Daily Archives: August 24, 2010

Ticketbastard

“Greed…is good!”

Uh…no. Actually, it sucks. But some of the greedy people in the entertainment business are so clueless – and think we are so stupid – that they continue to gouge us and defend their actions with the worst logic since the single bullet theory.

In their latest effort to gain street cred, Ticketmaster launched a blog. Yes, you read that correctly. And of course, their first main topic was explaining how those gargantuan fees they collect are really complex (you know – too complex for stupid people like customers to understand) and it’s not really all their fault since other people participate in the money grabbing as well.

I have no problem believing that a corporation under fire would throw its business partners under the (tour) bus – that’s just consistent with their lack of accountability. But just how does that justify what’s going on? How is that supposed to make me feel better? I should feel better because I’m being fucked by multiple companies instead of one? Since when is gang rape a better option than rape?

I spent years working in the industry and remember when automated ticket processing began. I have no problem with the concept – the same seats available everywhere, instead of hard copy tickets where the first row can only be at one box office or outlet at a time. It gives anyone the opportunity to get the best seats – we’ll shelve the scalping and illegal handling practices for now – and a service like that should come at a price. But at a reasonable price.

Here’s an excerpt from their blog post:

But the reality of the live entertainment business is that service fees have become an extension of the ticket price.  Most of the parties in the live event value chain participate in these service fees either directly or indirectly – promoters, venues, teams, artists, and yes, ticketing companies – and service fee rebates are our largest annual expense at Ticketmaster.”

The simple logic is this – if there were no fees, no one would be participating in them.

The article is written as if these fees are necessary because this is where the participants make their money. If that’s true…what about the base cost of the ticket itself? The ticket price is what it is because all the expenses of a show have been built-in. At least that’s the way honest people used to do business.

The venue gets a rental fee. The artist gets a guarantee. The teams (unions, advertisers, staff, etc.) get paid. The promoter either gets a fee because he’s being hired to produce the show, or he bankrolls the show in return for a percentage of the profits. Way back when, not too many people were sharing the pie, but over time – and especially in the lucrative rock’n’roll business – people saw fistfuls of money passed around and wanted their share. So now, pretty much everybody negotiates a percentage along with the fee.

But that’s the cost of the show – the nut – and ticketing is supposed to be just another part of the plan, like advertising and catering. Hell, they’ve got a sweet deal compared to most since everyone needs a ticket. But when artists and promoters see all these “extra dollars” being generated as a byproduct of a show being put on, why wouldn’t they want their cut? The simple fact is there is no need for all those fees in the first place. When a $15 ticket could cost you $33, something is wrong with the system.

The only reason Ticketmaster gets away with it is their dominance in the market – you can’t work around them. Especially since the concert promotion and venue segments of the industry are also combined into dominant presences, and now they are all under one roof at Live Nation. They are not an altruistic organization looking to spread the arts to the far corners of the world. They are Wal-Mart. They are Exxon/Mobil.

Trust me, I could lay out dozens of ways that people in the industry rip each other off, from dummy companies and duplicate tickets to “VIP seating” and scalped comps. I had to learn every trick in the book to protect my own artists from getting screwed, and like most businesses with that much cash changing hands, there’s a thief on every corner. I don’t blame those involved in the industry trying to protect themselves and get their fair share.

And I know the industry is different now, and times have changed, and it’s all business. But some of these fees range from double dipping to outright highway robbery:

  • Why am I paying a percentage of the ticket fee to the artist, who already has a guarantee and a percentage of ticket sales?
  • Why am I paying a percentage to the promoter, who already has his deal?
  • Why on earth am I paying crews or unions or teams above and beyond their lucrative hourly rate and guarantees that they’re already charging to be there?
  • Just what is so convenient about paying a convenience charge, since I can’t get a ticket without one?
  • And the most ludicrous of all – why am I paying a home convenience fee to print out an electronic ticket using my ink and my paper and my labor? I’ve removed the overhead from the equation, yet I’m paying more? Where is my cut?

Ticketmaster just thinks the anger is the delay in declaring the final charges rather than the charges themselves. News flash, geniuses – it’s bothIrving Azoff’s solution is that pricing will be fixed from the beginning with no extra charges getting tacked on. Sounds like the fees are still there – just buried in the mix again.

The sad fact is the days of ten-dollar t-shirts and reasonable ticket prices and the ability to see dozens of shows a year has vanished forever. I pity the generations who have had to grow up with these obscene price structures. Maybe you’re as mad as hell, and you’re just not going to take it anymore.

But I do have a very simple solution if you are fed up with the monopoly.

Don’t go. Don’t pay.

There are thousands of great artists playing clubs and pubs at a fraction of the cost. Your door money might go to the band’s gas tank and breakfast tab. That guy selling the t-shirts isn’t some local union guy taking a 45% cut, he’s probably the road manager. You’re not subsidizing a Chinese Wall of bullshit with your wallet.

Here’s the link to the article in the LA Times that started my blood boiling.

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Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music