Ticketmaster: a legal scam?

Jason Cominetto ('10)/Eastside Underground Editor

Let’s not beat around the bush here: the music industry is spiraling downwards. With the possibility of illegal downloading of music reaching the general public a few years ago, the activity has only increased to new heights in succession with the new lows of the economy. In other words, people have less money now, so more are resulting to illegal downloading as a primary means of obtaining music. This means death for most of the music industry, including the artists themselves, whose main source of income comes from records sales. For industry behemoth Ticketmaster, however, it only means more cash.

Ticketmaster is the largest ticket retailer in the United States, and is banking on a simple principle to keep customers flocking to them through such times of economic hardship: there’s no way to pirate the experience of a live concert. So while it’s possible to download an artist’s newest album or concert DVD with the push of a button, neither come close to being quite as enthralling as watching the artists perform live firsthand. Because of this, consumers rely on Ticketmaster to provide them with tickets for shows of all genres and size, which may not seem bad at first. However, if one looks past the flashy advertisements and sleek website layout, a more detrimental company with immoral, even illegal, intentions appears.

What this company hides behind is their promises of crazy concert experiences and breathtaking shows is a trap of unnecessary fees and charges waiting to spring on most people too ignorant, unsuspecting, or helpless to know or prevent them otherwise. Perhaps this could be best explained through an anecdote: about two weeks ago I tried to purchase tickets to a Lamb of God concert, and, lacking a car, was forced to check Ticketmaster for tickets (there are no other online brokerages through which I could get them). Without added fees, or at door price, one Lamb of God ticket cost $38. After filling out my quantity of tickets and seating preferences, I proceeded to find the website charging me an extra $9.90 for “convenience.” Thinking it over thoroughly and deliberately, I swallowed my pride and selected the cheapest, yet slowest form of shipping (free), and went on to the next page, only to find Ticketmaster had charged me another $5.15 for an “Order Processing Charge.”

So let’s recap. The original ticket price for one ticket was $38, and $15.05 was added to that price for “convenience” and “order processing,” bringing the total price of my single ticket to $53.05… a 40% increase in price from the original. Needless to say, I had to have a third party drive to the venue and purchase my ticket for me, and while he took an extra $2 for what he claimed to be “bridge and gas fees,” it was a lot more reasonable than the ludicrous charges of Ticketmaster.

The fees put into effect by Ticketmaster are absolutely ridiculous in every respect of the word. The “convenience” charges are hardly convenient with their high prices, and may as well be called “we know most of our consumers are too lazy to actually go to the venue or pick up their ticket, so we’ll bill them extra” charges. On top of that, the “order processing” charges make absolutely no sense, because the type of preferred shipping is what the customer selects on one of the earlier pages, and even as I selected free, yet slower shipping, I was charged an extra $5.15 for it. If you want to avoid charges like this, it is absolutely necessary to actually get up, go out and purchase your tickets at the venue. That way you’re receiving your tickets and are preventing the Ticketmaster enterprise from growing even larger.

Thankfully, my grievances have been relayed more efficiently to the public through performer Bruce Springsteen. When tickets for his latest tour, the Working on a Dream Tour, went on sale on February 2nd, so many people were waiting to get them that many were put on hold or redirected to ticket resale (AKA ticket scalping, which is illegal) affiliate, TicketsNow, which charged several times higher than the original amount for tickets. Because of this, Springsteen wrote a letter on his website declaring his fury at Ticketmaster’s deception towards their customers, and when the Boss talks, people listen. Through word of mouth the situation finally reached New Jersey courts and the legality of TicketsNow went into inspection. If TicketsNow is the only available source of purchasing tickets at the time they go on sale, then ignore it and move on. Chances are you’ll come across another source which will sell you tickets for cheaper, though still highly over face price, and by doing this you are helping to permanently remove TicketsNow from the Ticketmaster site so more tickets will be made available for normal prices.

Even scarier than the prospect of not getting Springsteen tickets is the possibility of a merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the producer and promoter for many of the biggest names in music, such as Madonna and U2. A merge like this could be a fatal blow to the music industry, as it would result in a near-monopoly on live shows. Since Live Nation controls most of the largest U.S. venues (over 140 in total), their conglomeration with Ticketmaster could put most big-name artists at their whim, giving them complete control over where the artists play, when they play, and most importantly, for how much. Suffice to say, if this merge happens, ticket prices will almost assuredly go up as a result of more employees to pay and other factors.
Also, if big-name artists decide to disband from these powerful entities, they will end up playing smaller shows, resulting in fewer seats for concertgoers, resulting in higher prices and competition for said seats, resulting in less money in everyone’s pockets.

Ticketmaster sold $8.3 billion worth of tickets in 2007, but with everyone’s awareness on the current state of live music these numbers can be drastically reduced. Instead of buying tickets off of the Ticketmaster’s site and paying more money for unnecessary charges, consider travelling to the box office at the concert venue and purchasing tickets ahead of time. That way, you are guaranteed a spot at the show and don’t have to pay nearly 50% more than face value for the experience. I guarantee you the price for gas and transportation will be a lot less than “convenience” and “order processing” charges, and by doing this you will slowly prevent and save the live music industry from its nearly-imminent destruction at the hands of this corporate giant.