By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated February 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM EST

The first and biggest question about the proposed Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger is whether it will even happen. The Justice Department said this week that it’s opening a probe to see whether the two music-industry giants would be creating an illegal monopoly if they join forces. (Live Nation is the world’s biggest concert promoter, Ticketmaster runs the event ticketing game, and the companies already have their hands in a few other areas of showbiz, too.) It’s unclear just how that will shake out. But even if the government ends up okaying the merger, there’s another important question in the air: How will this move affect you, the ticket-buying, concert-attending consumer?

It’s impossible to answer that question definitively unless and until the merger actually happens. Personally, though, I’m pretty skeptical of anything that involves centralizing corporate control over an entire field of business this way. Executives from the two companies did their best to persuade fans that they’re on our side in an L.A. Times story today: “We’re not looking to gouge the public with higher ticket prices,” said Ticketmaster honcho Irving Azoff, while Live Nation head Michael Rapino promised, “In my business, the cheaper the ticket price the better.” That’s all well and good, as long as Azoff and Rapino keep to their word — which we have no way of knowing that they will.

Am I being too cynical here? Maybe. But that Times story is long on rhetorical arguments (Rapino: “If we don’t do something, where will the innovation come from?”) and very short on concrete ideas about how this merger could actually help fans. And given the shenanigans that my friends and I experienced when we tried to buy tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s tour last week, I guess I’m not in the mood to extend a whole lot of benefit of the doubt toward these companies. How about you? Are you wary of the Ticketmaster/Live Nation deal, or do you think it could be the start of something great for live music fans? Or do you even care?

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