Op-Ed: 'The Public Doesn't Understand Ticketing'

Op-Ed: ‘The Public Doesn’t Understand Ticketing’

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“‘A public relations nightmare’: Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program”: https://bit.ly/2MLd4ps

The public doesn’t understand ticketing. People believe they’re entitled to a front row seat for face price to all shows. Furthermore, they’ve been abused. They used to line up and now they’ve got to get up in the morning to find out they can’t buy tickets and all the seats are bought by bots. Those damn scalpers, they’re the problem!

Only they’re not. First, blame the acts. Second, blame Ticketmaster.

Music is opaque. The most immediate medium, only the song is for real. After that… Well, there’s studio trickery and lies. But this is an industry built on hype and image, and no one wants to mess with that. They say the show is sold out when it isn’t. They say the act has reached a milestone when it hasn’t. Meanwhile, you still want to go and experience your favorite act live.

Recorded music distribution has been worked out, with streaming. But acts HATE IT! Because it reveals truth. I.e. nobody is listening to your music. Used to be you could fake it, with radio play and artificial statistics. Now you’re not in the top fifty, not even in the top hundred, and people cherry-pick the hits and you’re not making what you used to and somehow it’s the streaming service’s fault.

But the streaming services are run by youngsters praying to a different god. Tech is all about transparency, there’s a different playing field. I’m not saying there are not shenanigans, but much fewer, and the music business HATES THIS!

Music has been a thug business. Based on intimidation forever. Music wants no light shined upon it the same way Trump doesn’t want you to see his tax returns. If you saw how the sausage was made you’d be horrified. And heads would roll.

Will heads roll at Ticketmaster?

Now what you have to know is all the money is in ticketing. Once Clear Channel became Live Nation and Michael Rapino failed in trying to get the acts to take a haircut, promoters have overpaid the acts, given them all the ticket revenue, the profit is in the ticketing itself.

The fees. Those don’t all go to Ticketmaster. They’re shared with the building, the promoter, sometimes the act itself. But almost all the profit is in selling the ticket itself. That’s the essence of the CBC article, one people will miss while they rail at the damn scalpers.

“…resale tickets are particularly lucrative for Ticketmaster because the company charges fees twice on the same ticket.

So, for example, if Ticketmaster collects $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the initial sale, when the owner posts it for resale for $400 on the site, the company stands to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket.”

That’s all you need to know.

All this Verified Fan hogwash, all these paeans to the customer, they’re all secondary to the bottom line. It’s very simple, this is a business, Ticketmaster is part of Live Nation, and the company is public and the numbers have to go up. How can they?

Well, via festivals and sponsorships. Festivals are owned by promoters and there’s tons of money left over after paying the acts, assuming the gig is successful. And sponsorship is the hidden profit center. But really, it’s about those fees. All those shows promoted by Live Nation, think of all those profits on those resold tickets, that’s GOLD!

So what happens now?

The acts are afraid of looking greedy. They don’t want to charge what the ticket is worth. There’s been some improvement, with gold circle/I Love All Access, great seats for their true market value. But the rest of the house?

Then there’s flex pricing. Works for the Stones, but they’re in a league of their own, and they’ve been seen as mercenary for decades. As for Taylor Swift… The grosses were high, but fans were pissed off at the prices and sales were soft, especially in the U.K.

So what’s the solution?

Either sell the tickets for what they’re worth or go paperless.

But no one likes these options. Ticketmaster makes less money, the act is seen as ripping-fans off and these same fans want transferability, they don’t want to be tied to the ticket, in some cases the fans are trying to resell the tickets themselves, although this is a fool’s errand in today’s bot culture.

But, once again, all the blame is put upon the scalpers. The bad guys. Who are giving people what they want, the ability to pay fair price to attend shows. The scalpers are not going away as long as tickets are underpriced. And now that Ticketmaster has integrated the scalped tickets with the primary scalping has been institutionalized.

You might see this as an inability to stop technology, but really it’s nothing of the sort. This is all about making MONEY!

Will there be a Congressional hearing? Will there be laws? Elected officials can’t understand the ticketing business and the laws always get it wrong.

Since Live Nation is a public company will heads roll?

Possibly, look what happened after the #MeToo movement.

Furthermore, especially in this era where experience is king, don’t expect fans to hold back, they want to go.

So I don’t expect any real change.

But there could be.

 


Responses from Bob’s readers – please note that these comments are unedited for grammar or content and do not necessarily reflect the views of CelebrityAccess or its staff.


Subject: Re: The Ticketmaster Nightmare

Hi Bob,

I am in charge of the fan club and band tickets for an act who play amphitheaters, “sheds” and arenas.

I have to fight for a reasonable allotment for our fans (and the band’s guest list) and often lose. Credit card companies, sponsors, venue “patrons” and yes, Ticketmasters “Platinum” ticket program, are all allotted a HUGE majority of tickets before the sale ever reaches the public.

We have one of the biggest agents in the world however they have better things to do than to help me fight the 30+ individual venues for a better allocation. Even if we have the language in the contract to delineate our requests they simply strike it. So, our fan club members get a scattered amount of tickets in the first 5 rows and then random tix across the venue. Every pre-sale I get angry emails from fans about the available tickets. ESPECIALLY when it is a TM venue that shows the available tickets as people can see how many tickets are not available 10 seconds after the pre-sale starts. I then ALSO receive the angry emails the day before the show when all of those “holds” are released. “I paid to join the fan club and paid for a VIP package fee and got 12th row and now I see 2nd row is available for face value”. Or, “I paid $275 for a VIP package and the person next to me bought their ticket two days ago for face value”. This happens at EVERY show.

The days of blaming the scalper are over. All the above (including the band) are also the scalpers. However, in my experience the allotments to other parties are higher (and often have better seats) then the band is allotted. The age of social media has definitely increased transparency in all sectors of the ticketing business but most fans still expect great seats if they login right when a pre-sale or public sale begins.

In the mid-eighties I camped out overnight for numerous shows and was always one of the first in line. I ALWAYS received first or second row. Mostly front row. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

My name is withheld for obvious reasons and I am not using my main email (but happy to let you know who I am if you want and keep it anonymous – we had dinner together years ago) 🙂

Cheers!

PS: Love that you stayed at Fergusons. I enjoyed talking to Tony at an event a couple years ago and he spent most of the conversation talking about it and how he loves the stimulation from the community vibe of his tiny house community. I didn’t get it at all. It’s the total opposite of the vibe I enjoy (solitude) but he did get me thinking… maybe I need to change.

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Subject: Re: The Ticketmaster Nightmare

CBC and the Toronto Star caught them doing what they have told us they don’t do and don’t facilitate and want legislation against.

As for the fake sells outs- that can reduce interest- people assume its sold out

True story

My wife and Pal wanted to go to “hot ticket show”. Sold out no tickets at face+

I call a friend on the tour to ask about buying- they are papering thousands Free tickets for us.

These guys with the public companies have little accountability and don’t act like they plan in being there next year

2 cents

TS

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Subject: Re: The Ticketmaster Nightmare

Hi Bob,

I’ve been on the warpath all week with Ticketmaster. I was diagnosed with Stage 4b endometrial cancer 12/2017. Surgery 1/24/18. Six rounds of carbo/Taxol chemo from 3/20/18 until 7/2/18. CT scan three weeks after my last chemo. My amazing surgeon/gynecological oncologist, Leslie Boyd, MD at NYU Langone tells me I’m N.E.D. No Evidence of Disease. They saved my life!

My son (28-year old only child) gets me a $400.00 Ticketmaster gift certificate for Christmas. I hold on to it, as I’m diagnosed with cancer two days before. My 59th birthday was September 7. There’s a single front row center seat on Ticketmaster to see my favorite act, Tedeschi Trucks Band, opening night of their Beacon Theatre residency October 5 for $699.00 before fees. To me, this show is worth the price. My son gives me a $500.00 for my birthday to make my wish come true. I go to buy the seat, shaking with excitement.

Can’t complete the sale, and spend two days before I get a Ticketmaster customer service rep on the phone. Well, it turns out you can’t use a Ticketmaster gift certificate to purchase a seat on the Ticketmaster website if it’s a Ticketmaster resale. I’ve been paying the resale prices for years. Never would have my son waste his money if I knew about this policy. You have to dig through the gift certificate FAQ’s to find this information. Also found out you can only use one gift certificate per show. I’ve attached a copy of my gift certificates to show you how deceptive the actual gift certificate looks.

I used twitter for the first time this week, posted on their Facebook page, my Facebook page, my public Instagram www.instagram.com/colleenrubinophotography and have responded to two emails with no success or resolution. That ticket is still for sale. Ticketmaster is a monopoly. They didn’t care about my situation, and I will do my best to purchase my resale tickets from StubHub going forward. I am still passionate about live music, but fed up with these schemes. Thank you for listening. Love your work!

Colleen Rubino

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From: Corey Spears
Subject: Re: The Ticketmaster Nightmare

I find it interesting that the article leaves out how it affects artists. As a bass player for a developing country regional act, we make our money off of touring. We get paid on guarantees. We justify our guarantees with ticket sales, alcohol sales, and other forms of generating revenue for the venue so we can get paid. We have had 500 plus people in a show drinking constantly and get paid 1-3k. If they make 10k or more we are getting a small portion of that.

Although the author is well meaning, they seem to be void of a solution to combat these issues. The “solution” is limited to “scalping is evil ohhhh fake accounts” without looking at how much venues screw us. Or how much pay to play is in the industry with media purchasing.

Our band gets lectured on our overall numbers even if the venue itself didn’t promote the event. Honestly, the secondary ticketing sites fill a gap. The gap being poor promo by the venue/promoter/talent buyer.

As far as the fans go, this is how we get good deals because the idiots at the door try to upsell way too much. Then the price goes down and they take a loss, which we get blamed for.

These guys should worry more about how to help the artist and less about the poor venues which they are calling “fans”. If they were doing their job correctly we wouldn’t have to rely on scalpers to promote our shows.

“Well hey Corey shouldn’t that be in your rider?”

Yeah, good luck getting them to sign it unless you are big.

“Well, contracts?”

Generally, you have to go to court in the venue’s area for litigation. It’s way too expensive for us to even bother with. Artists are getting screwed constantly. Again although well meaning, they offer no solution. Scalpers help us put asses in seats since society decided music was free, but God forbid we hurt the precious venues.

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Subject: Ticketing and your upcoming event at City Winery

Bob, we are looking forward to having you at City Winery on your tour—very cool. We wanted to make a comment about ticketing, as this is one of the many reasons that since opening, City Winery ticketing has been paperless. 10 Years ago we looked around but decided to build our own ticketing solution to serve our fans. We’ve offer a loyalty program called “VinoFile” where the fan doesn’t pay any service fees and gets 48-hour advance notice of concerts before the public on-sale. It’s been tough and we’ve had lots of challenges, as we are not a technology company, but a music venue (that also makes wine:) and in 6 cities now and growing, but we’re proud to keep ticketing in-house. While not giving Live Nation or AEG a run for it, we are now selling over 500,000 tickets a year, we make most of our money from the sale of Food and Beverage, and let the artist take the disproportionate amount of the ticket income. It seems a good balance especially to our older audience who appreciate an intimate, yet luxury concert setting and great wine list, real food, and wine served in Reidel glasses, not plastic cups. We look forward to hosting your event here at City Winery NYC next month! https://citywinery.com/theloft/lefsetz-vs-flom-at-the-loft-10-18.html

Michael Dorf
CITY WINERY | FOUNDER & CEO

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