23-Sep-2018 (Sun) Wherein Live Nation and Ticketmaster are up to their usual shenanigans.

CBC just did a great undercover investigation of Ticketmaster:

'A public relations nightmare': Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program.

Box-office giant Ticketmaster is recruiting professional scalpers who cheat its own system to expand its resale business and squeeze more money out of fans, a CBC News/Toronto Star investigation reveals.

The article is long and kind of buries the lead, but Boing Boing has a good summary:

Ticketmaster's shows are notorious for selling out in seconds to bot-running scalpers who then mark up the tickets and sell them for many multiples of their face-value. Ticketmaster has always maintained that these scalpers were unfortunate and undesirable parasites that preyed on Ticketmaster, the performers and the audience alike. [...]

But a CBC/Toronto Star undercover investigation has revealed that Ticketmaster runs a secret, parallel system called "Tradedesk" that encourages the most prolific scalpers to create multiple accounts to circumvent the company's limits on ticket sales, and then allows them to re-list those tickets for sale in its "brokerage" market, which nominally exists to allow fants who find themselves with a spare ticket or two to sell it other fans. According to Ticketmaster reps who were unaware they were being secretly recorded, the most successful scalpers use this system to make as much as $5 million/year. [...]

Ticketmaster issued a non-denial-denial to the Star and CBC, and implied that this was a case of rogue employees doing naughty things. But the misdeeds that the journalists caught on video came from a wide variety of Ticketmaster staffers, acting on behalf of the company at a major trade-show, with no hedging or any sense that they were offering access to something untoward. What's more, the CBC/Star report is backed up by a leaked copy of Ticketmaster's handbook for professional "resellers."

In a separate investigation, the CBC/Star team showed how Ticketmaster manipulates ticket prices in realtime using deceptive tactics (withholding blocks of tickets until mid-sale, then releasing them at above-face-value prices) to bilk fans out of more money. Hilariously, Ticketmaster blamed this on the "promoter" of the concert, which was Livenation -- the company that owns Ticketmaster.

Why would a venue choose to sell tickets through Ticketmaster? Well, if a venue is selling tickets through Ticketmaster, it's usually because that venue is Ticketmaster.

You may recall from my earlier round-up on the corporate consolidation of live music that TicketMaster sells 80% of all tickets in the US, and their parent company, Live Nation, own 117 venues and exclusively books 33 others, including The Fillmore, The Masonic, Cobb's, Punch Line, and most recently, August Hall (formerly Ruby Skye).

AEG (through their Golden Voice division) and Another Planet have a somewhat larger corporate footprint in the Bay Area than Live Nation, but Live Nation is the largest internationally.

So, you know. Pucker up, buttercup.

3 Responses:

  1. Terry says:

    I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

  2. Smylers says:

    Apparently Ticketmaster's current dominance has been achieved despite legally being preventing Live Nation from “retaliating” against venues choosing rivals.

    That restriction ends in 2020, after which time the law has no problem with Live Nation engaging in retaliation to squash rivals, on top of all its other tactics:

    Live Nation Entertainment was placed under a 10-year court order prohibiting it from retaliating against venues that choose to accept competitors' ticket-selling contracts

    Wikipedia (where the references are to newspaper articles that no longer seem to be available)

  3. Wirehead says:

    The vague impression I get is that a lot of companies, where their threat model is 'Someone creates a bunch of accounts and sends spam / buys all the tickets up / et al,' have blocked all of the AWS EC2 IP address space so as to discourage attackers from botting things up, but the ticketing sites haven't.

    I mean, if you consider that the business model for years in radio was 'pay the person to pay the DJ to play the album' because 'pay the DJ to play the album' was a bridge too far...

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