The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 821: The Truth About Concert Tickets

Buying concert tickets used to be easy. When you heard of a show you wanted to see, you went down to your local box office, plunked down some cash and in exchange, you were given, some stiff pieces of paper with words and numbers on them.

When it came time for the gig, you presented those pieces of paper to a person at the door who tore them in half, allowing you into the venue to enjoy the show.

It really was that simple–in theory, anyway. It wasn’t, but we’ll get to that.

As time went on, buying concert tickets got more complicated. Some tickets were sold through the mail, Credit card purchases over the phone. Bar codes got scanned instead of tickets getting torn.

Then local ticket sellers vanished, replaced by a big mega-corporation. Physical box offices started disappearing. Then the Internet shifted everything to online sales.

Scalpers, always a problem, became more sophisticated. TIcket brokers got bigger. Bots. Meanwhile, the concert industry grew into a multi-billion-dollar business.

Today, buying concert tickets not only confusing, it’s also one of the most frustrating and maddening consumer experiences know to humanity. We still exchange money for admission to gigs, but the way we acquire those tickets and the prices we pay for them has little in common with the so-called good old days.

Same thing with the back end of the business: promoters, ticket sellers, secondary markets, governments. It’s a situation far, far more complex than you’ve ever dreamed.

Gather ’round, kids. I’m going to give you the honest brutal truth about concert tickets.

Songs heard on this show:

Pearl Jam, Alive (Live at Wrigley Field)

Beastie Boys, Sabotage (Live)

Tragically Hip, New Orleans is Sinking (Live)

U2, Vertigo (Live in Milan)

Florence + the Machine, Dog Days Are Over (Live)

Queens of the Stone Age, No One Knows (Live)

Our Lady Peace, Naveed (Live)

As usual, Eric Wilhite has provided a playlist of the songs on this program.

Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

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.

One thought on “The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 821: The Truth About Concert Tickets

  • May 4, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    My theory about what’s happened with concert tickets (and sports and many other events): North America allows part of the tickets purchased by corporations (regular, box seats, etc) to be deducted as a cost of doing business. As a result, companies can pass of the inflationary impact to average taxpayers and not really worry about the final cost because ‘it’s part of doing business’.

    In other words, it’s not just about me and you buying tickets (almost directly) from the performer. It’s about the introduction of a significant middle person bidding up tickets and removing them from the market so that they can keep their clients happy.

    The solution? Put an end to write offs related to ‘entertainment’ in the business world. It would also have the benefit of giving smaller companies access to potential clients without the exceptional barrier to entry of ‘freebies’ for clients.


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