After Bruce Springsteen complained that Ticketmaster was reselling tix to his shows for inflated prices, the company issued an apology to the Boss and took off links on their website to resellers, which had been authorized by TM itself. But if you look in the fine print of their apology, you’ll notice that it’s kinda limited. According to a Billboard article, TM says “Specifically, we will not present an option to go to TicketsNow from Ticketmaster without the consent of the artist and the venue, both of whom work together to bring the joy of live entertainment to millions of fans.”
What does it mean? It’s still open season for TM to gouge fans if the artist in question doesn’t (publicly) complain about this practice.
And how does this work? Let’s take an example of the Dead, which is essentially the long-standing core of the Grateful Dead minus the late Jerry Garcia. They’re touring again, which is big news since they haven’t performed together too much since Garcia’s death. Their management booked a show at Madison Square Garden for April 25th with tickets going on sale on January 24th in two price ranges: $54.50 and $99.50. Not surprisingly, the show sold out in just over a half-hour.
If you looked for tix at Ticketmaster after that, you were told that you weren’t necessarily out of luck- you just couldn’t buy them for the regular price. Through two TM services, Tickets Now and TicketExchange, you could still get tickets. The catch was that if you wanted to go to show now, the lower level seats were not $99 anymore. They were dozens of these tickets now being sold legally for $500 to $1000. Just to be clear, these resold tickets were being offered up only minutes after the show sold out. (Craigslist already had listings for tickets to the show too but they were much more reasonably priced)
Here’s what they say about one of the services: “TicketsNow provides secure and convenient access to event tickets that are supplied by professional resellers and fans. Tickets are listed at market price, which is often above face value. All tickets sold through TicketsNow are 100% guaranteed. The artist and/or venue for this event may not be affiliated with TicketsNow.”
So do you really believe that all of these people just happened to suddenly decide that they couldn’t go to the show, moments after they happened to buy those tickets? Or… do you think that they purposely bought them, knowing how sought-after those tix would be and that they could then resell them for a very large profit? I would tend to think that the later happened. I’d also hazard to guess that this also happens hundreds and thousands of times a day.
But remember… since this is done with Ticketmaster’s blessing, it’s all legal. So why is that these scalper-level prices are legitimate? States have laws on their books forbidding you to resell tickets for more than a certain (small) percentage above their original value but that doesn’t appear to apply to Ticketmaster.
If you go back to the TM site and look for tickets for the Dead show right now, you’ll find that at TicketExchange, the cheap seats (which were originally $54, minus all the added charges) are now going for $118-$188. But that’s not bad compared to the lower level seats- before they were $99 and now they go for about $800-$900 and even up to $3,745. If you go through Tickets Now (which again, is another TM company), the lower level seats will set you back over $1000. So, they’re able to sell these tickets for 10 times the original amount, or more.
Now in fairness, TM doesn’t pocket all of that money. Most of it does go to the scalper… I mean, reseller! However, when they allow you to resell your ticket, they do dip into the sale and take a certain percentage for themselves and add that onto the sale price that you offer up the tickets for. I tried to find this out myself but couldn’t come up with an answer- I might be wrong (not the first time!) but I seem to remember that the charge that they’d pocket for the resale was about 5-10%. Not a bad deal considering that they already took the money for the original ticket plus added on the surcharges and fees and now get to stick yet another set of charges for helping to resell the ticket at an insanely inflated price.
But remember, it’s all legal. At least until the Dead or other artists complain about this. So, is your favorite band unwittingly part of this scheme?
What I want to know now is if TM merges with Live Nation as it’s rumored to do, how much higher are the ticket prices going to get when they have a monopoly over the business? As bad as it is now, don’t be surprised if the merger makes things even worse when all of their competition goes out the window.
As a side note, I do have a ticket for that Dead show but I didn’t pay TicketsNow or TicketExchange for it. I paid the regular price, plus all of the added on charges and ‘conveniences’ that Ticketmaster thought that I should cough up. I guess I should consider myself lucky.