If you detest Ticketmaster for its notorious service charges or the software program overload that price you Taylor Swift tickets this summer season, simply know that Fred Rosen is unmoved by your anger.
“The public brought all this on itself,” stated Rosen, the 79-year-old former chief government of Ticketmaster, who grew it into an inescapable presence for live performance and sports activities followers within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s.
“I have no sympathy for people whining about high ticket prices,” he continued, pointing a finger at followers who downloaded music with out paying for it through the heyday of file-sharing providers like Napster. “They helped create this situation where artists have to make all their money on tour. Artists and the market set the prices, and you can’t pay a Motel 6 price and stay at the Four Seasons.”
Fans, artists and authorities regulators have lambasted Ticketmaster for 30 years. But after tech failures shut out hundreds of thousands of followers from the on-sale for Swift’s Eras tour in November, the ticketing agency got here below fireplace from all sides.
Furious Swifties filed a category motion lawsuit in opposition to Ticketmaster, becoming a member of a minimum of 15 different fits within the final 5 years in opposition to the corporate and its mother or father agency, live performance promotion big Live Nation Entertainment, that claimed anticompetitive practices. Swift herself stated, “I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked [Ticketmaster], multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could. … It really pisses me off that a lot of [fans] feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.”
Bad Bunny followers discovered frequent trigger after 1000’s attending the rapper’s December Mexico City stadium present had been turned away for allegedly faux tickets. (Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated he’ll penalize Ticketmaster.) Alt-country star Zach Bryan titled his new reside album “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster (Live at Red Rocks),” and stated in an announcement on Christmas Eve, “I am so tired of people saying things can’t be done about this massive issue while huge monopolies sit there stealing money from working-class people.”
Even a beloved act like Bruce Springsteen needed to reply for eyebrow-raising ticket costs on his upcoming tour; they hit $5,000 after he used Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” mannequin, which responds to fast demand by elevating costs in actual time.
“Ticket buying has gotten very confusing, not just for the fans but for the artists,” Springsteen admitted.
Members of the U.S. Congress, from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), lambasted Live Nation Entertainment, promising laws to examine the corporate’s energy and urging the Department of Justice to reexamine the consent decree that allowed Ticketmaster to merge with Live Nation again in 2010. In 2019, the DOJ stated that new rules on Ticketmaster had been “the most significant enforcement action of an existing antitrust decree by the Department in 20 years.”
“Live Nation and Ticketmaster are the owners of venues, they’re vertically integrated and they sell the tickets,” Klobuchar informed The Times in November. “Artists are afraid to go through anyone but them, and they favor their own venues. … If you own it all, you can thumb your nose at the marketplace, and that puts this problem in the hands of the Justice Department.”
Klobuchar and Mike Lee (R-Utah) will lead a Senate Judiciary Committee listening to about competitors points within the U.S. ticketing market on Jan. 24.
Even President Biden weighed in. Asked concerning the Swift debacle, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the president believes that “capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation.”
In an announcement after the botched on-sale, Ticketmaster wrote, “We strive to make ticket buying as easy as possible for fans, but that hasn’t been the case for many people trying to buy tickets for the Eras Tour. … The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world — that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor’s on-sale it wasn’t.”
Live Nation Entertainment President and Chief Financial Officer Joe Berchtold, prematurely written testimony offered to The Times earlier than Live Nation’s Senate Judiciary Committee listening to Tuesday, stated that “Ticketmaster comes under a lot of criticism … But I can say with great confidence that … its performance in large onsales is the best in the industry, it has the best marketing capabilities of any ticketing system, and it is far and away the leader in preventing fraud and getting tickets into the hands of real fans.”
Yet the precise function that Ticketmaster performs in reside music is extensively misunderstood. Over a dozen interviews with former Ticketmaster executives, artist managers, economists, lawmakers, antitrust consultants, followers and business insiders, many agreed that Ticketmaster is big and largely unaccountable to followers. But, they stated, it’s also a principally efficient enterprise with few friends able to working at its scale.
“Ticketmaster got thrown under the bus because it’s easy to throw them under the bus,” Rosen stated. “There is no solution that won’t piss people off more.”
For American music followers, complaints about ticketing return to earlier than the Civil War, when star Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind toured the U.S. below the auspices of promoter P.T. Barnum, prompting riots and howls of corruption when her exhibits immediately bought out at inflated costs.
Steve Waksman, the writer of “Live Music in America,” stated that even into the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s, there was some expectation that music — particularly the rock ’n’ roll of the hippie counterculture —-should be “free for the community, and to some degree anticapitalist.”
“The idea that fans are owed something is not new,” Waksman stated. “But now it’s not a counterculture idea, it’s more consumer entitlement. Artists have built up these enormous fan relationships strengthened by social media, where fans think they’re owed something because of their devotion.”
Ticketmaster, with its 6,500 worldwide workers (in comparison with 44,000 at Live Nation Entertainment), controls near 80% of the ticket market within the U.S. With estimated annual earnings of $750 million, it’s the most profitable piece of the Live Nation conglomerate, which cleared $15 billion in yearly income as of Sept. 30. The firm is overseen by Live Nation Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Rapino.
While there are rivals reminiscent of AEG’s ticketing arm AXS, SeatGeek, Eventbrite and Tessera, nobody comes near Ticketmaster’s market energy.
Ticketmaster’s enterprise covers way more than live shows. If you need to see the Lakers at Crypto.com Arena, you’ll purchase your seats by way of Ticketmaster, as the corporate has offers with the NBA, NHL, NFL and different sports activities leagues. Live Nation owns or operates some venues solely (just like the Hollywood Palladium and YouTube Theater) and leases nights at others just like the Hollywood Bowl and SoFi Stadium, the place they pay the venue charges to supply exhibits.
Founded within the Seventies in Arizona by field workplace government Albert Leffler and pc programmer Peter Gadwa, amongst others, the corporate licensed nascent ticketing software program and equipment to promoters and venues. Rosen, the corporate’s lawyer, took it over in 1982, transferring it to Los Angeles with investments from the billionaire Pritzker household, and purchased the rights to Bay Area Seating Services, a number one competitor. “You don’t get very many chances to find somebody asleep at the switch,” Rosen informed The Times in 1985. “It’s just a business that has been ignored. … It’s the game. I want to win.”
Ticketmaster quickly signed offers with the Forum, Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, Long Beach Arena and live performance promoter Avalon Attractions. Ticketmaster acquired its chief rival, Ticketron, in 1991.
“Every building manager knows selling tickets is thankless,” Rosen stated. “But Ticketmaster had better tech than anybody in the industry. If a show cancels, you get your money back. If you’re an arena, you need your accounting and data center to work 365 days a year. No other system on earth could deal with that volume. And we ran a clean business — we wouldn’t deal with scalpers and canceled orders to brokers.”
After Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen purchased a majority stake in 1993, the grunge group Pearl Jam declared struggle on Ticketmaster. The band filed a grievance with the Justice Department claiming the corporate strong-armed them out of venues once they wished to play a low-priced tour. Through its unique offers with venues, Ticketmaster may “cement control over the distribution of tickets,” the band alleged, and testified earlier than Congress about their expertise.
“Our band, which is concerned with keeping the price of tickets low, will almost always be in conflict with Ticketmaster, which has every incentive to try to find ways to increase the price of the ticket it sells,” guitarist Stone Gossard informed Congress.
In 1995, Pearl Jam launched into a tour utilizing a brand new ticketing agency, ETM Entertainment Network, to show that artists may play exhibits with out Ticketmaster. The tour booked many lesser-known venues, parks and fairgrounds, however ultimately succumbed to logistical snafus, climate and sickness. (It did, nonetheless, lead promoters to the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, later the location of Coachella.)
“Pearl Jam walked into something they didn’t understand,” Rosen stated. “I told their manager Kelly Curtis, ‘Your tour is going to be a mess, you’re going to be embarrassed. They said, ‘No, we’re going to change the industry,’ I said fine, you spit in my hand like that, you’re responsible when your tour blows up.”
In 1998, Barry Diller’s firm, now IAC, purchased a majority stake in Ticketmaster and bought rivals like TicketWeb, software program agency Paciolan Inc. and resellers Getmein and TicketsNow. The agency merged with Irving Azoff’s Front Line Management in 2008, and Live Nation acquired it in 2010 below a federal consent decree requiring it to license its software program to AXS, and to not retaliate in opposition to venues utilizing different platforms. Coupled with Live Nation’s live performance promotion, artist administration and venue operation divisions, the brand new agency had a hand in practically each side of the reside music expertise, and typically managed each piece of a given present.
Griffin McMillin is an lawyer representing a class-action lawsuit of Taylor Swift followers who felt cheated by Ticketmaster. In November, greater than 3.5 million Swift followers preregistered below the Verified Fan program to purchase tickets, solely to observe in horror as the web site collapsed below 3.5 billion simultaneous makes an attempt to purchase tickets.
“I feel like they’ve done all this monopolistic behavior for so long, and this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back,” McMillin stated. “They’re going to keep gathering more and more power, charging more and more, until concerts become this luxury for only the richest people and scalpers.”
Clay Murray, 25, one of many Swift followers concerned within the swimsuit, stated that followers like him waited hours within the digital line for tickets, solely to finish up “sobbing, crying, really upset. People can’t afford to spend so much money, and I had done everything that I was supposed to do. It was personally devastating, and then the anger continued to grow.”
Music followers aren’t Ticketmaster’s major clients. The firm indicators contracts with promoters and venues to promote tickets to their occasions, and pays advances and costs for the precise to take action. Many of the contracts are unique, however not all. The agency doesn’t set the value of live performance tickets — artists and promoters do. And whereas particular person contracts range, Ticketmaster splits its service charges with the artists, venues and promoters.
Case in level: For Blink-182’s reunion tour date at Banc of California Stadium on June 16, the checklist worth of a “Platinum” ticket is $290. Add on a “service fee” of $42.90 and a “processing fee” of $5, and the value of admission (excluding parking and concessions) involves $337.90. (There isn’t any cost to have the ticket despatched to your cellphone, however different exhibits can have “delivery charges” or “facility fees.”)
The “service fee” is deliberately saved separate from the checklist worth for 2 causes: to make the bottom worth of a ticket seem extra reasonably priced, and to create the impression that solely Ticketmaster pockets that payment.
“The ticketing company does nothing whatsoever that the act doesn’t tell them to do,” stated Bob Lefsetz, a longtime music business analyst. “Fees were created to create another pile of money. Ticketmaster has been paid to take the heat over that for forever, so the public will never hate the act.”
Eric Budish, an economics professor on the University of Chicago who research the American ticketing market, agreed that service charges are opaque and irritating. But they’re largely designed to insulate artists, venues and promoters from criticism.
“Ticketmaster is effectively paid to be a punching bag,” Budish stated. “Their fees find ways back to the artist or venue. And the artist chooses their ticket prices.”
“Primary ticketing companies, including Ticketmaster, do not set ticket prices, do not decide how many tickets go on sale and when they go on sale, do not set service fees,” Berchtold stated in his Senate testimony. “Pricing and distribution strategies are determined by artists and teams … In most cases venues set service and ticketing fees, and the majority of those fees go to the venue, not to Ticketmaster. Indeed, for as long as Live Nation has owned Ticketmaster, the portion of the service fee that Ticketmaster retains has been falling and the venue’s share has been increasing.”
Ticketmaster grew so huge, partially, as a result of it was deal for everybody else within the business, in accordance with Dean Budnick, co-author of the guide “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.”
“Ticketmaster and Live Nation are both unfairly criticized,” Budnick stated. “Fred Rosen thought he was a good partner for taking the heat, and he’s not wrong. He took it on the chin for venues and promoters.”
Jonathan Daniel, an artist supervisor for Fall Out Boy and Green Day, used Ticketmaster and Live Nation to deal with the bands’ Hella Mega stadium tour final yr. “If Ticketmaster gets regulated, you’ll invite some new problems, because Ticketmaster solved a lot of them,” Daniel stated. “You’ll still have websites crashing whether it’s Ticketmaster or Joe’s Tickets or whatever.”
Verified Fan, Ticketmaster’s system to suss out precise people from bot visitors and scalpers, had labored for acts like Springsteen and Swift up to now. But even that system couldn’t accommodate the demand for Swift’s Eras.
“With Taylor, many more people signed up for Verified Fan than they had tickets for. It’s a first-of-its-kind problem,” Daniel stated. “God bless Taylor, she’s extremely popular.”
Several high-ranking live performance business executives, who requested anonymity so they may converse freely concerning the competitors, stated they suspected Ticketmaster erred in inserting all of the Eras tickets on sale without delay and permitting followers to choose their very own seats, which led to bottlenecked visitors. They additionally believed the Verified Fan database was rife with resellers with faux e-mail addresses.
After getting shut out, pissed off Swifties then watched coveted seats hit the secondary market at astronomical markups. On StubHub, a number one reseller, tickets for Swift’s SoFi exhibits are going for round $400 for nosebleed seats and $1,000 for the ground, earlier than charges.
“There’s a perception that fans don’t stand a chance,” stated Budish.
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One 2016 research from the New York Attorney General discovered that greater than half of the seats at a mean present by no means went on sale to most people however had been as an alternative reserved for presales, artist groups, fan golf equipment or as perks for sure bank card customers.
Artists detest secondary distributors too — the acts don’t get a minimize of tickets reselling for multiples of face worth. “No artist wants fans to overpay for something,” Daniel stated. “But if it’s a hot ticket, the secondary market becomes unreasonable.”
Yet as a lot as followers hate resellers once they’re making an attempt to purchase, they love them when making an attempt to flip their tickets.
“We have the tech to turn off the resale market — just put names on tickets like we do with airlines,” Budish stated. “You show ID at the door and you can only buy two tickets, so money doesn’t go to brokers and there’s no feeling of a massive injustice. But the only reason it’s hard is because no one wants to actually solve that problem.”
Several sources cited a preferred Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana tour in 2007, which left bereft younger followers weeping outdoors enviornment gates. When Cyrus’ workforce switched to a no-resale coverage, the subsequent tour didn’t immediately promote out.
“If Congress decided it was worth putting caps on the secondary market, you wouldn’t have the same pressure,” Budnick stated. “But when you can’t resell tickets, people have issues too. Taylor Swift’s shows are not happening until late summer. I should have a right to resell those tickets.”
If Congress or regulators had been to step in, how may they reform Ticketmaster and Live Nation?
There’s some precedent for ticketing laws, just like the 2016 BOTS Act, which licensed the Federal Trade Commission to levy fines for automated ticket scalping. In 2019, the DOJ prolonged Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s consent decree by 5½ years, mandating they “may not threaten to withhold concerts from a venue if the venue chooses a ticketer other than Ticketmaster.”
The Antitrust Division of the DOJ appointed an unbiased monitor to analyze Live Nation, which needed to appoint a compliance officer and pay $1 million for every violation of the consent decree.
“Live Nation repeatedly and over the course of several years engaged in conduct that, in the Department’s view, violated the Final Judgment,” the DOJ stated in a 2019 assertion. “The Department will not tolerate transgressions that hurt the American consumer.”
Live Nation Entertainment is already below in depth scrutiny after the a number of fatalities at two Live Nation-produced occasions, Astroworld and Once Upon a Time in L.A., with a whole bunch of plaintiffs suing for wrongful deaths and accidents. Industry and regulatory consultants agree that, regardless of the synergies, Live Nation and Ticketmaster wield outsized energy throughout reside music.
Kendall MacVey, a UC Riverside professor and a former federal antitrust litigator, stated, “There have been antitrust concerns about Ticketmaster for 30 years. Both people on the left and right agree on the need for more vigorous enforcement.”
The DOJ reportedly has opened a separate investigation into Live Nation, going past the phrases of the consent decree.
“I would not at all be surprised if real enforcement does come this time,” MacVey stated. “That could mean splitting Live Nation from Ticketmaster.”
Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, which has rulemaking authority for client safety points, has stated that Ticketmaster is an instance of a agency “becoming too big to care,” and that “I’m sure it’s top of mind for [DOJ].”
Such a transfer would create extra openings for companies like AEG to competitively bid for exhibits. That can be a profit in itself, Waksman stated. “It’s not good for consumers or the industry to have so much power tied up in one company,” he added. “Live Nation has never been open about the range of effects they have had on the industry.”
Randy Phillips, former CEO of AEG Live, stated that, whereas the DOJ’s consent decree prohibits monopolistic conduct, “There is supposed to be a wall between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, and most promoters don’t believe that exists.”
“When Live Nation owns and operates venues, promotes the show and manages the artist that sets the service fees, you’re not going to see a lot of pushback,” Budnick stated. “If you’re a venue going with Ticketmaster, Live Nation brings more major tours your way.”
Breaking up the agency “would have a huge effect on Live Nation,” Lefsetz stated. But it gained’t repair all the things. “Once you take Ticketmaster out, that still doesn’t solve the underlying problems around fees and exclusives. If Ticketmaster is a separate company, they’ll still be entitled to do all of that.”
Regulators may dilute Ticketmaster’s energy by banning unique contracts for ticketing. That’s the case in a lot of the United Kingdom, the place a number of firms can promote tickets to any given live performance.
“In the U.S., unlike the U.K. and Europe, venues have five- to 10-year exclusive contracts with ticketing platforms like Ticketmaster,” Phillips stated. “Advances to secure these contracts are revenue for the venue owners.”
Lefsetz agreed that ending unique offers is one apparent repair. “But say I own a building,” he provides. “Can the government just choose to take away that guaranteed revenue stream from me?”
That method would possibly work greatest for in style stadium excursions like Swift’s, the place there are few similar-sized venues for acts to carry out.
“Taylor said, ‘I didn’t have many alternatives, I had to play these venues in big cities,’ and that’s where Ticketmaster’s market power manifests,” Budish, the economist, stated. “If you want, you should be allowed to play SoFi for $50 a ticket and have no resale market. So if you can’t do that, why? There is a public utility aspect to those venues. Being able to play there at a price you want to set should be an option.”
The final drawback could be the truth that many extra individuals need to see Taylor Swift than there are seats obtainable on her tour, which involves SoFi Stadium for 5 nights in August. There are doubtless no fixes past elevating costs, including extra dates or shutting off secondary markets.
Acts like Springsteen or the Rolling Stones curtail demand with extraordinarily costly tickets that their child boomer followers are glad to pay for. Garth Brooks performs reasonably priced exhibits in each market till demand runs dry. In an echo of Pearl Jam, Zach Bryan will play a restricted run of low-cost dates bypassing Ticketmaster this yr, noting, “I have met kids at my shows who have paid upwards of four hundred bucks to be there and I’m done with it. … I’ve done all I can to make prices as cheap as possible and to prove to people tickets don’t have to cost $450 to see a good and honest show.”
But not each artist has the curiosity or choice to do fan service like that.
“Taylor could go Garth mode and play as many shows as there’s demand for,” stated Budish, “but then she’d be on the road for 10 years.”
Budnick agreed. “It’s heartbreaking, because you have an intimate relationship with Taylor, she’s the soundtrack to your life. But unfortunately, unless Taylor plays 500 stadium shows, people have to adjust expectations a little bit.”
Even venues that attempt to give up Ticketmaster might discover it’s not really easy to depart. Last week, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (dwelling of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and arena-sized live shows) ended a seven-year take care of SeatGeek one yr into the contract, to associate up with its previous vendor: Ticketmaster.
Rosen, who ran Ticketmaster throughout its first flip within the DOJ’s crosshairs, believes that the present Swiftie tumult is simply “noise and confusion signifying nothing,“ he said. “You’ve got to take the government seriously, but they could have brought a case in ’94 and didn’t. That class-action suit is all bull—. It will all end with nothing changed, because that’s not what the issues are.
“If someone has better tech and pays artists more, they’ll dislodge Ticketmaster as the premier service in the U.S.,” he stated. “And when that happens, prices will go up, not down. None of this can be regulated because you can’t regulate emotions about a star. Why do people need to sit in the last 10 rows freezing in the rain? Because they need to be in the building.”