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'Lord of the Dance' Flatley takes on Ticketmaster

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 business commentator

Dallas, TX – Las Vegas: probably as much money exchanges hands there as on Wall Street. Well, there's a new boy in town and he's taking on the giant monopoly, Ticketmaster. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Midday.

Michael Flatley, Lord of I'm-Going-To-Tap-Until-I-Die, is permanently bringing his "fastest feet in the world" according to Guinness, to Las Vegas - in his own casino. I suppose it was only a matter of time before an Irish-themed casino joined the international gambling strip. But what's making his $750 million venture more unique, if that's even possible, is Flatley will not sell tickets for his show through Ticketmaster. He told CNBC this morning, it's "my customer base," and he's going to service them on his own.

Right now in Vegas, Ticketmaster gets 10 percent of all ticket proceeds. For just the top shows in the city without clocks, there's about $50 million a year in ticket sales. Flatley alone, breaking box office records in over 30 countries, tallies $75 million a year in sales. And he wants to give the people what they want: no middleman with quick easy access to his shows. In fact, he's not even waiting for the casino the new casino - he's already begun his revolt.

The computer software that enables the swift purchase was designed by Cygnus - one 1-800 number, or one online site. Or you walk into the lobby and purchase tickets through a hand-held PDA - without a surcharge. He's hoping the rest of the Vegas entertainment acts will follow his defiant move. That's a hard one to call.

There's about a rock band a year that tries to go up against the Goliath Ticketmaster. There are also venues that have mustered up the strength and courage to do the same only to realize their pockets weren't as deep as their opponents. Ticketmaster sues and acts are canceled.

The only way I can see this working is if we the purchasers had our own revolt. We can try. For KERA Marketplace Midday, I'm Maxine Shapiro.


Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 p.m.

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