Music Industry

So where are things with Ticketmaster these days?

Ticketmaster not only sells tickets, but the company is also (by design!) a scapegoat for the wrath of music fans. When things go wrong with concert tickets, be dynamic pricing, service charges, website crashes, and tickets that leak out into the secondary market, Ticketmaster is there to take all the blame. The artist, promoter, and venue are thus protected.

And while there are many things about Ticketmaster that don’t seem right or are controversial, the company is usually pretty excellent when it comes to managing ticket sales. No one else has their kind of backend infrastructure and technology.

Unless you’ve been off-world over the last six months, you’ll know that Ticketmaster’s latest issues include (a) one-sided reporting on dynamic pricing, (b) the crisis caused by Taylor Swift wanting to sell 2.4 million tickets in a single day, (c) demand for Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool crashing the website, and (d) a grilling from a US Congressional committee that was really nothing more than a bunch of political grandstanding.

Ticketmaster can’t just let all this pass. It has to be seen as doing something proactively to make the concert ticket-buying experience a little better.

The biggest initiative is the Fair Ticketing Act, an American proposal that if adopted will probably be enacted similarly in Canada. This act calls for more regulation of secondary ticket sellers. This includes

  • New restrictions on ticket-buying software (aka bots).
  • A ban on “speculative tickets.” This is when you see tickets on sale for a show that hasn’t gone on sale yet. Secondary sellers are advertising the sale of a theoretical ticket because they’re 100% sure they can get their hands on it once sales begin.
  • A crackdown on sites that flout the rules.

Since no one like scalpers–after all, they profit on the fame and talent of the artist while giving the artist nothing back–TM’s proposal has the support of all kinds of music companies: artists, managers, agencies, and other concert-related industries. However, others see this as a distraction from other issues, like the fact Ticketmaster, the largest ticket retailer, is owned by Live Nation, the planet’s biggest promoter.

The other target for Ticketmaster is ticket fees. This is a quote from CEO Michael Rapino on a recent investor call (via Billboard):

“We’ve got to now go out and do a much better job so policymakers and consumers understand how the business operates We’ve historically not had a big incentive to shout out loud that venues are charging high service fees or artist costs are expensive. But I think now [that] education is paramount.”

It’s worth pointing how these fees work. Again from Billboard:

Ticketmaster typically keeps $2 to $5 per ticket for processing costs and a small portion of the fees it collects to recoup any loans, advances or bonuses it may have paid the venue to win its ticketing contract. Contracts for large venues can be worth millions of dollars. The balance of the fees collected goes to the venue, which uses the money to cover the cost of the show.

Traditionally, promoters book venues for artists, pay rent to use the space and hire its staff. What’s left over as profit is divvied up with the act, which typically receives 80% to 85% of that amount.

But as competition to book top-shelf headline talent has increased over the last decade, venues have reduced the rent they charge and promoters have agreed to take a smaller percentage of base ticket sales — sometimes as little as 5%.

As Rapino said on the investor call: “The artist takes most of that ticket fee base. So the way that the venue, the promoter or the ticketing company [earns its] revenue fees is through that extra fee.”

Ticketmaster’s solution? All-in pricing, specifically showing us the final price of a ticket at the beginning of the checkout process. That way there would be no final checkout surprise.

However the industry moves forward, there’s one thing that cannot be changed: If there are more bums than seats at a show, some fans are inevitably going to be disappointed.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37808 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “So where are things with Ticketmaster these days?

  • With the current insanity pricing, I’ve basically decided I’m not going to “stadium” shows any more. Period. There’s no way I’m shelling out a minimum of $300-500 per ticket to get the worst seats available for a show.

    This sucks because I’d love to see DM, U2, Duran Duran, The Cure, etc. again but I just can’t justify the cost

    Reply

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