Is monopolisation worth the cost?
It’s no secret among concertgoers that Ticketmaster is known for its high prices, higher fees, and notoriously intense buying experience. When large acts like Taylor Swift or Suga of BTS announce tours, the first reaction from many fans is concern- or even anger- over how much tickets sold by the site will be marked up. The fears aren’t unfounded either, as Ticketmaster has recently sold tickets with fees higher than the actual price of the ticket – selling $20 tickets for The Cure in March with a fee total of $21.95.
Most notably, the company found itself under fire this past year regarding its ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Between long queues, high demand, and bot attacks, many found themselves struggling even to get tickets. When asked about her experience, Ellie Smith mentioned having to attempt multiple times to get tickets for even one day, going through multiple presales, and coordinating with other people. “We joke about going to war, but it really does feel like it,” she said, commenting on the common joke among fans of Swift.
In the event that customers did get tickets in their basket, they were either gone before they had the chance to checkout, or were going for high prices that you had no choice but to pay if you wanted a ticket. Smith mentioned that she ended up paying more than she expected to, even after seeing tickets the previous day for cheaper, because of Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing.
Swifties are not the only ones experiencing these issues either. As someone who loves concerts, I find myself increasingly weary when any artist I want to see announces tickets to be sold on the website, and I’m not the only one. “I’ve never had a good experience with Ticketmaster,” said Emilia Medina, a student from the US, explaining that tickets often run out by the time she can get through the queue due to scalpers or bots. “[They] don’t have the facilities in place to stop that from happening, which is ridiculous.
The main issue that often comes up, and one that impacts students on a uni budget especially, is the pricing. The incident with The Cure in March was neither the first nor the last time that people looking to buy tickets have found fees to be the main barrier to them buying tickets. “It was 40 dollars less to buy through the venue [to see The Beths]…but for most artists, [venues] just sell through Ticketmaster,” Medina recalls. It’s something that reflects my own experience buying tickets for Fall Out Boy’s recent tour. While I was able to get decent tickets, they were more than I expected to spend and I had to go out of my way to find ones that weren’t marked up or VIP- which adds additional fees many people cannot afford.
Unfortunately for fans, there often isn’t another alternative. Early this year, the company and its parent LiveNation were investigated in the United States Senate over whether it held a monopoly over the live music industry, a move brought on by the issues with Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. While several solutions were discussed – including making tickets non transferable – there wasn’t a concrete goal laid out, even with several Swift fans protesting outside.
With many venues not selling their own tickets, fans are forced to go through Ticketmaster, and it’s impacting the concerts people are seeing. “I can’t pay 250 dollars to be in a nosebleed…it’s definitely changed the way I go to concerts and who I go see,” Medina explained, detailing her frustrations with buying tickets for Mitski’s upcoming American tour. Despite my own love of concerts, I often find myself in the position of having to choose between not seeing an artist I love, or paying more than what I know is the base value of the ticket.
It’s a problem that no one seems to see ending soon, either. When asked about the general views towards the website from other fans of their favourite artists, both students said that they don’t know anyone who enjoys using Ticketmaster, and that mentioning the site often generates eye rolls and complaints. “Because they have such a strong monopoly, people don’t have any other choice,” Medina said.