Music Industry

The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 978: The weird history of concert tickets, part 1

Let’s define a “concert ticket.” It’s a contract between you, an act, a promoter, and a venue, that allows you admission to a specific event at a stated time and place. Seems simple enough. But let’s continue.

A concert ticket can cost money. That cash goes to covering costs and making a profit for those staging the concert. However, in some cases, a concert ticket can be made available free of charge and is used mainly for tracking attendance and the capacity of a venue. Still with me?

A concert ticket can be pre-printed on card stock. It can be printed when you buy it. It can be a bar code or QR code on a piece of paper you print out at home. It may have a little hologram thingy on it or some other sort of security device. Whatever you buy may be tied to the credit card used to buy the ticket–or it may not. And when you go through the door at the venue on the appointed day, a person may take your ticket, tear your ticket, or just scan it.

But maybe you don’t have a physical ticket at all. You have an e-ticket that has been living on your phone for months. This means you have to poke through a bunch of screens (emails, wallets, possibly screenshots) until you finally find it, holding up everyone in line and thinking to yourself that you really should have found it earlier to save yourself the embarrassment.

Fine. That’s a concert ticket. But who are the people behind issuing and redeeming all those tickets? Who actually owns a concert ticket? You? The act? The venue?

What entities get to determine how much a ticket costs? How come with have to buy so many tickets through Ticketmaster? What about service charges, facility fees, amusement taxes, and dynamic pricing? And what about the secondary market (StubHub et al) and scalpers who somehow manage to get their hands on tickets seconds after they go on sale–if not BEFORE anyone can buy them?

It’s all very, very complicated. So let’s start with this bold statement: Everything you now about concert tickets is wrong.

Songs heard on this show (all are live versions):

  • Soundgarden, Black Hole Sun
  • Pearl Jam, Jeremy
  • Oasis, Acquiesce
  • Linkin Park, One Step Closer
  • White Stripes, Icky Thump
  • Foo Fighters, Monkey Wrench

Eric Wilhite had once again created a playlist for us.

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 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.

Alan Cross has 38170 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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