My love of music—particularly live music—led me to Ticket Masters, but the type-A, business geek in me ended-up being just as satisfied. Budnick and Baron hit it out of the park with a multi-faceted piece that moves seamlessly between interesting anecdotes, thoroughly researched facts and rich, colorful presentations of characters that at times feel more supernatural than non-fiction. The result is a book that I not only recommend highly to the core readership of this blog (rabid music fans), but also to business folk I interact with in “my other life”.
The robust research that must have been required to write this book is staggering. Chronologically spanning from the days of UNIVAC supercomputers and Led Zeppelin to e-tickets and Phish 3.0 the density of the factual information is secondary to the ease with which the text reads. On more than one occasion this prompted me to forgo sleep to read a few more pages, while the next day reflecting back on the historical nuggets I only partially digested in real-time.
Equally impressive to the unification of density and flow is the deft presentation of complex economic and social issues surrounding the industry, its myriad constituencies and particular high profile episodes such as Pearl Jam vs. Ticketmaster (as it was billed in the press). While the mainstream media glommed on to the PJ story as a modern day David vs. Goliath, Budnick and Baron paint a deeper and more profound picture involving a confluence of drivers ranging from substance abuse to leverage afforded by fame and a more complex trail of money than can be seen on the surface.
Of course no book on this subject would be complete without affording many a page to Bill Graham, The Grateful Dead and Phish. These bands (along with DMB, Red Light et al) are covered in a way that was interesting to “a head” like me, but would also be interesting and informative to the mainstream reader. Additionally, SCI is covered in detail as the band and their organization flirted with David vs. Goliath Pt. II.
Equally vivid and entertaining tales of industry titans including Ron Delsner, Michael Cohl, Robert Sillerman and Irving Azoff keep the reader wanting more and more while driving home just how dynamic and complex the industry was and continues to be. Even a piece of (carefully engineered) jargon gets its own chapter portraying how every time we use the term “secondary” as an adjective to modify a portion of the ticketing process we are validating the concept of two smarties from Stanford.
As with most things in life the ticketing world and the music industry are far more complex than they appear to be on the surface. Rather than a binary world of good guys and bad guys there are many players that exist in varying shades of grey. This is disappointing at first blush as the world of black and white is far more conducive to a panacea. However, the disappointment raised by this piece is often and materially replaced with the desire to learn more and the satisfaction in learning to accept the chaos. If you like music and have ever bought a concert ticket you need to read this book. Likewise, if you find the world of business interesting you would be remiss to not explore this complex and dynamic industry. If you fall in both of the above categories then you’ll likely find yourself like me—completely enamored with this book. Kudos to Dean and Josh on a job well done!