Man, if I had the power to move markets the way some of these Wall Street analysts do, I would be one seriously dangerous dude.
And yet here I sit in my Long Beach office, happy when I can help a friend move a few tickets for a show, relegated to a place known as Reality where my words and predictions are tempered by context, actual facts and hopefully your own skepticism, which if you read my stuff, I openly encourage and invite.
After a week chasing down this story that SiriusXM is buying Live Nation narrative, I happy to kick this one to curb and officially declare “it ain’t happening folks.” It’s nothing more than a thought experiment pushed by two Wall Street analysts who have plenty to gain from making wild predictions about the music industry and not much to lose when their predictions fizzle out.
That’s not a knock on Wall Street analysts, who I think perform an important function in our financial system, but I’ve never believed that Wall Street or the investor community have some kind of predictive advantage over the industries they cover — at least in the entertainment industry. Corn and soy futures? Sure, commodities traders probably have insights the public doesn’t, but I just don’t believe that an investment banker knows more about the music industry than the people who work in the music industry and could explain why combining SiriusXM and Live Nation really wouldn’t make any sense for anyone except maybe Liberty Media.
Funny story before I further write about one of the analysts pushing this narrative. In the interest of having a future relationship with this person, they will go unnamed for this story, despite this analyst going into overdrive with press releases and media appearances pushing his belief that SiriusXM would buy Live Nation in the next one to two years because “it just makes so much sense” and “everyone can see how this is a win-win-win.”
These bold predictions came just one day before the Live Nation investor call for Q2 and of course myself and Amplify/Billboard’s Taylor Mims tuned in to the call to see if CEO Michael Rapino would address a possible merger. When the time to take questions opens up, our analyst friend is the first up and he asks three questions, but never asks about the Sirius acquisition.
I was floored. This guy is pushing this narrative all week and when it’s his moment with the big boys, he doesn’t seek any confirmation for the theory he just spent the last week propping up.
I’m incredulous at this point, and I shoot this analyst an email asking for an explanation. He quickly calls me and tells me he had a conversation with “a very high-level person at Live Nation” prior to the investor call and was told Live Nation would not be commenting on speculation, so in the interest of time and brevity, he didn’t mention the merger.
ARE YOU FREAKING SIRIUS?
I am no Wall Street analyst with a degree from an Ivy League school (UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs baby!) but I might be able to use my own skills of deduction I’ve picked up in my travels to explain this one. Perhaps this analyst didn’t ask Rapino to address rumors about a SiriusXM merger because he knew either Rapino or President Joe Berchtold would have told him the rumors weren’t true and maybe even mock him for nonsensical certainty.
Now that’s just a working theory. It’s also interesting that the previous day, a different analyst, Jessica Jean Reif Cohen with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was on the earnings call for SiriusXM and posed a question about a merger with Live Nation to CEO James E. Meyer, who threw cold water on the idea. Here’s exactly what he said:
I don’t have any comment on Live Nation. I’m not even quite sure where some of that speculation is coming from. It’s not coming from SiriusXM. But — and by the way, I will tell you, Michael Rapino is a board member of SiriusXM. I’m thrilled to have Michael on our board. We have, I think, growing and strong cooperation between Live Nation and Sirius as we figure out how to both use assets that we have to both improve our business. But for me, that’s about it.
SiriusXM’s David J. Frear had even stronger comments, telling Cohen “We kind of get the need for people to sort of generate attention, and it’s true in any publishing community,” (Note from Dave: Thank you for not uttering the phrase ‘fake news’).
“For me, I wake up in the morning and I see headlines and research piece, it’s a little bit like going into the supermarket and seeing that Paul (McCartney) is dead or Sasquatch has sat down for candid photos or aliens abducted somebody’s baby,” Frear explains. “There are lots of headlines that could get put out, but it’s not clear that they all have all that much to do with reality.”
Read between the lines folks — this whole theory is BS. Now is there some synergies and is it possible that something could happen in a year or two. Yes, and I outline that in further detail here. But this whole episode is driven by hype and it’s honestly kind of a distraction — albeit a highly entertaining distraction — from actual pressing issues.