Last week at the Pollstar conference, Irving Azoff hosted a panel with Garth Brooks, Jim Dolan and Makan Delrahim about ticketing.
It is not about Ticketmaster.
Irving started off by reading a multi-page explanation of the situation from the one true perspective. THE ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE!
There is no show without the artist. To point the finger at Ticketmaster is to miss the point. Today, Live Nation finally fought back, and announced the desire for a Fair Ticketing Act. You can read the announcement here.
Turns out Garth Brooks is hands-on, a student of the game. He participates in on-sales. Yes, you can adjust prices and inventory, even add shows during the on-sale. You can limit how high ticket prices flex. This is built into the system, most managers are hands-on, not all, but to have an act this involved is rare.
And another thing about Garth, he knows the fans, because he started out as a fan. Someone asked a question about underplays. Garth responded that too many people are left out, unhappy, that as much as we like an intimate show, for superstars it is impractical, other than a special occasion. The key is to make the most fans happy. You can play bigger buildings, add more shows, but the fans are primary.
As for attorney Makan Delrahim… He is very sharp, he used to work for the government. He cast the problem in legal terms, which it ultimately comes down to. Tickets as property, and who owns the property.
Dolan said we need press.
Now, finally, with Live Nation’s announcement, we’ll get some, and we need more, to shed light on what is really going on in touring.
Dolan talked about all the people who show up at the venue with bogus tickets. What does the building do? No, they don’t instantly turn them away, they try to accommodate them, because you don’t want to piss off fans. Should fans be more educated, be aware of bogus offerings? Sure. But the problem is not Ticketmaster. It was mentioned that every resale ticket posted on Ticketmaster is guaranteed to be valid.
Irving talked about U2 performing at Dolan’s Sphere in Las Vegas.
THERE ARE ALREADY TICKETS ADVERTISED! Even though there are no dates set and Irving hasn’t seen a manifest of the building.
And it was revealed by Delrahim and others that there are already laws against scalping on the books, but they’re not enforced.
There’s so much about the law people don’t understand.
Let’s start with the primary one… Just because you win in court that does not mean you’ll get paid. The defendant might not have any money! You can win, but it’s a pyrrhic victory. Which is why so many wrongdoers are never brought to trial.
But also, there is only so much money for law enforcement. And there are priorities. Where is ticketing on the priority list? Very far down. Do you want to risk getting shot or be protected from paying a lot for a ticket? Furthermore, the concert industry is just a blip on the radar screen when it comes to monies spent in America. Congress could focus on enforcement, state governments could focus on enforcement, but they’d rather grandstand and blame it all on Ticketmaster.
And the dirty little secret is much of the anti-Ticketmaster legislation and hoopla is generated by the scalpers themselves! Under the moniker of “Fan Freedom.” Yeah, right. And, if ticketing is going to be cleaned up, that might mean you can’t scalp your own tickets. Which there will be a little blowback about, but this is not a practice most people engage in.
So the artist sets the price. Sometimes it’s too low, sometimes even too high. Sometimes it’s adjusted on the fly. But one thing you’ve got to know is THE ARTIST SETS THE PRICE!
Some artists want a low price. But that bumps up against the immutable law of supply and demand. You might want to sell at a low price, but there are people like scalpers who are in the business of arbitrage, they want to get that lift. Even on a paperless show they can buy four tickets, walk three people in and still make a handsome profit. Which is why more and more artists are charging what the tickets are really worth. Aged acts have little problem with this. Youngsters… But maybe this is the way it should be, so the acts get the revenue, not the scalpers. Cars are not discounted below value, almost no physical goods are. Why should concert tickets be an exception? Oh, one caveat, no matter what is done you still might not get a ticket, but it’s not because of Ticketmaster, but because DEMAND IS TOO HIGH!
As for separate fees… Ticketmaster has gone on record again and again that they’re willing to bake all the fees in, it’s the acts that don’t want this. The acts want to appear that they’re on the side of the fans, with a low face value, and it’s predators gouging you on the fees. When the truth is the fees are part of the actual ticket price, they are not extras, take away the fees and there is no concert. The fees pay the promoter, pay the building, and yes, a chunk goes to Ticketmaster, which does provide a service. It’d be like bringing your car in for service and only be willing to pay for parts, refusing to pay for labor. Without the labor, the parts are not installed, the problem is not fixed!
I’m not gonna sit here and say there is no bad behavior in the concert business. But the problem is not Ticketmaster. Talk to anybody who actually sells through Ticketmaster and they’ll say the service is the best, and also that Ticketmaster acts as a marketing platform that far exceeds that of any other ticketing company. As for the quality…did you see that Barclays dropped SeatGeek and returned to Ticketmaster? Because SeatGeek wasn’t up to the job!
So the artist is in charge of ticketing, but the artist should not be hampered by bad actors, selling tickets that don’t exist or scooping up inventory via bots.
This is a perspective change. Rather than starting with Ticketmaster, the end of the food chain, start at the beginning. We’ve got the act, it does or does not decide to go on tour. If it does decide, it needs a promoter. Could be Live Nation, could be AEG, could be an independent. And the dirty little secret is casinos pay the most! Generally speaking whoever pays the most gets the act. There’s no inherent monopoly in concerts. Then again, few want to get in, because margins are so low. And promoters construct buildings to increase their margins.
As for the price… The acts decide. The Fair Ticketing Act is about letting the artists’ decisions stand, eliminating the impediments.
Who knows if anything will happen.
But at least let’s focus on the real issues.
As for me, looking like I’m on the side of the man…