Ask not for whom the bell pings...Apple could be the company that takes down Ticketmaster

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Apple's new Ping social network lets you follow artists, find out what your friends are listening to, and even find out when your favorites will be playing near you. With one click, you can buy tickets.

But not from Apple. Instead, you'll be dealing with Live Nation. Maybe you know them better as Ticketmaster, in which case you may well loathe them with the heat of a thousand suns.

There are so many reasons to dislike Ticketmaster: their massive markups on ticket prices, their near-monopoly, the unspeakably awful user experience of their web site, their unshakeable commitment to whatever the opposite of customer service is, and their entry into the ticket scalping (I'm sorry - secondary sales) business. (No, really. They do that.)

In fact, when you think about buying tickets for major concerts, you might start to see a resemblance to the pre-iTunes recording industry. An iron-like grip on your music; outrageous treatment of artists and music fans alike; a complete lack of concern for user convenience.

Hmm.

Who has the market clout to take on Ticketmaster, particularly now that it has merged to create the sprawling Live Nation? Who has the smarts and ingenuity to take a rotten user experience and turn it into a thing of simplicity and beauty? Who has the audacity to transform an industry overnight?

Hello, Cupertino.

Imagine if clicking on a concert link took you, not to Live Nation, but to the iTunes Ticket Booth. And imagine if you could do things like paying a buck for the privilege of holding onto a block of four tickets for 12 hours while you rounded up three friends (on Ping, naturally) to go with you... or buying your T-shirt in advance for half off... or pre-purchasing a concert recording for wireless download while your ears are still ringing from those final power chords. And all for far, far less than your Ticketmaster service fees.

Or imagine you're an indy band, and you can set up a concert in Ticket Booth with a few button clicks...

I have, of course, no idea if Apple's thinking along these lines. But it must have occurred to them.

And yes, they're working with Live Nation today. But today's valued Apple business partner could be tomorrow's Apple entrée.

Live Nation wouldn't be the first company to suffer that fate. But they might be the most richly deserving one.

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