From Pearl Jam to Congress to Springsteen: 5 of the largest Ticketmaster dustups

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  • Ticketmaster provoked outrage this week amongst Taylor Swift followers when its presale of tickets for her upcoming tour descended into chaos. 

  • The fiasco illuminates a ticket-selling {industry} populated with scalpers, ticket-buying bots and determined consumers. 

  • During the last three many years, Ticketmaster has squared off with musical acts, lawmakers and the Division of Justice over its ticket-selling practices. 

The good Ticketmaster meltdown of 2022, a Taylor Swift concert-ticket presale that roughly broke the Web this week, left many followers ticketless and ticked off, together with some members of Congress. 

Swifties, as Swift loyalists are identified, could not overlap a lot with the presumably older, sensibly shoed and largely male crowd that populates a typical Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam present. However now, they’ve one thing in widespread: A run-in with Ticketmaster. 

Ticketmaster is the music-industry behemoth live performance followers like to hate — though, to be honest, a lot of what goes on within the dog-eat-dog world of scalpers, ticket-snatching bots and determined consumers spins past the management of Ticketmaster or anybody else.  

Bands, Congress and the Justice Division all have squared off with the ticket vendor earlier than. Right here, then, are 5 of historical past’s largest Ticketmaster dustups.

Pearl Jam Takes on Ticketmaster 

Pearl Jam, one of many largest names in rock music, started feuding with Ticketmaster in 1992. The band deliberate a free Labor Day live performance for 30,000 hometown followers in Seattle. Ticketmaster sought a $1 service payment for each ticket, in response to an investigative report within the Los Angeles Occasions. As a substitute, the band handed out tickets by itself. 

In subsequent excursions, Pearl Jam lowered ticket and T-shirt costs to offset charges. Within the spring of 1994, the band introduced it might solely carry out summer time concert events at venues that capped tickets at $18 and repair charges at $1.80.  

Ticketmaster balked. Its customary service charges in that period ranged from $4 to $8.  

Unable to work inside the Ticketmaster system, Pearl Jam tried to tour exterior it. Ticketmaster successfully organized a boycott of the tour, the Occasions alleged, with veiled authorized threats to promoters. After a sporadic sequence of exhibits and negotiations, the band gave up.  

The Justice Division launched a probe. Congress referred to as hearings. The band accused Ticketmaster of wielding a concert-ticket monopoly. Ticketmaster countered by terming Pearl Jam’s protests a publicity stunt to spur album gross sales. 

Band members testified earlier than a Home subcommittee. Following the hearings, Home Democrats launched laws, dubbed the Pearl Jam invoice, that may have required ticket brokers in leisure and sporting occasions to print service fees clearly on the ticket or receipt. 

The Pearl Jam invoice died. In the summertime of 1995, the Justice Division closed its investigation. Inside sources mentioned Justice legal professionals feared they couldn’t make their case.  

Ticketmaster gained the battle, observers mentioned, however misplaced within the courtroom of public opinion.  

“Getting attacked by a famous person rock band is loads like being accused of kicking your canine,” a Ticketmaster spokesman instructed Rolling Stone.  

A Ticketmaster spokesperson famous Friday that the corporate continues to work with, and even collaborate with, the seminal grunge band in moderating ticket prices. 

The String Cheese Incident Incident 

String Cheese Incident, a Colorado jam band harking back to the Grateful Useless, adopted the Useless’s lead in nurturing devoted followers and promoting tickets on to them.  

In 2002, Ticketmaster cracked down, telling String Cheese Incident and different bands that they might now not promote greater than 8 p.c of tickets to their very own exhibits.  

String Cheese sued. Ticketmaster countered that contracts with theaters gave the corporate unique rights to deal with tickets. 

A settlement allowed the band to promote massive blocks of tickets for 5 years.  

The settlement lapsed in 2009. The band discovered new methods to skirt Ticketmaster, brokering non-public offers with venues to promote blocks of tickets to followers with minimal markups.  

“We’re scalping our personal tickets,” Mike Luba, a band supervisor, instructed The New York Occasions. 

In a single extremely publicized episode, dozens of band loyalists confirmed up on the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in 2012 and acquired tons of of tickets in money at $49.95 apiece, their face worth, solely to resell them from their Colorado headquarters on the similar worth — plus $12 delivery.  

A Blockbuster Merger 

In 2010, the Justice Division accredited a $2.5 billion merger that united Ticketmaster and Stay Nation, the {industry}’s largest live performance promoter.  

The brand new firm, Stay Nation Leisure, managed greater than 200 main artists, greater than 100 venues, and unique ticket-selling contracts at “hundreds of U.S. venues, together with most arenas,” Rolling Stone reported — to not point out Ticketmaster itself.  

Stay Nation Leisure “is a colossus in contrast to something the {industry} has ever seen,” The New York Occasions reported. 

Company leaders mentioned the merger would in the end yield decrease ticket costs and charges, streamlining an inefficient enterprise.  

“Energy is an effective factor,” Paul McGuinness, U2’s supervisor, instructed Rolling Stone.  

Stay Nation leaders trotted out a promising concept: dynamic pricing. Greater worth factors for the entrance rows would enable artists to cost much less for the nosebleed seats.  

Many within the {industry} remained skeptical.  

“They’ve simply acquired the largest disincentive to scale back ticket costs ever,” David Viecelli, agent for Arcade Fireplace and different acts, instructed Rolling Stone.  

On Friday, experiences surfaced that the Justice Division has opened a brand new antitrust investigation of Stay Nation Leisure, an motion that evidently predates the Taylor Swift fiasco. The investigation apparently reprises the main target of the 1994 probe impressed by Pearl Jam, asking whether or not the corporate holds an unfair monopoly.  

Canadian Journos Uncover ‘Secret Scalper’ Plot 

In a 2018 investigation, reporters from the Toronto Star and Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) alleged Ticketmaster recruited scalpers to purchase tickets and resell them on Ticketmaster’s web site at a premium, netting charges for the scalper and Ticketmaster.  

Reporters traveled to an entertainment-industry conference at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, posing as scalpers and toting hidden cameras.  

On the conference flooring, Ticketmaster representatives pitched the undercover reporters on the corporate’s “skilled reseller program,” the CBC reported, assuring them that Ticketmaster “turns a blind eye to scalpers who use ticket-buying bots and faux identities to grab up tickets after which resell them on the positioning for inflated costs.”  

In a conference session, a Ticketmaster government touted a brand new initiative referred to as TradeDesk, an internet “stock administration system” for scalpers, in response to the CBC.  

In response to the report, the ticket big instructed the CBC it was “categorically unfaithful that Ticketmaster has any program in place to allow resellers to accumulate massive volumes of tickets.”  

In a extra revealing assertion to NPR, Ticketmaster appeared to acknowledge a few of what the Canadian retailers alleged. The corporate mentioned it did “not condone the statements made by the worker because the conduct described clearly violates our phrases of service,” and vowed “to proactively monitor for such a inappropriate exercise” sooner or later. 

‘The Case of the $5,000 Springsteen Tickets’ 

Bruce Springsteen and Ticketmaster had come to blows earlier than. In 2009, Springsteen followers paid tons of of {dollars} over face worth for tickets to his exhibits after Ticketmaster directed them to a reseller. The Boss had set ticket costs low on goal. Very like Pearl Jam 15 years earlier, Springsteen felt Ticketmaster had thwarted him and his followers. 

“The abuse of our followers and our belief by Ticketmaster has made us as livid because it has made a lot of you,” Springsteen mentioned in an announcement on the time. Ticketmaster’s chief government apologized.  

Springsteen followers hit the stadium roof once more in the summertime of 2022. Dynamic pricing, the system Ticketmaster had launched to make costs decrease, appeared as an alternative to drive them increased. When Springsteen tickets went on sale for his subsequent tour, some followers confronted four-figure costs. The New York Occasions referred to as it “The Case of the $5,000 Springsteen Tickets.”  

Each Springsteen and Ticketmaster fired again.  

“Whatever the commentary a few modest variety of tickets costing $1,000 or extra, our true common ticket worth has been within the mid-$200 vary,” mentioned Jon Landau, Springsteen’s supervisor, in an announcement printed by the Occasions

Ticketmaster reported that just one.3 p.c of consumers had paid 4 figures.  

Nonetheless, many Springsteen followers walked away from the sale feeling that their working-class hero had offered out.