Ticketmaster and Live Nation to Merge 

Plus two new venues open in Oakland's Uptown and Laurel districts.

The Department of Justice announced the approval of a merger between Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation last week. The joining together of the ticket-selling behemoth and the world's largest concert promoter will result in a new company, Live Nation Entertainment, which will control aspects of booking, promotion, primary and secondary ticket sales, merchandising, direct marketing, and more. The new company is likely to dominate the live entertainment market.

The two companies first announced their decision to merge last February, which prompted competitors, consumers groups, and some artists to argue that the merger would create a monopoly and result in a higher ticket prices. Rival concert promoters like Goldenvoice and Another Planet Entertainment use Ticketmaster, and were concerned that a merger with Live Nation would give their competitor access to all of their user data. Yet Noise Pop's Jordan Kurland said the merger could also provide an opportunity, forcing concert promoters to seek other avenues for ticket sales and thereby benefit indie clubs and promoters.

The Department of Justice created several conditions for the $889 million deal to go forward: Ticketmaster must license its ticketing software to rival Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Goldenvoice, and sell one of its ticketing divisions, Paciolan, to Comcast Spectator — in effect, creating two competitors. The merged company also will be prohibited from retaliating against venues that choose to sign ticket-selling contracts with competitors under a ten-year court order, according to a DOJ statement.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster officials say that their unified business will streamline their operations, thereby reviving the music industry and benefiting consumers. Its critics, meanwhile, are expressing cautious optimism about the deal. Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, said, "We remain concerned that these two companies, with a history of anti-consumer behavior, will abide only by the letter, and not the spirit of the settlement agreement."

Piedmont Piano Moves Uptown

Piedmont Piano opened the doors to its new location in Oakland's Uptown district two weekends ago. "It's a fabulous place to be," said Piedmont Piano owner Jim Callahan. The store kicked things off with a four-day celebration that included performances by Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, Eldar Trio, Larry Vuckovich Trio, and others.

The new space can accommodate a large piano showroom, performance space, music school and practice rooms, warehouse, rehearsal space, and recording studio. Callahan said the company is still keeping its Piedmont Avenue location for lessons because its music school is "thriving."

However the main focus of the new location will be performances — especially for jazz, said Callahan. He said that while the East Bay has jazz venues, "there's a lack of performance spaces with good pianos." Piedmont's secret weapon? The ultra-pricey, ultra-rare, Italian-made Fazioli pianos. "They make pianos that a lot of people think are in a whole other world of their own than a lot of the great pianos in the world," said Callahan.

There are only five Fazioli dealers in the entire United States, according to Callahan, and since they cost about $200,000, finding buyers isn't easy. So the fact that performers can play Piedmont Piano's Faziolis is likely to be a strong draw for performers and fans alike. He hopes to hold about forty concerts a year — from classical to jazz and beyond.

New Venue in Laurel District

Former lesbian bar Velvet is now a new venue called Lounge 3411. Located at 3411 MacArthur Blvd., the lounge will focus on roots reggae, comedy, and local bands; features a full-service bar, dance floor, stage, and DJ booth; and is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The schedule so far: Roots Shack Thursdays hosted by DJ Selecta Kurious, The Get Down Stand Up Comedy Night (every fourth Saturday), and Bands of the Bay hosted by Dan Eagan (every third Saturday).

Area Musician Slain in Antigua

Nina Nilssen, a 29-year-old graduate student at San Francisco State University, and a musician and composer, was fatally stabbed in Antigua on Jan. 19. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nilssen was on the Caribbean island as part of a cruise for her sister's wedding. The family went ashore for a midday barbecue, during which Nilssen apparently wandered off. Her body was found at 5 p.m. with a stab wound to the neck. Police arrested a 24-year-old man who they said confessed to the murder.

Three-Dot Roundup

The Berkeley Rep production of Green Day's American Idiot is opening on Broadway April 20. Green Day snagged the award for Best Rock Album at Sunday's Grammy Awards. ... Noise Pop announced new additions to its 2010 lineup, including Sean Lennon, Dizzy Balloon, and If By Yes. ... San Francisco indie-rock electro dance-pop duo Super Adventure Club holds a residency at Hotel Utah every Saturday night in February. ... Ludicra and Saviours will play the free Scion Rock Fest on March 13 in Columbus, Ohio. ... Members of local bands will form supergroups and perform their favorite cover songs at the 13th Annual One-Night Stand at Slim's on Feb. 6. ... And Swing Goth will host "Wonderland: A Tim Burton Ball on Feb. 5 at the DNA Lounge.

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