Which side are you on? Tupac Shakur or Notorious B.I.G? Taylor Swift or Kanye West? When it comes to music, many rivalries exist. No matter which side fans are on, there is one common enemy: Ticketmaster.
Ticketmaster should care more about fans and less about profit. Their added fees, Verified Fan presale, and dynamic ticket pricing favors money over the satisfaction of their customers.
Face-value tickets for popular artists are already expensive, but the cost is made worse by the number of added fees.
This past summer, my family bought tickets to see Tears for Fears at PNC Bank Arts Center, an amphitheater in New Jersey. Our tickets cost $69.50 each at face value. At check out, a service fee of $19.50 was added to each ticket plus a $5 order processing fee.
The tickets would have come to $278, but my family paid $361 due to $83 in added fees; the fees made up about 23% of the total.
Who benefits from these fees? According to the Ticketmaster website, clients, like venues, promoters, and sometimes artists, share in a portion of the fees collected. John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week with John Oliver” shed some light on who exactly these “clients” are during a segment of “March 13, 2022: Tickets.”
Oliver determined that the clients who benefit from these fees are at times Ticketmaster themselves. This is because of their 2010 merger with Live Nation, the “largest producer of live music concerts in the world.”
Consequently, Ticketmaster collects more money from fees when shows are at Live Nation-owned venues. According to Live Nation’s website, they own PNC Bank Arts Center, so Ticketmaster profited off most of my family’s $83 in fees.
Despite claiming that they are “committed to getting more tickets into the hands of fans fairly,” Ticketmaster also disregards fans in its Verified Fan presale process.
To participate in the Verified Fan presale, fans must register by signing into their Ticketmaster accounts and selecting which show they wish to attend on an artist’s tour. Codes are then emailed at random through a lottery the night before the presale. Fans that receive a code may participate, and those who do not are waitlisted. Even if selected, fans are not guaranteed to get tickets.
In theory, the Verified Fan presale is a great concept, but there are many problems with it that negatively impact fans.
Although called “Verified Fan,” anyone with a Ticketmaster account can register. As Oliver pointed out, there is no limit to how many Ticketmaster accounts someone can have, meaning people can abuse the Verified Fan system and register with as many accounts as they please.
There is also no way to determine whether someone registering is a fan or not, so scalpers can potentially be given codes over fans. This is what seems to have occurred during the Verified Fan presale for Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Tour in December 2021.
Due to high demand, many fans were waitlisted. Many of those who were selected were not able to purchase tickets. On the other hand, tickets were being listed on resale sites for hundreds over face value minutes after going on sale.
This resulted in fan backlash on Twitter against Ticketmaster as it showed that not just fans received Verified Fan codes since scalpers were able to purchase tickets.
Ticketmaster’s dynamic ticket pricing, otherwise known as Official Platinum tickets, is another way in which they put profit before fans.
As reported by USA Today, this practice began in 2011 as Ticketmaster started giving artists the option to adjust ticket prices based on consumer demand. Depending on how high ticket prices rise, only certain fans can afford to purchase Official Platinum tickets, which are for the best seats in the house.
Dynamic ticket pricing takes advantage of fans who are willing to pay any amount for good seats; it is an unethical practice that puts money before fans.
This notoriously impacted ticket sales for Bruce Springsteen’s 2023 stadium tour. According to USA Today, Ticketmaster’s dynamic ticket pricing caused some floor seats to rise above $4,000. Overall, 11.8% of tickets sold for Springsteen’s tour were Official Platinum.
Springsteen fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment. Many felt that Springsteen was being hypocritical as he often sings about the working-class man, but the working class cannot afford good seats to his tour due to the dynamic ticket pricing.
By exploring the problems surrounding added fees, Verified Fan presale, and dynamic ticket pricing, I found that Ticketmaster has begun to prioritize money over fans despite their incessant claims of putting fans first.
To improve their relationship with fans, I think Ticketmaster should keep fees to a minimum, create a more rigorous Verified Fan presale that truly benefits fans, and eliminate dynamic pricing to ensure that as many fans as possible get to experience live music.
If these changes are made, I believe Ticketmaster can redeem its reputation. Until then, they will remain public enemy number one.