included in the article.
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Top Entertainment Magazines
1995 ’94 ad ’95 ad % Title (Publisher) circulation pages pages change TV Guide (News America) 14 million 3,178 3,229 1.6% People Weekly (Time Warner) 3.4 million 3,196 3,328 4.1% Entertainment Weekly (Time Warner) 1.2 million 1,425 1,555 9.2% Us (Wenner Media) 1.2 million 600 678 12.9% Rolling Stone (Wenner Media) 1.2 million 1,783 1,871 4.9% Vanity Fair (Conde Nast) 1.2 million 1,085 1,412 30.1% Premiere (Hachette Publications) 617,000 763 728 -4.5% Spin (Camouflage Associates) 409,000 738 934 26.5%
Source: Publishers Information Bureau