Writer Julia Soeder talks about how Ticketmaster is ruining the concert going experience.
What We Lose to Ticketmaster, Besides Our Savings
“Thank you so much for shopping with us at Ticketmaster where we cannot guarantee fair prices, stable networks or even the chance to wait in line to buy a ticket – come again soon!”
Ticketmaster is owned by Live Nation and is the largest ticket seller in the world, handling over 70% of concert tickets sold, according to the Associated Press. Buying tickets to an event has come to almost always require contact with Ticketmaster, forcing concertgoers into a game of Monopoly where luck and money are the two things required to win. This dynamic has transformed the live music world into a microcosm of the economic divide America faces today where money dictates access to basic experiences.
Money was the deciding factor that took away my chance to see Zach Bryan live next summer. On Sept. 6, Zach Bryan was set to release tickets to The Quittin Time Tour through Ticketmaster. With pre-sale codes to three different concerts secured, I went into the queue with childlike optimism. Sneaking my phone out during a lecture, I quickly logged on to reserve my place in the dreaded queue.
My elation of being fourth in the queue was quickly deflated upon seeing the $400 ticket price displayed on my screen. I began to feel my jaw tighten, eyebrows furrow and palms sweat. My mental calculations of whether I could afford to buy tickets and groceries for the month weren’t looking good.
These astronomically high prices are due to dynamic ticket pricing, where market demands dictate the price. The goal of the program was to keep tickets from going to resell sites such as StubHub, according to USA Today. While dynamic pricing can help to promote the selling of tickets when shows are struggling to reach capacity, it can also lead to fans paying outrageous amounts to see popular artists, as seen with the $4,000 Bruce Springesteen tickets in July 2022, according to USA Today.
Ticketmaster has ensured its own prosperity through dynamic ticket pricing, saving itself from resale sites while fans are left to bear the brunt of this costly blow. Live Nation and Ticketmaster have continued their ascent into monstrous profit levels, with Live Nation’s total revenue reaching a staggering $16.7 billion in 2022, according to their website. While the company continues to climb, the average American is left wondering whether or not concerts are going to become a luxury of the past.
Concerts are meant to be a place where people of all backgrounds are able to unite through their common interest in music and enjoy a night of bliss away from the real world. Ticketmaster has tainted the concert scene, taking away the magic of music and replacing it with the ugly head of capitalism.
The chance to buy tickets used to be far more black and white when lines were formed in person outside of box offices. Now verified fan pre-sales and algorithmic generated queues leave fans counting on stars.
The verified fan pre-sale is meant to ensure that real fans are the ones getting the chance to purchase tickets rather than bots and scalpers, according to The New York Times. Bots are a form of software that can perform many different tasks such as buying tickets quicker than an average consumer or bypassing ticket limits through the use of fake names and addresses, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Bots and scalpers played a fatal role in the Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour pre-sale.
On Nov. 1, Taylor Swift announced she would be hitting the road on her career-encapsulating The Eras Tour. Swift hadn’t been on tour since 2018, and demand was through the roof with over 3.5 million people pre-registering for tickets, according to Ticketmaster. Like millions of other Swifties, I faced the Ticketmaster verified fan pre-sale for The Eras Tour with the same mentality of one being sent off to war. I was ready to do whatever it took to see my favorite singer live.
Unfortunately, I didn’t even get the chance to battle it out in the queue with bots and scalpers because I was placed on the waitlist. This wasn’t uncommon — of the 3.5 million people who registered for pre-sale only 1.5 million were given codes to get into the sale, according to Ticketmaster.
Bots and fans without tickets flooding the queues resulted in over 3.5 billion total system requests on Ticketmaster’s website which caused parts of their website to break, according to Ticketmaster. In this case, it was a game of luck that I, along with millions of other Swifties, had lost.
Fans, outraged by the website’s crash, began calling for Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s day of reckoning.
Fans of live music joined forces in the courts to call for an end to Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s unfair business practices. Multiple lawsuits have been filed following the mishandling of Taylor Swift’s pre-sale, suing Ticketmaster and their parent company Live Nation for breaking antitrust laws, according to CNN. A bipartisan Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigated the website’s crash and has been one of the few examples in recent politics where people on both sides came together in agreement that the online ticket buying system is failing, according to The New York Times.
Despite this attention, no policies have been put into place to fix this crisis. Senators have offered varying legislation to try to alleviate the issue. One potential solution is to make tickets non-transferable which would discourage scalpers and bots from buying tickets. Another idea put on the table was to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation in order to promote more healthy competition among ticket vendors, according to AP.
The basis of any new policy should be simple — no one should have to spend their savings to go to a live show. Music is an art meant to be enjoyed by all, not only those with enough zeroes in their bank accounts.
Feature image by Ryan Pittman / The Phoenix