• Gabrielle Bossy

Ticketmaster: the soul-sucking force of the music industry

Updated: Mar 8



Ticketmaster. Likely when you read that name, it ignites some sort of reaction in you. Is it negative? Most likely. Maybe you've bought tickets that seemed reasonable to begin with but by the time of your final check out, you incurred so many unexplained fees it made your head dizzy and your wallet shrivel. Maybe you've hung out in a virtual waiting room and by the time you got in to actually by tickets, the pricing had surged based on demand and you basically had to take out a second mortgage on your home to afford the bullshit they were selling you. Maybe you've tried to navigate the tricky waters of the Verified Fan Program which really has no clear way to be understood. No matter which of these scenarios have happened to you, there's no denying that Ticketmaster strikes a chord with loads of people around the world and for the most part, it isn't positive. Just hop on over to their Facebook page and read the comments on their recent Rage Against the Machine post to see what I mean.


In this post, I've rounded up some of the many ways that Ticketmaster has treated fans and artists poorly. These aren't new revelations but sometimes it's a matter of seeing it all in one place.


1. Shady Willingness to Help Scalpers

Let's talk about the most shady thing of all right off the top. Ticketmaster has a secondary selling tool called TradeDesk. In 2018, C.B.C. and The Toronto Star went undercover at what was essentially a scalping convention in Vegas. Ticketmaster was present promoting their resale tool, TradeDesk. Two undercover journalists caught the representative from TradeDesk admitting that Ticketmaster allows resellers to create multiple accounts on Ticketmaster so that they can beat the ticket-buying limit, scoop up large quantities of tickets and resell them on TradeDesk. "I have buyers that have literally a couple of hundred Ticketmaster accounts..." the representative said as he reassured the undercover journalists that should they use TradeDesk, Ticketmaster would not police them. Of course, Ticketmaster gets a significant cut of both transactions so they get to double dip on one ticket.

If you're wondering, TradeDesk still exists today and if you want any info on the reselling tool, you have to register. While Ticketmaster insisted prior to the CBC story breaking that they would be looking into this and taking action to combat reselling, that remains to be seen as far as I can tell. With the registration requirement for TradeDesk, the company leaves much transparency to be desired.


2. The Verified Fan Program

Ticketmaster's Verified Fan Program is a little trickier to understand. According to Ticketmaster's website, this program is a collaboration with artists, event promoters and others to "level the playing field" for true fans to get tickets over bots. Essentially, it's a piece of technology that tries to determine what fans are more likely to buy tickets to use, not resell. It gives them access to a code that allows them to purchase tickets during a specific window of time (basically it's a pre-sale that you can't sign up for). It doesn't guarantee a ticket and from what I've read, there's not much transparency on what determines a verified fan. In the lead up to Taylor Swift's Reputation tour, fans guessed that things like purchasing merch off Swift's website and engaging on social media with sponsored posts gave them a bigger chance of being a Verified Fan. Fans bought multiple copies of Swift's record in order to boost themselves (hopefully) and then gave away copies on social media to maximize their engagement. Woah. If this is the case, should a fan really have to buy merch in order to access tickets?


3. "Dynamic Pricing" and Platinum Tickets

Let's start with Ticketmaster's take on what Dynamic Pricing means. Ticketmaster.ca states: "In some instances, events on our platform may have tickets that are “market-priced,” so ticket and fee prices may adjust over time based on demand. This is similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold and is commonly referred to as “Dynamic Pricing.”" To me, that's a fancy way of saying that if Ticketmaster knows a popular event is coming up, they'll gouge the buyers for all their worth.


If you haven't seen the mention of dynamic pricing on the site, you may have seen the option to buy platinum tickets when trying to purchase a regular ticket. Because of the name, you may have assumed that these tickets are better or some sort of VIP option (particularly because of their higher prices) but these tickets are the same. They've just been "dynamically priced" and offer no special perks.


Essentially, this could save you money on lower-selling shows but ultimately, it can cost you money more often. You're purchasing a ticket without knowing whether you're getting a good price. If you hop onto a busy ticket sale, hoping to get a great ticket at face value, adjust your expectations. If loads of other people are trying to do the same thing, Ticketmaster's Dynamic Pricing allows them to hike the price based on demand. Note however, bands can choose to turn this option off and several have.


4. Misleading Prices and Fees

As of the end of June 2019, Ticketmaster had settled a case with the Canadian Competition Bureau by paying 4.5 million dollars due to misleading pricing claims on their ticketing websites. According to the bureau's website, "The Bureau’s investigation concluded that Ticketmaster’s advertised prices were not attainable because they added mandatory fees during the later stages of the purchasing process." This isn't new news either. As far back as 2003, Bruce Springsteen and Wilco fans filed a lawsuit against Ticketmaster for unexplained order processing fees and UPS delivery fees. According to Vox.com, the USA's Government Accountability Office reported that the average ticket fees (not just Ticketmaster), average around 27% of the ticket as of April 2019. That's nuts. If you're interested in learning more about the specific issue of ticketing fees, I definitely recommend checking out this article by Kaitlyn Tiffany.


5. A Monopoly on the Market

Finally, is the obvious. Ticketmaster has cornered the market. They are essentially a monopoly. They have exclusive rights to sell tickets for SO many venues it makes fighting back against them really hard. Just ask Pearl Jam. They own Live Nation too. So how often do you buy tickets not on one of those platforms for a big band? Not often.


The Solution

Let me just say, I don't know. I don't know the answer on how you beat scalpers and greed. Once venues start using other ticketing platforms, that will help but it won't solve the problem. That being said, I'd love to hear your ideas!


Peace, love & history.

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