As we approach on-sale dates for the upcoming tour, I’ve noticed lots
of you are curious / concerned / outraged at the plethora of tickets
that somehow appear on all these reseller sites at inflated prices -
even before the pre-sale dates. I’ll do my best to explain the
situation as I see it, as well as clarify my organization’s stance in
NIN decides to tour this summer. We arrive at the conclusion
outdoor amphitheaters are the right venue for this outing, for a
variety of reasons we’ve throughly considered*. In the past, NIN would
sell the shows in each market to local promoters, who then “buy” the
show from us to sell to you. Live Nation happens to own all the
amphitheaters and bought most of the local promoters – so if you want
to play those venues, you’re being promoted by Live Nation. Live Nation
has had an exclusive deal with TicketMaster that has just expired, so
Live Nation launched their own ticketing service. Most of the dates on
this tour are through Live Nation, some are through TicketMaster – this
is determined by the promoter (Live Nation), not us.
Now we get into the issue of secondary markets for tickets, which
is the hot issue here. The ticketing marketplace for rock concerts
shows a real lack of sophistication, meaning this: the true market
value of some tickets for some concerts is much higher than what the
act wants to be perceived as charging. For example, there are some
people who would be willing to pay $1,000 and up to be in the best
seats for various shows, but MOST acts in the rock / pop world don’t
want to come off as greedy pricks asking that much, even though the
market says its value is that high. The acts know this, the venue knows
this, the promoters know this, the ticketing company knows this and the
scalpers really know this. So…
The venue, the promoter, the ticketing agency and often the artist
camp (artist, management and agent) take tickets from the pool of
available seats and feed them directly to the re-seller (which from
this point on will be referred to by their true name: SCALPER). I am
not saying every one of the above entities all do this, nor am I saying
they do it for all shows but this is a very common practice that
happens more often than not. There is money to be made and they feel
they should participate in it. There are a number of scams they employ
to pull this off which is beyond the scope of this note.
StubHub.com is an example of a re-seller / scalper. So is TicketsNow.com.
Here’s the rub: TicketMaster has essentially been a monopoly for
many years – certainly up until Live Nation’s exclusive deal ran out.
They could have (and can right now) stop the secondary market dead in
its tracks by doing the following: limit the amount of sales per
customer, print names on the tickets and require ID / ticket matches at
the venue. We know this works because we do it for our pre-sales. Why
don’t THEY do it? It’s obvious – they make a lot of money fueling the
secondary market. TicketMaster even bought a re-seller site and often
bounces you over to that site to buy tickets (TicketsNow.com)!
NIN gets 10% of the available seats for our own pre-sale. We won a
tough (and I mean TOUGH) battle to get the best seats. We require you
to sign up at our site (for free) to get tickets. We limit the amount
you can buy, we print your name on the tickets and we have our own
person let you in a separate entrance where we check your ID to match
the ticket. We charge you a surcharge that has been less than
TicketMaster’s or Live Nation’s in all cases so far to pay for the
costs of doing this – it’s not a profit center for us. We have
essentially stopped scalping by doing these things – because we want
true fans to be able to get great seats and not get ripped off by these
I assure you nobody in the NIN camp supplies or supports the
practice of supplying tickets to these re-sellers because it’s not
something we morally feel is the right thing to do. We are leaving
money on the table here but it’s not always about money.
Being completely honest, it IS something I’ve had to consider. If
people are willing to pay a lot of money to sit up front AND ARE GOING
TO ANYWAY thanks to the rigged system, why let that money go into the
hands of the scalpers? I’m the one busting my ass up there every night.
The conclusion really came down to it not feeling like the right thing
to do – simple as that.
My guess as to what will eventually happen if / when Live Nation
and TicketMaster merges is that they’ll move to an auction or
market-based pricing scheme – which will simply mean it will cost a lot
more to get a good seat for a hot show. They will simply BECOME the
scalper, eliminating them from the mix.
Nothing’s going to change until the ticketing entity gets serious
about stopping the problem – which of course they don’t see as a
problem. The ultimate way to hurt scalpers is to not support them.
Leave them holding the merchandise. If this subject interests you,
check out the following links. Don’t buy from scalpers, and be suspect
of artists singing the praises of the Live Nation / TicketMaster
merger. What’s in it for them?
* I fully realize by playing those venues we are getting into bed
with all these guys. I’ve learned to choose my fights and at this point
in time it would be logistically too difficult to attempt to circumvent
the venues / promoter / ticketing infrastructure already in place for
this type of tour. For those of you about to snipe “it’s your fault for
playing there, etc… ” – I know it is.
photo by flickr user Edvill