Great post on his forums about scalping REALLY works from the artists POV
As we approach on-sale dates for the upcoming tour, I’ve noticed lots of you are curious / concerned / outraged at the plethora of tickets that somehow appear on all these reseller sites at inflated prices – even before the pre-sale dates. I’ll do my best to explain the situation as I see it, as well as clarify my organization’s stance in the matter.
NIN decides to tour this summer. We arrive at the conclusion outdoor amphitheaters are the right venue for this outing, for a variety of reasons we’ve throughly considered*. In the past, NIN would sell the shows in each market to local promoters, who then “buy” the show from us to sell to you. Live Nation happens to own all the amphitheaters and bought most of the local promoters – so if you want to play those venues, you’re being promoted by Live Nation. Live Nation has had an exclusive deal with TicketMaster that has just expired, so Live Nation launched their own ticketing service. Most of the dates on this tour are through Live Nation, some are through TicketMaster – this is determined by the promoter (Live Nation), not us.
Now we get into the issue of secondary markets for tickets, which is the hot issue here. The ticketing marketplace for rock concerts shows a real lack of sophistication, meaning this: the true market value of some tickets for some concerts is much higher than what the act wants to be perceived as charging. For example, there are some people who would be willing to pay $1,000 and up to be in the best seats for various shows, but MOST acts in the rock / pop world don’t want to come off as greedy pricks asking that much, even though the market says its value is that high. The acts know this, the venue knows this, the promoters know this, the ticketing company knows this and the scalpers really know this. So…
The venue, the promoter, the ticketing agency and often the artist camp (artist, management and agent) take tickets from the pool of available seats and feed them directly to the re-seller (which from this point on will be referred to by their true name: SCALPER). I am not saying every one of the above entities all do this, nor am I saying they do it for all shows but this is a very common practice that happens more often than not. There is money to be made and they feel they should participate in it. There are a number of scams they employ to pull this off which is beyond the scope of this note.
StubHub.com is an example of a re-seller / scalper. So is TicketsNow.com.
Here’s the rub: TicketMaster has essentially been a monopoly for many years – certainly up until Live Nation’s exclusive deal ran out. They could have (and can right now) stop the secondary market dead in its tracks by doing the following: limit the amount of sales per customer, print names on the tickets and require ID / ticket matches at the venue. We know this works because we do it for our pre-sales. Why don’t THEY do it? It’s obvious – they make a lot of money fueling the secondary market. TicketMaster even bought a re-seller site and often bounces you over to that site to buy tickets (TicketsNow.com)!
NIN gets 10% of the available seats for our own pre-sale. We won a tough (and I mean TOUGH) battle to get the best seats. We require you to sign up at our site (for free) to get tickets. We limit the amount you can buy, we print your name on the tickets and we have our own person let you in a separate entrance where we check your ID to match the ticket. We charge you a surcharge that has been less than TicketMaster’s or Live Nation’s in all cases so far to pay for the costs of doing this – it’s not a profit center for us. We have essentially stopped scalping by doing these things – because we want true fans to be able to get great seats and not get ripped off by these parasites.
I assure you nobody in the NIN camp supplies or supports the practice of supplying tickets to these re-sellers because it’s not something we morally feel is the right thing to do. We are leaving money on the table here but it’s not always about money.
Being completely honest, it IS something I’ve had to consider. If people are willing to pay a lot of money to sit up front AND ARE GOING TO ANYWAY thanks to the rigged system, why let that money go into the hands of the scalpers? I’m the one busting my ass up there every night. The conclusion really came down to it not feeling like the right thing to do – simple as that.
My guess as to what will eventually happen if / when Live Nation and TicketMaster merges is that they’ll move to an auction or market-based pricing scheme – which will simply mean it will cost a lot more to get a good seat for a hot show. They will simply BECOME the scalper, eliminating them from the mix.
Nothing’s going to change until the ticketing entity gets serious about stopping the problem – which of course they don’t see as a problem. The ultimate way to hurt scalpers is to not support them. Leave them holding the merchandise. If this subject interests you, check out the following links. Don’t buy from scalpers, and be suspect of artists singing the praises of the Live Nation / TicketMaster merger. What’s in it for them?
* I fully realize by playing those venues we are getting into bed with all these guys. I’ve learned to choose my fights and at this point in time it would be logistically too difficult to attempt to circumvent the venues / promoter / ticketing infrastructure already in place for this type of tour. For those of you about to snipe “it’s your fault for playing there, etc… ” – I know it is.
I agree with him. You need to choose your battles and how you fight them. I give credit to Pearl Jams efforts over 15 years ago (was it really that long ago?) but how long did it keep them off the road only to play venues and sell tickets through ticketmaster venues a few years later?
Loads of bands use pre-sale with the customers names printed on the tickets. I remember buying warehouse tickets and being paranoid I didnt have my card with me for the May 2002 MSG shows. My name was printed on the ticket, along with my membership id. I remember when WH tickets on eBay going for disgusting amounts, the wh threatened with cancelled memberships (which they did make good on) and banning. (Though that only worked until the person moved house again, which happened often as most of DMB fans are in college and move a lot in 4 years time) It did help cut back on a lot of the ‘bad’ fans making money off those who just wanted to go. Though they werent very scary rules, they were enough to keep most people in line. Ticketmaster can easily do this. Understandable 10 years ago when buying tickets online just wasnt common place and people had to camp outside their favourite hidden TM outlet, but now with most ordered via the web or online printing the name on the ticket is VERY easy.
I still dont get paying over $1000 for ONE ticket to a concert? The most Ive paid (well via a scalper – and actually the only time Ive bought scalped tickets) was €150 for 2 Ryan Adams tickets for when he was in Dublin in 2006. I mean it was a stretch to pay £50 for my NK ticket, then the addition £118 for the upgrade (but worth it to meet the guys on THEIR terms) But even still, with all this its making concert going only being available to those who have the money or willing to go bankrupt to see an act in concert. Whose to say those in the middle – you know the middle/working class – arent as big of a fan as the stockbroker or the VP on some big company? They, too, have the right to see a show and enjoy themselves as much as the next guy without having to sit in the obstructed view area or nosebleeds to do so.
Like Trent said above, they dont care TicktBastard want their money and thats all that matters. Big time stars cant even rebel against it because it means either making tour stops in really random venues that arent up to par OR taking a hiatus completley, which still isnt fair. Worse, being blacklisted until they give in. Its only going to get scarier and not better.
I mean we have artists like the Eagles, the Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney and more acts of our parents (well if your parent was born after WWII and BEFORE Vietnam started) generation charging stupid amount, bands wouldnt think they could get away with it. I remember when I went to see the Depeche Mode in 1994 and thinking $25 was a lot. Now thats ‘cheap’. Sad, really.
There needs to be more control and restrictions in place to protect the BUYER. If they put the prices through the roof, then live entertainment is going to see the same troubles that the recording industry is currently going through. Waiting too long to embrace change in their practices and policies they are now struggling to catch up with what the masses have embraced as the alternative. I mean I dont know how else bands will do it (free shows at random spots?!) without ripping off fans? there has to be a decent middle ground, right?
One can only hope and wait it out.. Hopefully other artists follow nins lead (well, alongside the String Cheese Incident and No Doubt) take the proactive vocal way to take on ticketmaster. Maybe there is hope out there. Maybe.