The Ticketmaster Nightmare

“‘A public relations nightmare’: Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program”

The pubic doesn’t understand ticketing. People believe they’re entitled to a front row seat for face price to all shows. Furthermore, they’ve been abused. They used to line up and now they’ve got to get up in the morning to find out they can’t buy tickets and all the seats are bought by bots. Those damn scalpers, they’re the problem!

Only they’re not. First, blame the acts. Second, blame Ticketmaster.

Music is opaque. The most immediate medium, only the song is for real. After that… Well, there’s studio trickery and lies. But this is an industry built on hype and image, and no one wants to mess with that. They say the show is sold out when it isn’t. They say the act has reached a milestone when it hasn’t. Meanwhile, you still want to go and experience your favorite act live.

Recorded music distribution has been worked out, with streaming. But acts HATE IT! Because it reveals truth. I.e. nobody is listening to your music. Used to be you could fake it, with radio play and artificial statistics. Now you’re not in the top fifty, not even in the top hundred, and people cherry-pick the hits and you’re not making what you used to and somehow it’s the streaming service’s fault.

But the streaming services are run by youngsters praying to a different god. Tech is all about transparency, there’s a different playing field. I’m not saying there are not shenanigans, but much fewer, and the music business HATES THIS!

Music has been a thug business. Based on intimidation forever. Music wants no light shined upon it the same way Trump doesn’t want you to see his tax returns. If you saw how the sausage was made you’d be horrified. And heads would roll.

Will heads roll at Ticketmaster?

Now what you have to know is all the money is in ticketing. Once Clear Channel became Live Nation and Michael Rapino failed in trying to get the acts to take a haircut, promoters have overpaid the acts, given them all the ticket revenue, the profit is in the ticketing itself.

The fees. Those don’t all go to Ticketmaster. They’re shared with the building, the promoter, sometimes the act itself. But almost all the profit is in selling the ticket itself. That’s the essence of the CBC article, one people will miss while they rail at the damn scalpers.

“…resale tickets are particularly lucrative for Ticketmaster because the company charges fees twice on the same ticket.

So, for example, if Ticketmaster collects $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the initial sale, when the owner posts it for resale for $400 on the site, the company stands to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket.”

That’s all you need to know.

All this Verified Fan hogwash, all these paeans to the customer, they’re all secondary to the bottom line. It’s very simple, this is a business, Ticketmaster is part of Live Nation, and the company is public and the numbers have to go up. How can they?

Well, via festivals and sponsorships. Festivals are owned by promoters and there’s tons of money left over after paying the acts, assuming the gig is successful. And sponsorship is the hidden profit center. But really, it’s about those fees. All those shows promoted by Live Nation, think of all those profits on those resold tickets, that’s GOLD!

So what happens now?

The acts are afraid of looking greedy. They don’t want to charge what the ticket is worth. There’s been some improvement, with gold circle/I Love All Access, great seats for their true market value. But the rest of the house?

Then there’s flex pricing. Works for the Stones, but they’re in a league of their own, and they’ve been seen as mercenary for decades. As for Taylor Swift… The grosses were high, but fans were pissed off at the prices and sales were soft, especially in the U.K.

So what’s the solution?

Either sell the tickets for what they’re worth or go paperless.

But no one likes these options. Ticketmaster makes less money, the act is seen as ripping-fans off and these same fans want transferability, they don’t want to be tied to the ticket, in some cases the fans are trying to resell the tickets themselves, although this is a fool’s errand in today’s bot culture.

But, once again, all the blame is put upon the scalpers. The bad guys. Who are giving people what they want, the ability to pay fair price to attend shows. The scalpers are not going away as long as tickets are underpriced. And now that Ticketmaster has integrated the scalped tickets with the primary scalping has been institutionalized.

You might see this as an inability to stop technology, but really it’s nothing of the sort. This is all about making MONEY!

Will there be a Congressional hearing? Will there be laws? Elected officials can’t understand the ticketing business and the laws always get it wrong.

Since Live Nation is a public company will heads roll?

Possibly, look what happened after the #MeToo movement.

Furthermore, especially in this era where experience is king, don’t expect fans to hold back, they want to go.

So I don’t expect any real change.

But there could be.

This Week’s Podcast-ME At The Capitol Congress

I was supposed to be the moderator.

Every couple of years, when the schedule is full, when the hammer is about to be put down, Steve Barnett unites the worldwide Capitol/Universal team for a confab in Hollywood. With new releases by no less than Troye Sivan and Paul McCartney in the pipeline, this year’s Capitol Congress was slated for August 8th.

It’s held at the ArcLight Hollywood. One theatre is…the theatre, the adjacent one is the green room. And in the middle of said afternoon, I got a text that my panel was delayed, because of the appearance of a special guest. But when I connected with Ambrosia, Capitol’s PR majordomo, she hinted if I wanted to come meet this special guest…

I decided to come early.

But just before I got on the freeway, I started to get texts wondering when I was going to arrive. Huh? I didn’t need to be there for hours, I was coming EARLY!

And I did. I hung around the green room conversing until suddenly they switched the schedule, could I now go on before the special guest?

SURE!

It was quarter to three, they said my team would go on at 3:10.

Oh, by this time my team was only two, Tim Ingham and myself. It had gone from a moderated panel to a conversation. Which was cool, but I was worried whether Tim would ask me questions, but he seemed nice and gracious in e-mail and it was all copacetic until…

Ten to three. When I was asked if I could vamp for a few minutes because Tim was running late.

OF COURSE!

Although I was worried what to cover and what not to before Tim’s arrival.

And then minutes before three they said Tim was not coming, I had to do it alone. And we were gonna go on at 3:02.

Hmm…

I was walking from one theatre to the other saying to myself THIS IS SHOW BUSINESS and THE SHOW MUST GO ON and when I hit the stage I winged it.

This podcast is the result.

P.S. In case you don’t know, the special guest was Paul McCartney. You can hear his Capitol Congress interview with Marc Maron here: Paul McCartney

Listen to me at the Capitol Congress on…

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Apple

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Lefsetz vs. Flom ON TOUR

Roll up for the mystery tour!

That’s right, for the benefit of Mr. Kite there won’t be a show tonight, but starting in October there will be. From Boston to Toronto to Brooklyn to Manhattan to Los Angeles to San Francisco. That’s right, from Beantown to T.O. to the Big Apple to Tinseltown to the City by the Bay, Jason and I will be taking our show on the road.

What does this involve?

An up close and personal with personalities who refuse to hold back and will speak the truth about not only the music business, but politics and law…did you know Jason’s a driver of the Innocence Project and has gotten numerous wrongly convicted people out of jail? YOU DO NOW! And you think you know everything about me, but this newsletter is an edited take. Come to the show and…

Jason will be interviewing me and I’ll be interviewing Jason and we’ll answer the questions you want to know, like how did Flom sign all those acts and how did I go from zero to where I am now.

How did this happen?

Jason said he got a bigger reaction doing my podcast than all the other press he’s done previously COMBINED! It was his idea to go on the road. I decided to go along. You see Jason doesn’t always hit, but his ratio of success is legendary, and I want some of what he’s got.

So we were in Toronto at Canadian Music Week, having a long conversation with Canadian rappers, there is such a thing, and Jason proffered this idea. And when I awoke he already had an agent and the tour was already rolling down the pike.

Marc Geiger is the majordomo agent. And he and his team have booked this experiment to see if you want to come, DO YOU?

Prices are low.

Buildings are small.

I guess you get to decide.

But I’ve gotten an education. I thought I knew a lot about the business, but only when your own show goes on the road do you really learn what’s involved. The offer process. The ticket pricing process. The routing process. Actually, we were gonna do Chicago and D.C. too. But then the dates flipped, so instead of playing D.C. and then Chicago, which makes logical travel sense, it became the reverse. You see every venue is not available on every evening. And the new routing required we twiddle our thumbs and burn time in between gigs so this time around we decided to pass on those cities.

And then there was copy and artwork.

Copy is my department.

As for photographs, they were shot on the eve of Rosh Hashanah by attorney Ken Hertz, photographer extraordinaire. But if you think this is a shoestring operation, you’d be wrong. Boston and Toronto are promoted by Live Nation and Brooklyn is promoted by The Bowery Presents and Manhattan is City Winery and L.A. is Spaceland and San Francisco is Goldenvoice. So this is a professional production, the only amateurs are US!

Then again, Jason is famous for his keynote speeches and jokes, a couple of which he’s sure to tell on stage. And I’ve done tons of live dates too, but I can’t guarantee Gene Simmons will show up…

Now hype is not my forte. But in this world if you don’t tell people, they don’t know. And if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.

So…A SPLENDID TIME IS GUARANTEED FOR ALL!

Saturday October 13 – Boston – Tsai Center at Boston University: $30 – http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0100552AD856A2FA

Sunday October 14 – Toronto – Phoenix Concert Theatre: $75, $50, $35 (CAD) – http://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/10005525EB259B45

Tuesday October 16 – Brooklyn– Rough Trade – $25 – http://axs.com/events/361234/lefsetz-vs-flom-no-holds-barred-tickets?skin=roughtrade

Thursday October 18 – New York – The Loft at City Winery: $35, $28, $22 – https://citywinery.com/theloft/lefsetz-vs-flom-at-the-loft-10-18.html

Monday October 29 – Los Angeles – The Regent – $20 ($27 day of show) – http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1760739

Tuesday October 30 – San Francisco – Great American Music Hall – $25-$49.95 – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lefsetz-vs-flom-no-holds-barred-gamh-tickets-50004121674

Of course there will be fees on top of these prices, but we don’t control those!

Needless to say, we couldn’t do this tour without not only the promoters, but Marc and his assistant Jesse Robbins, who has done yeoman’s duty shepherding these novices down the slope.

So, this is a cheap night out. And they tell me it’s all about experiences these days, and you’re gonna have one!

P.S. You know me, but just in case you don’t know Jason…ah, what the hell, I’ll print all the hype:

Jason Flom is one of the most successful A&R people of all time, having signed everybody from Kid Rock to Katy Perry, Tori Amos to Lorde and now Greta Van Fleet. “The Lefsetz Letter” is read by a who’s who in the music business, from Michael Rapino to Drake, from Irving Azoff to Steven Tyler. Come see Jason and Bob debate the issues that matter in today’s cacophonous music business world, from getting signed, to marketing and distribution. Expect a no-holds barred conversation where names are named and foibles and successes are illuminated. If you want to hear how the music business really works, THIS IS THE PLACE!

Jason Flom is the Founder and CEO of Lava Records, Lava Music Publishing, and Lava Media, LLC. Flom previously served as Chairman and CEO at Atlantic Records, Virgin Records, and Capitol Music Group, and he is personally responsible for launching acts such as Katy Perry, Kid Rock, Lorde, and Greta Van Fleet. He is a leading philanthropist and expert on criminal justice issues and an internationally recognized and celebrated public speaker. Flom is the founding board member of the Innocence Project and serves on the boards of numerous criminal justice reform organizations. He is the host of the hit podcast, Wrongful Conviction, now in its sixth season, which features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit, some even sentenced to death. Flom’s love for animals inspired his latest project, the children’s book Lulu Is a Rhinoceros, co-written with his daughter Allison Flom and released in June, 2018. The book explores social themes addressing individuality, tolerance, and most importantly, acceptance, and launched with partnerships including Bonobos, Zappos, and the African Wildlife Foundation.

Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, “The Lefsetz Letter.” Famous for being beholden to no one and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: streaming, ticketing and the music itself. His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Drake to Deadmau5 to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Jay Marciano, Steve Barnett and Irving Azoff. In these days of turmoil, “The Lefsetz Letter” is a must-read. Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz’s insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and consultancies to major labels.

Lefsetz Live!-This Week’s Topic

Is the album DEAD?

SiriusXM Volume 106

Tuesday September 18: 7 PM Eastern, 4 PM Pacific

Phone #: 844-6-VOLUME, 844-686-5863

Twitter: @siriusxmvolume/#lefsetzlive

Rerun times:

Tuesdays @ 11PM ET / 8PM PT
Thursdays @ 1PM ET / 10AM PT
Saturday @ 7PM ET / 4PM PT

And you can always pull the show up on demand on the SiriusXM app.