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Ticketmaster Monopolizes Concert Tickets, Angers Consumers

Fans find buying tickets to be stressful and inaccessible.
Photo by Rohan Portteus
Sophomores Ella Spillman, Ava Danser and Miriam Fender scour Ticketmaster site in search of concert seats.

3, 2, 1, the ticket website opens.

But just as soon as they appeared, the tickets vanished, snatched up in an instant.

Album sales used to be the primary determinant of an artist’s success, however these days the importance really lies in streaming, and most importantly, concerts.

“[In the past] when an album went platinum or gold, and how long it stayed on the charts, was very important because that was [where the] money was,” economics teacher Jerry Howland said. “Now, with streaming, album sales are not relevant anymore.”

Howland believes the creation of apps like Spotify and Apple Music has eliminated the need for fans to purchase albums, requiring artists to find new means of making a reliable income, in most cases concerts.

Because concerts are the most profitable, artists tend to stretch them out over months and countries. The more elaborate a show, the more an artist can charge per ticket.

“It depends on, again, how much production value you want to put in that concert,” Howland said. “The more technologically advanced it is, the more costume changes, the longer it is. Those things will raise [the price] immensely.”

One singular ticket must cover a small portion of the production fees, a cut for the venue, a cut for the artist, and additional fees that ticketing websites like Ticketmaster pile on, increasing face value.

“​​The base price has gone up because of the artist, but then the fees are what Ticketmaster is using to justify their costs,” Howland said. “They can get away with it because they’re the only ones selling [the tickets].”

Ticketmasters’ hold on the ticket industry strengthened even more following their unexpected merger with previous competitor Live Nation.

“That’s how [Ticketmaster] became an unstoppable monopoly, and then they started buying up all the smaller ticketing companies,” ticket broker Matt Feldman said.

Feldman has been in the ticketing industry for over 15 years. His job as a ticket broker entails working with clients and ticketing companies to find the best seats for the cheapest prices.

Live Nation’s array of reputable venues across the country, paired with Ticketmaster’s extensive background, offers a one-stop shop for artists small and large to organize tours efficiently. While this is beneficial for the artist, if they ever had a bad experience, they wouldn’t be able to find another company that can compete with Ticketmaster. In 2010 the government approved a merger between rivals, Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

“Congress screwed up; instead of having two competitors that would fight it out for all this stuff, now it’s just one company doing whatever they want with unlimited money to fight anybody that goes against them,” Feldman said.

Rock band Pearl Jam was the first to officially challenge Ticketmasters’ control over the ticket industry in 1992.

“Ticketmaster blackballed them. They wouldn’t let them use the LiveNation venues, so they had nowhere to play in these major towns,” Feldman said.

Although their efforts were unsuccessful, Pearl Jam’s claims pioneered the fight against Ticketmaster, whose grasp is now even stronger than it was in the early ‘90s. Recently, Ticketmaster has gone directly against their previous claims of the secondary ticket market.

“They kept saying it’s unfair to the customer to resell the artist’s tickets at a higher price, but for the last five years, they’ve gotten heavily into the secondary market where they’re the ones reselling,” Feldman said.

To try and offer a fair chance for all fans, Ticketmaster has rolled out a newer system using online queues as opposed to traditional ticketing methods.

“[Ticketmaster] went to the queue to supposedly give everybody a fair chance [to access tickets], whether [the buyer] logged on 30 minutes before or 30 seconds before [the sale],” Feldman said.

In theory, the queue seemed like an ideal option to standardize the ticket-buying process, but the system used is unable to keep up with high demand. Junior Avery Gibbons had rather negative experiences with the queue system.

“I know for [many] people, [the system] kicks them out or it glitches, or it just takes so long that by the time they get in the area to buy the tickets, they’re all gone,” Gibbons said.

Like others, Gibbons’ fluctuating experiences with Ticketmaster led her to find new means of ticket buying.

“Ticketmaster sucks and is a horrible place to get tickets from,” Gibbons added “Most of the time, if I can’t get tickets for a concert, I’ll try getting them through resellers.”

Fans also have to deal with programmed bots that will buy out whole sections in a venue, markup, and sell the tickets well over face value.

“[The bots] go through a lot faster than everybody else and they just scoop up all the good tickets. The end customer can’t get them. The fans can’t get them,” Feldman said. “That’s something that needs to be shut down. The penalties are pretty stiff, but obviously, they’re not stiff enough that people still do it.”

Artists are aware of the obscene prices and some have come up with more accessible solutions for the general public unable to afford these hefty price tags.

“Various artists will do their concerts at the movies because the price is much more accessible like Taylor Swift next week is releasing her Eras tour in theaters,” Howland said. “It’s going to be very accessible to people that couldn’t afford the well over a thousand dollar ticket prices for her when she was in person.”

The whole ticketing process is very daunting. No matter how prepared one may be, there’s no guarantee that they will get tickets.

“Especially if it’s someone super, super popular, don’t get your hopes up, and be prepared to spend a lot of money because every single concert is so expensive nowadays,” Gibbons said.

About the Contributor
Rohan Portteus
Rohan Portteus, Reporter
Who are your favorite music artists?  Lana Del Rey, Fiona Apple, Fleetwood Mac Where's the next place on your travel bucket list and why?  Thailand to visit the elephant rehab centers. What causes are you passionate about? Gender inequalities.