Free Ozzfest ticket offer puts advertisers in front of fans

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Ozzy Osborne's high-profile music festival Ozzfest and its sponsor Live Nation are taking a new approach to ticket sales this year, by giving away free tickets via interactive Web sites online.

This year, tour sponsors including Sirius Satellite Radio, Monster Drinks, World Wrestling Entertainment, Hustler Lingerie, JVC Mobile, For Your Entertainment and Jagermusic.com, a marketing division of Jagermeister, will pick up the cost of any overhead, and bands will perform for free on multiple outdoor stages.

Though touring is where most rock groups have traditionally earned their revenue, the advent of online downloading has led to a decrease in CD sales, so the exposure to the millions of fans that will attend the 24-date tour may be enough of an investment. Calls to Live Nation and the Ozzfest organization were not returned in time for press deadline.

"This is a complex and radical new approach in the concert industry, and it seems to be working - with a few early hitches in the ticket distribution scheme," said Ian Christe, host of "Bloody Roots" on Sirius Satellite Radio's heavy metal channel Hard Attack and author of "Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal."

"Bands profit from merchandise sales and the increased status of having played Ozzfest In fact, most bands appearing in past years have paid huge sums in marketing co-op cash for the honor of appearing before an Ozzfest crowd."

To get free tickers, music fans can sign up at www.ozzfest.com to receive an e-mail which gives a promotional code worth the cost of admission. Users must enter the code on the Live Nation Web site at www.livenation.com to sign up for free tickets. This interactive element lets advertisers and bands build their lists while engaging consumers in their Web sites and the gift of free entertainment.

In addition to customer engagement and list building, the venues and bands alike hope to increase concessions sales and merchandise sales, since concertgoers might have more cash in their pockets when they arrive.

"The take from each 12-hour Ozzfest event is big," Mr. Christe said. "Thirty thousand metal fans eat and drink a lot of water, beer, pizza and vegetarian pita wraps."

The only problems so far have been that some fans have been unable to get tickets to their local event - big cities have seen tickets go fast. Many venues saw the tickets go within hours, and did not give all fans enough time to redeem their prize. A number of fans posted unhappy comments on the Ozzfest MySpace page and on the Ozzfest forum, some even expressing an interest in buying tickets.

However, there are still special VIP packages on sale to fans who want to purchase special access to the show. The "Party Like a Rockstar VIP Package," will get a preferred seat in the general admission pit or in the first few rows and access to a VIP viewing platform; the "I'm Part of the Show VIP Package," gives fans access to the VIP platform and get up on stage with Ozzy; and the "Ozzfest Platinum Package," will be auctioned for charity to 10 guests per show who get to meet Ozzy and his band.

This is one of the only times admission has been free for a US touring festival, though hard rock musician Sammy Hagar has also recently offered free concerts to fans.

"The only major player I've heard mention a free ticket model is Sammy Hagar, who would also stand to earn double in merchandise, and since he owns a tequila company, concession sales," Mr. Christe said. "With both Ozzfest and Hagar, it's a gamble to catapult your brand awareness above all competitors, at the risk of selling out your bottom line."

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