Sunday, February 5, 2012

Business Matters: Is Madonna Behind Live Nation's Stock Surge ...

February 03, 2012

Live Nation Stock Jumped After Madonna Tour Announcement
Are investors excited about Madonna's upcoming tour? Or are they increasingly convinced the concert business has left its troubles behind? Maybe a bit of both.

Live Nation's stock jumped 3.4% Friday following reports that tickets for the singer's 2012 tour would go on sale after Sunday's Super Bowl. Earlier in the day Clear Channel launched the singer's new single, "Give Me All Your Lovin'," to radio stations and billboards worldwide Friday morning. Live Nation's 10-year deal with Madonna, reported to be worth $120 million, attracted many critics when signed in October 2007. But given the Super Bowl's unparalleled promotional power and the coordinated publicity push behind her upcoming album and tour, the size of that deal probably isn't weighing too heavily on investors' minds in 2012.

Michael Rapino says he is "optimistic about 2012" and AEG president Randy Phillips thinks 2012 will be "a steady year," according to a Los Angeles Times article on the upcoming year in concerts. "If people are saying it's going to be a banner year, to me that would have to be 15% to 20% more than last year," continues Phillips. "My projections are for maybe a 3% increase. But that certainly beats [revenue] going down."

Friday's bump helped push Live Nation stock up a total of 30.9% in 2012. Friday's close of $10.88 was 52.4% above its 52-week low of $7.14 set in October. Year to date, the Dow is up just 5.3% white the tech-heavy Nasdaq is up 11.5%.

Kindle Fire Building Music Platform, But Still No iPad
The iPad is the tablet of choice for music fans, but Android tablets are starting to make a better impression. For starters, Rhapsody just released an app for Android tablets that has "re-imagined the entire experience for the tablet," chief product officer Brenden Benzing said in a statement.'s Kindle Fire tablet is helping get music to Android owners. The low-price device uses a customized version of the Android operating system. I reached out to Songza CEO Elias Roman because the startup's playlist streaming app is available in the Amazon Appstore. He told me the Kindle Fire is Songza's "fastest-growing platform" and the source of the most active users than any non-Web platform - including Apple iOS and Android platforms. As Roman notes, Songza was released for iOS and Android in mid-September and didn't have much time to get a head start on Kindle Fire. Nevertheless, he's happy with the growth of the platform and its users' high level of activity with Songza.

But the Kindle Fire is no iPad. Changewave Research found 54% of Kindle Fire owners are "very satisfied" with the purchase while 38% are "somewhat satisfied," according to a mocoNews post. The firm's research on the iPad late last year revealed 74% of owners were "very satisfied." Given its $199 price tag, the Kindle Fire was never expected to compete head-to-head with the more expensive, elegant and feature-rich iPad. But Kindle Fire is doing better than competitors not named iPad: only 49% of owners of other tablets reported being "very satisfied" with their purchases.

Amazon did not specify how many Kindle Fire units it sold in the fourth quarter, but the device was a factor in its 35% increase in revenue. It its earnings release the company disclosed sales of Kindle devices - both e-reader devices and Kindle Fires - during the nine-week holiday period rose 177% over the same period in 2010 (part of the increase is obviously due to the fact that the Kindle Fire didn't exist in 2010). The company also revealed the Kindle Fire is "the #1 bestselling, most gifted, and most wished for product across the millions of items available on since its introduction 17 weeks ago." Changewave's survey of 2,607 U.S. consumers found that 6% owned a Kindle Fire.

Kickstarter Keeps Growing
There are more signs Kickstarter is making a serious impact on independent projects. The fundraising platform is becoming well known in music circles, but its impact might be greatest in the film world (where barriers to entry are higher). An amazing 17 of the films at this year's Sundance Film Festival were funded by Kickstarter. The New York Times' David Carr noted that Kickstarter seemed at times to be a movie studio at Sundance. "Funny thing about that. Kickstarter didn't greenlight the movies; the people did."

In the grand scheme of things, Kickstarter doesn't account for much of the music business. Total pledges to all music projects - EPs, albums, tours, etc. - were about $19 million in 2011. But that number is bound to grow in 2012 like it did in 2011. Google search traffic for Kickstarter has more than doubled in the last 12 months and has grown steadily over time, according to Google Trends. And that $19 million in pledges represents projects that may not have been undertaken or completed without fans' help. As John Elefante of the group Kansas explains in the video for his Kickstarter project, "Funding a project these days has become a serious challenge for most artists - even record companies would agree with that." By the way, Elefante's project has raised over $19,000 and has 49 days left to reach its $35,000 target.


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