(UPDATED) Why I Blame Ticketmaster/Live Nation
A bit over a week ago, I had an hour long telephone conversation with Live Nation’s President & CEO, Michael Rapino, after he read my original rant (below) about why I blame Ticketmaster and Live Nation for the out-of-control secondary ticketing market.
I’m not updating this article to defend or repeal anything that was said in my article or during that call, but to follow up with my thoughts on how to act on our frustration — the same frustration out of which I wrote this article, not only as a fan, but as someone involved in the community, working with and representing developing artists, promoters, venues and innovators.
Given the sheer volume of support I’ve received for what started as a self-soothing rant, it’s the least I owe you!
So, ultimately, the conversation I had with Mr. Rapino did not serve to distinguish good guy from bad guy; it did not prove or disprove any belief, nor did it discern right from wrong. I am genuinely grateful (and still surprised) to have had the opportunity to thoroughly investigate Live Nation’s point of view, even though it didn’t change mine. What did come into focus, though, was perspective.
And that perspective is this:
Although Mr. Rapino and I may share values, he represents the interests of the largest artists and venues in the world while I represent the smallest — our priorities are wildly incomparable and that’s okay. Again, I am not expressing my support or taking back my opinion in any way — I’m just saying that I recognize it’s not within my right to decide what another person should be willing to risk to prioritize what I consider valuable.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is I can both respect Mr. Rapino’s position and think it sucks at the same time. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes, and I’m glad I am not. I was given several understandable political and economic reasons as to why the secondary market exists; reasons that I, from my perspective, think are utter shit. But they’re there, so now what?
That said — toward the end of our conversation, the only question I had is:
What am I going to do? What are we going to do? In an era where “starving artist” has never been more real, the system, as it is, is literally hemorrhaging billions of dollars — and all we’re doing is blaming the opportunists. What else can we actually do?
All I know is changing a broken system, if that’s what we really want, doesn’t start and end with bitching at it, as good as that may feel.
To me, there is no feeling more sickening than putting cold hard cash in the pockets of dishonest people.
During an event ticketing panel at an industry conference I attended a few years ago, a representative of Stubhub claimed that their main value proposition as a service is to “reduce the number of unsold tickets, thereby benefiting the promoter, the artist, and the fan.”
The only people who should be profiting from music, aside from the artists themselves, are those who actively participate in making that music available to fans — and yes, this includes ticketing agents, because they provide a necessary service.
But when a service such as event ticketing is inherently vulnerable to abuse by black market scum, it should also be their top priority to do what is necessary to prevent the resale market from growing into a $4.5 billion dollar business, where profits are completely disconnected from the financial ecosystem that makes these events happen to being with.
The fight against the secondary market is not about keeping ticket prices low — it’s about making sure the money goes to those who actually earned it.
Re-sellers aren’t doing anyone any favours — they are simply participating in a chain reaction of unethical motives that starts with promoters holding back blocks of tickets to increase demand. Scalpers know this, and they use it to their ultimate advantage.
But they say: Re-sellers help promoters move blocks of unsold tickets.
It’s the PROMOTER’S job to ensure that tickets are sold. Creating a “secondary market” where fans pay more for tickets that the original promoter couldn’t move is literally rewarding a shitty promoter at the expense of the fan.
But they say: Re-sellers connect fans with the tickets they want.
If this is true, why is there national outrage from fans being shut out by illegal bots snatching up tickets the second they go on sale? Where and how exactly did the re-sellers obtain tickets that aren’t publicly available?
But they say: Fans are protected from fraudulent re-sale.
While this is technically true, it still perpetuates the problem that undeserving third parties are profiting from a broken system. It’s saying, “We are making money at everyone else’s expense, but at least we’re being honest about it.”
CONCLUSION: Ticketing companies (TICKETMASTER) owned by concert promoters (LIVE NATION) are lazy, shortsighted assholes who encourage the secondary market at the expense of their clients (the artists) and their customers (the fans) without any immediate repercussions, whatsoever. Tickets are sold, job is done.
As far as I’m concerned, “secondary market” is a fancy term economists use to pussyfoot around the failures of concert promotion/execution while justifying that it’s a free market and straight up scalping is a “natural byproduct”.
As a journalist who has both shot and reviewed many Live Nation events, I‘m willing to compromise future show access to tell the truth, which is this:
You have the power and resources to invest in research and development that would enable change that benefits everyone in the long run, yet you actively choose not to — and that makes you a multi-billion dollar piece of shit.