I decided to steal, or actually, mock the title of an article I came across last Sunday about how Bono is basically super unholy and tries to mask himself as a Christian in order to lead people away from the church. I threw up a bunch and couldn’t finish the article and I will not link to the ridiculousness in order to save your lunches and hope in humanity. I don’t believe in God and I definitely don’t believe in the Devil but if there were such a guy, he quite possibly could be the CEO of a little company called Ticketmaster. Yes, I’m firing shots at Ticketmaster.
Ticketmaster is essentially a monopoly. If you want tickets to a concert then chances are you have to purchase them from Ticketmaster. It isn’t all bad though. If you buy directly from Ticketmaster, you know your ticket is legit and you will gain access into the venue for the event you purchased tickets for. Though the problem with a monopoly is they can control the prices and additional fees they charge. According to Ticketmaster’s Wikipedia page, there are a number of charges added to a concert ticket’s face value including service, building and facility, and processing fees. They add a charge for shipping, and for E-Ticket convenience so either way you have to pay to get your ticket. Ticketmaster is also owned by Live Nation Entertainment which many major acts use to promote their events. So therein lies a problem; the company that promotes the concert also owns the company that distributes the tickets. In some instances, service fees amount to 50% the cost of the face value of the ticket.
To be honest, I didn’t really have a problem with Ticketmaster prior to this year. They were just the site I had to go to in order to purchase concert tickets in a far off wondrous place that actually had big name artists like U2, Justin Timberlake, and JAY Z coming to perform. Such a place can only exist in one’s wildest dreams, or anywhere west of the Atlantic Provinces. The revelation that Ticketmaster was indeed controlled by the Devil came in the early part of 2017. U2 had just announced a stadium tour to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their classic album The Joshua Tree and while I had hoped this tour would be in promotion of a new album I was still excited. While The Joshua Tree is not my favorite U2 album it is certainly a special one. The band would be celebrating thirty years of the record that catapulted them into the stratosphere of pop culture immortality which also happened to coincide with the year that I2 (sorry…lame joke) turned thirty. To make the icing on the cake even sweeter, their concert closest to Newfoundland would be in Toronto and take place exactly one week before my birthday. U2 is the soundtrack to my life and the fact that they would be playing a concert celebrating thirty years of The Joshua Tree seven days before I celebrated thirty years of me seemed like fate.
Now, let me put this in context for you. The concert would be taking place at Rogers Centre or SkyDome. This is not some little pub where you can only fit 112 people without violating the fire code. The last time the band played there they averaged nearly 58,000 people. They were able to do this because of a circular stage setup and this time things would be a bit more traditional, meaning that there would be fewer tickets (but not by that much). I am a member of U2’s fan club and could not get tickets for the show during the allotted presale period. That was annoying enough since I paid $50 for membership and a presale code. (Luckily the fan club subscriber’s gift this year a pretty cool collection of vinyl).
I was disappointed but still held out hope that I could obtain a ticket when tickets went on sale for the public a few days later. That morning, I was online, waiting for the time that tickets went on sale. I also downloaded the Ticketmaster app in order to increase my chances as I had read online that people were having problems with the website and that the app seemed to yield better results. So I’m online with two devices the moment tickets go on sale and guess what? SOLD OUT. How can this be? I mean, yes; U2 is an incomparable live act who has been around for forty years and have amassed a fan or thousands and this tour had limited dates but how could I not get a ticket?
A few attempts later, I was greeted with a notification that said there were no tickets available but that I could purchase some through their Fan-to-Fan Resale. “Get into events you thought were sold out with tickets sold by fans and verified by Ticketmaster. Less missing out, more going out,” their website touts. One upside of this is that if you purchase a ticket here you know it is legit. For some very unknown reason, however, Ticketmaster notes that “[r]esale prices often exceed face value,” meaning that “fans” can charge whatever they want for a ticket. This means that some ass clown can sell a ticket in the very back row of the stadium which would have retailed for no more than $100 (plus those AWESOME fees) for $400. What’s funny is that the notification that came up on that day said something along the lines of “connect with fans who can’t make the show”. Can’t make the show?! You JUST BOUGHT the tickets! “Fan to fan” my ass.
What I find positively perplexing is that Ticketmaster would allow this to happen. They are basically housing “Scalpers R Us” on their own website. It doesn’t make sense on their part. They are running a portion of their site that allows other people to make money off tickets they purchased from Ticketmaster. Other fan sites, such as U2Start.com, (the venue where my encounter with the uninformed Internet troll occurred earlier this year) allow fans to sell tickets but only at face value.
After posting about my ticket purchasing frustrations on Facebook and U2 Start, I began seeing some comments perpetuating a conspiracy theory that Ticketmaster actually behind these “fan-to-fan” resales in order to make an even bigger profit from a concert. This means that they either withhold tickets for general sale or have employees purchase tickets later in order to make an even bigger profit.
I reached out to Ticketmaster to see if they could shed some light on the matter. I sent an email to their general customer service. Jordan M from Ticketmaster Fan Service was very apologetic about the fact that I couldn’t get tickets to see U2. He said, “[t]he reason we have fan to fan resale is mostly to give those who are unable to attend the event a way to get their money back, since most events do not allow refunds.” He then apologized for not being able to “satisfy my needs”.
That email failed to really answer my questions about why Ticketmaster is allowing people to make profits off of the tickets they are selling. In the meantime, I watched an episode of the long-running CBC investigative series Marketplace. This episode looked at why fans can’t seem to get tickets to hotly anticipated events and discussed the use of bots and brokers.
Bots are software applications that perform tasks that are simple and repetitive and can be performed at much higher rates than a human. People use these bots to purchase tickets so they can sell them and inflated prices later. Brokers sell tickets through websites at inflated prices based on demand and availability. They purchase tickets through incredible means in order to sell them later. The entire episode of Marketplace centers about how difficult it was to obtain tickets for The Tragically Hip’s last tour and is definitely a must watch.
I decided to call Ticketmaster but the agent said they could not speak to the media (Wow. I’m “the media”?!) but the agent did give me an email to contact. I asked the same questions I asked in my initial email but sadly I have not received a response at this time. So, no response from Ticketmaster and no lead on U2 tickets which means I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. With less than a month before the show in Toronto and tickets still at astronomically inflated prices, it looks like I’ll have to welcome 30 not with, but without U2.
I’ll end this article off with a little nod to one of my all-time favorite shows, The Simpsons in another example of how the writers and creators of the show have some sort of crystal ball and can see the future; here we see an exchange between Mr. Burns and Mr. Smithers where Burns quips that Smithers was skeptical of his buying Ticketmaster. Maybe the CEO of Ticketmaster isn’t the Devil after all; maybe he is actually one C. Montgomery Burns?