There’s nothing quite like the rush of buying tickets to see your favorite musician or band the second they go on the market. For some, the process is exhilarating and rewarding. For others, the procedure can seem to drag on, and technical difficulties tend to ruin their shot at solid prices and decent concert seating.
If you’re the person that camps out at their computer, waiting for the moment the sales open up, do you ever wonder why the best seats are already taken by the time you get into the portal?
The answer? Illegal scams. Ticket scalping (resale, often at higher prices), underground second-hand ticket vendors, and all of the skeletons in the closet.
After some heavy investigation, undercover reporters found the company Ticketmaster to be at the center of blame for bot-websites monopolizing tickets and hitching up the prices. And this isn’t the first time the corporation has been accused of fraud.
Founded in Arizona in 1976, Ticketmaster grew quickly to become one of the leading ticket outlets in America. In 2010, the ticket-selling giant merged with Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the country. Now Ticketmaster (formally, Live Nation Entertainment) sells tickets to a multitude of events belonging to different categories of entertainment.
On the very same site, you can purchase tickets to see Broadway actors rap in Hamilton, watch wrestlers go to the ground in a WWE Smackdown, or attend a live show of Dancing With The Stars to vote for your favorite contestant. You can even search for results by city and set an ideal price range for how much you’d like to pay.
Which all seems very convenient, until you realize that’s exactly how Ticketmaster wants it. Why go to anyone else when they are a one-stop shop for all performances?
Back in January the Competition Bureau, an independent Canadian law enforcement agency, sued Ticketmaster over what it termed “drip pricing”. This practice is forcing customers to pay a higher price than advertised due to last minute, additional fees. When buying with Ticketmaster, these add-on charges include things such as a service charge, processing charge, and a ticket delivery fee (whether you have your ticket mailed, emailed, or picked up a venue). These can, in some instances, add up to 50 percent of the ticket’s face value.
Canada isn’t the first foreign power to express discontent at the website’s policies. In 2013, British members of parliament called representatives from ticketing sites, Ticketmaster included, to answer to their suspicious dealings, overpricing, and lack of transparency.
Long before either of these critical attacks on the integrity of Ticketmaster, there was already a surge of lawsuits and investigations.
In 1994, a time when Ticketmaster had surcharges upwards of 25 percent of the base ticket price, the band Pearl Jam implored that the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department takes action against the company’s monopolistic practices. This followed Ticketmaster’s refusal to sell the band’s tickets for under $20, with lowered service fees, due to their exclusive contracts large venues. While the government did explore allegations that Ticketmaster was operating under anti-competitive premises, it closed the formal examination in 1995.
Following this, a lawsuit titled “Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster” accused Ticketmaster of not properly disclosing the UPS and Order Processing Fees in 2003. In 2009, Ticketmaster fell victim to several lawsuits and the wrath of rock star Bruce Springsteen after allegedly diverting popular event tickets to its side website TicketsNow (which acts as a ticket price broker) to be sold at higher prices.
Flash forward to the present, just three months after Ticketmaster authorities admitted to a security hack endangering the personal information of over 40,000 UK customers, a recent probe has uncovered even more dirt on the site’s shady system.
A team of Canadian reporters working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) discovered, through a covert infiltration of the 2018 Ticket Summit, that Ticketmaster created a private device called TradeDesk to help professional ticket “scalpers” buy tickets in bulk and resell them at loftier “premium” rates.
Essentially, what Ticketmaster does is sell the tickets to other, smaller ticket-sale website through TradeDesk, profiting off the initial sale. Then, once the ticket is sold at a much higher price here, Ticketmaster profits again after the company collects the money they made from the resale. To compensate for reaping all the benefits, Ticketmaster even gives back by offering scalpers a discounted rate after they hit milestones like $500,000 or $1 million.
This means that once Ticketmaster sells all of its seats out to these second-hand sources, customers are forced to flock there to get their tickets and end up paying more in the long-run.
So to all those who are regular patrons of online ticket companies, a word of caution: be wary of who you buy from. No matter what their rates are, and no matter how many people use the site. Until the justice system does a better job at effectively ending the ticket monopoly, things aren’t likely to get any better.
There aren’t many independent ticket companies that run unaffected by scalping or corruption, and unfortunately, that means the best way to enjoy what you love might be sponsoring the original source, rather than trying to get a backdoor deal.
Photo: Alexander Popov via Unsplash