As the Internet has supercharged ticket sales for top acts like Madonna, ticket brokers are inventing new ways to grab the attention of music fans.

"Besides allowing people to purchase tickets at lightening speed, the Internet also plays a large role in reaching out to consumers," said Tom Patania, president of the National Association of Ticket Brokers.

In an effort to get a jump on the market leader Ticketmaster, Beverly Hills-based Live Nation teamed up with Facebook last week to create a social network for ticket sales called My Live Nation. The network allows fans to customize their search pages to receive a personalized touring calendar tailored to their musical tastes.

Live Nation has been gaining momentum in the concert promotion arena, recently moving into the No. 4 slot of the nation's top ticket sellers, following Ticketmaster and its subsidiary Tickets Now and independent seller StubHub, according to TicketNews, which publishes rankings for the ticket industry.

The move to the Internet is one of several initiatives from Live Nation to expand its reach into the music business. In the past few months, the company has signed Madonna and rapper Jay Z to record deals, acquired a handful of merchandising companies and announced plans to start its own ticketing agency once its deal with Ticketmaster expires next year.

Funny Pages

Looking to cash in on the comic book superhero phenomenon, the Walt Disney Co. recently formed Kingdom Comics, a graphic novels and feature-film projects division. The venture is part of a multiyear agreement with late musician Frank Zappa's son Ahmet Zappa, a comic fanatic and author of the novel "The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless," which Disney purchased as a development possibility. Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek are coming on board as executives of Kingdom.

This isn't the first time that Burbank-based Disney has launched a comic book franchise. In 2003, Disney teamed up with Gemstone Publishing to create Disney Comics, which mostly featured traditional animated Disney characters like Mickey Mouse.

Desperate Times

At least two Los Angeles radio talk show hosts and a local radio trade group blasted the Los Angeles Times recently for what they say was a misleading ad claiming that the paper and its advertisements reach more people than do drive-time local radio stations. The ad campaign sent afternoon radio talk show host Tom Leykis KLSX-FM (97.1) into an on-air rant, threatening to call on his listeners to drop their subscriptions.

The Times declined to comment on whether or not Leykis listeners had any impact on subscriptions. Evening radio talk show host Tim Conway Jr., whose show also airs on the same station, called the ads an act of desperation.

The Times ad ran in the sports section and read: "Sorry Radio, but the numbers send a clear signal." The ad claims that ratings research shows that the "20 top radio stations" in L.A. and Riverside/San Bernardino counties reach fewer people than an ad in the Times.

What the ad doesn't say is that the Times promotions gurus didn't take into account ratings from the top 20 radios stations, said Mary Beth Garber, president of the Southern California Broadcaster's Association.

"There is a big difference between the top 20 radio stations and 20 carefully chosen radio stations," Garber said. "Two of the stations they chose are public stations and don't even accept 60-second spots. And they didn't include bilingual or Spanish language stations."

According to Garber and her organization, the Times reaches 3.5 million people in L.A. and the top 20 radio stations reach 11.8 million. Times executives declined to comment on the issue, instead referring to an e-mail crafted by John O'Loughlin, Los Angeles Times Media Group president, targeted media and senior vice president of marketing. In the e-mail addressing Garber's complaint, O'Loughlin writes that the company double-checked its research supporting the ad claims and it made no errors.

Channel Deals

A new type of ratings system being tested by the Nielsen Co. played a pivotal role in the negotiations that led to the Hallmark Channel getting its programming in the country's top markets.

"We were able to create reports and analyses for our affiliate and local sales teams that helped us get those carriage agreements," said Jim Bono, Hallmark Channel's vice president of research. Besides supplying network research teams with critical ratings data in an easy-to-understand manner, the new Arianna Multi Market system delivers ratings information almost instantaneously.

With the testing now complete, Hallmark announced last week that it had entered an agreement with Nielsen, making the channel the first in the nation to adopt the new system. The Hallmark Channel is owned by Crown Media Holdings Inc. Both are based in Studio City.

Staff reporter Brett Sporich can be reached at or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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