Ticketmaster makes the concert experience easy... for millionaires

by Jason Gross

12 June 2006


After tear shedding over declining ticket sales and revenue, Ticketmaster has a new idea.  Instead of making tickets cheaper so that they’re more affordable and will attract more people (which they tried), you’ll now need to mortage your house or sell your car for a seat: Letting the Net do their bidding.
This isn’t the first time that the kind, thoughtful, user friendly people at TM have floated this idea.  It initially came up in 2003: see Ticketmaster Auction Will Let Highest Bidder Set Concert Prices.  That experiment didn’t pan out very well but since other efforts to coral people into gigs isn’t working, TM decided it was time to dust off this chesnut and stick it to the fans yet again.

So in addition to all the (in)convenience charges (which can add up to half the ticket price or more), they’ll now let the bidding market determine how much to pay for premium seats, which is great for anyone with a six figure or more salary but pretty bad for the rest of us. As a recent Slate article revealed, as it is now, many tickets aren’t even available to the public, instead going to fan clubs, promotions, record companies, VIP’s, etc.. Now in addition to all of that, regular fans are going to have to fight over a more expensive pool of tickets left over. As overpriced as many arena shows are now (i.e. Stones, McCartney, Madonna), they’re about to shoot through the roof in price. Rather than scalpers or agents getting the profits, Ticketmaster will now profit from what is in-effect a legalized form of scalping- speaking of which, how are you going to enforce such laws now if TM is doing it officially?

Though they say this is for premium seating at shows, it’s obvious that this is a slippery slope and that it’s going to get worse. You’ll have a smaller group of people fighting over the best seats, which leaves an even smaller group of tickets for everyone else to fight over. Sure enough, when this smaller pool of cheaper seats becomes more sought after, rest assured that TM will throw them open to bidding also.  Also, if this is now official TM policy, then it’s going to be much more widespread since all the good seats will now have to be throw open to bidding (unless they’re give-aways).

The end result will be that shows will become less and less available to most people. Just as drivers have to cut back on other things to afford gas nowadays, fans will have to make the same decisions with concerts- if you have to spend 2-3 times as much for a single show, you’ll have less money to afford other shows, which means that some big concerts are going to make a lot of money while other shows suffer in terms of sales. As it stands, that’s what’s been happening now anyway- a handful of artists have been doing well with touring while many other artists suffer. A trend like ticket bidding is going to make this problem worse and not better. The ones who’ll suffer aren’t just the fans but also many 2nd and 3rd tier acts whose audience won’t have any money left over to see their shows now. And since bands make most of their money from shows (as opposed to royalties), this is going to hit them pretty hard.

Minus the convenience charges and some of the free-bee give-aways, the system we have now is much better than this new legalized-scalping system.  Don’t expect a weak-kneed do-nothing Congress to step in and stop them and even Pearl Jam has learned that they have to play ball with TM.  The only thing that could reverse this trend would be if fans decided that they didn’t want to play TM’s game.  That’s easier said than done ‘cause if you’re a real fan, you’ll do whatever you can to see your favorite act.  Just as economists predict there is a price ceiling for gas when consumers finally decide to cut back (approx. $5/gallon, they figure), we’ll now see if there’s going to be a similar ceiling for ticket prices.

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