Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ticketmaster Got It Wrong Again - And That Doesn't Surprise Anyone

I wasn’t going to weigh in on the most recent Ticketmaster controversy that came up earlier this week with tickets going on sale for Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway shows. Long time readers of The Rock And Roll Guru are well versed in my disdain for the ticket monopoly. I’ve written about it with my posts on Yet Another Reason To Hate Ticketmaster, setting fair prices for concerts, and Why Ticketmaster Totally Sucks, just to name a few. I’ve ranted on Twitter (@RyoVie) endlessly regarding the raping of the fans that Ticketmaster seems to bask in. I’ve commented on endless blogs and websites about the evils of Ticketmaster. Yes, it’s clear that I am a hater. So why the need for another post about it? After last week’s debacle, I decided to revisit my posts regarding Ticketmaster and I saw that it’s been a while since I’ve given a good rant on the company.

What happened last week? Well, if you’re not a Springsteen fan, you may have missed out on all the hoopla. Thankfully I’m here to fill you in. About a month ago, Bruce Springsteen announced that he would be doing an extended run on Broadway. He is planning on solo performances, about five nights a week, at The Walter Kerr Theatre. This is a small venue that has approximately 975 seats. It is one of the smallest venues he’s ever played. To meet the demand for tickets and (hopefully) stave off scalpers, Springsteen decided to work with Ticketmaster and their verified fan system. The way this works is that fans must register their information prior to the ticket on sale dates. If you don’t register, you don’t get the opportunity to buy tickets. If you do register, you go into a lottery and will be sent a code the night before to buy tickets if you are selected. Otherwise you will be put on a standby list.

It sounds terrific. Forcing people to act before they buy their tickets. In theory, this would eliminate the automated systems from grabbing tickets before anyone else and it would slow the scalpers. But there are ways around that, as the public would soon find out. Example: let’s say I run a secondary ticket broker and I know that Ticketmaster is making me register to get tickets. What is to stop me from registering multiple accounts and having all my employees do the same? If I have 30 employees registering 10 accounts each, I now have 300 entries in the lottery. And if just a few of those hit, I can score tickets to resell.

And guess what happened? Fans registered. A limited number of codes were given out. A lot of fans were put on standby. And tickets went on sale. Then, within minutes, tickets were available on Stub Hub and other secondary brokers starting at $1,500 dollars. Yes, you read that amount correctly. The high-end tickets topped out around $10,000. To me that’s just criminal and people putting tickets on sale for that amount should have their tickets voided. They clearly don’t want to see the concerts, they just want the cash grab. And it’s not just a few tickets that are on sale through the secondary market. There are approximately 50 tickets for each show available through the numerous secondary retailers. Which means that Ticketmaster’s verified fan system was a verified disaster!

Ticketmaster released a statement claiming that only 3% of all tickets were on the secondary market and claimed this was a victory for fans. Then they fell back on their standard “supply and demand” argument as to why so many fans got shut out of tickets. However, this is not a victory. First, there are more than 3% of tickets on sale in the secondary market. Second, if every ticket sold went through a “verified” system, then Ticketmaster knows each person that bought tickets and what the ticket number is. What’s to stop them from voiding any ticket that’s listed in the secondary market and putting them back on sale for the general public? Or they could make the codes apply to only specific shows and only allow that number of tickets to be sold for each show. If fans get a code and don’t buy, then there could be a general on sale. Real fans already had their chance.

What makes all this worse is that Ticketmaster claimed that the verified system was going to allow real fans access to tickets. There were claims that basically stated the more you’ve seen Springsteen in the past, the more you would be likely to have access to the Broadway tickets. Then fans who have been to 75, 100, 125 Springsteen concerts were put on “standby,” which is insulting to those fans. And it didn’t stop Ticketmaster from emailing fans links to buy Springsteen merchandise. So, while they weren’t given an access code, they were asked to buy an overpriced hat or T-shirt, which is beyond sickening.

And of course, Springsteen announced additional dates as soon as the first wave of concerts was sold out. This only angered and confused fans more. There are several unanswered questions lingering in the air. If I was put on standby, am I going to be first in line to buy tickets for the new shows? If a fan already has purchased tickets to a show, are they going to be allowed an opportunity to purchase tickets to the new wave of shows?

What is Ticketmaster going to do with the new batch of shows going on sale this week? Is it going to be more of the same (a complete disaster), or are they actually working to fix the issue? Will they learn from the mistakes of this sale and apply improvements to future sales? Or will they just continue to be a greedy corporation that doesn’t care about the fans at all? Well, after more than 25 years of the latter, I don’t anticipate any change of heart taking place in my lifetime. In the end, it’s the fans that get screwed once again.


The Polish Buddha said...

Here's what I don't get...If you or I stood outside the venue, and sold our legally-purchased tickets at an inflated price, we would be arrested for scalping. These secondary ticket brokers are nothing more than scalpers, yet our government allows them to operate in plain sight without consequence. Look, i hate Ticketmaster as much as anybody else, but Ticketmaster didn't make themselves a monopoly -- our government allowed that to happen. Further,their verified fan system seems to be a good concept. the fact that the bad guys overwhelmed it shouldn't be a surprise because bad guys always find a way around whatever preventative measures are designed to stop them. Ticketmasters biggest blunder in all this is trying to put their own PR spin on the situation. other than that, all of the blame for this debacle, and so many others like it over the past 25+ years rests squarely with our government who encourages monopolistic behavior from the corporate sector, and has done nothing to put online scalpers out of business.

Ryo Vie said...

Well stated and very true. If the government can regulate other areas of industries, why can't they regulate this one too? It's similar with cable too. While not a true monopoly, I can only use one cable provider in my area.

There are other ticket companies out there, like TicketFly, that do an excellent job, but unfortunately they are few and far between.