Fixing Ticketing?

Let’s start with the fees. Everybody wants them baked in, except for the acts. Ironically, even those acts complaining about the fees!

Everybody on the inside knows the real price of the ticket is the face price plus the fees, otherwise the whole concert promotion paradigm doesn’t work. The promoter needs those fees to make a profit.

But here’s where Ticketmaster takes the blame once again. The hate is focused on the ticketing company when it’s really the fault of the act! The act can ask for an all-in price, Ticketmaster has no problem with this, but so many acts don’t want this.

Let’s use an example. A club show. $25 face value plus $25 in fees. The act can side with the fan, you’re getting ripped-off! But the truth is the ticket really costs $50. It’s just by making half of it fees, the act looks like it’s not overcharging, that it’s on the fans’ side, when this is not the truth.

Of course there are acts that would go to all-in pricing, but unless there’s uniformity, there is no solution, no happiness.

Never mind all the other industries, like hospitality, that survive on fees.

So let’s move on to the bots.

Do you still get spam e-mail? Even worse, do you get spam texts? OF COURSE YOU DO! We’ve been doing this internet thing for decades but spam hasn’t been eradicated yet. Talk about money… Google provides Gmail, the number one e-mail service, the company has tons of money, but even Google can’t solve the problem!

So if you think you can legislate bots away…

And even if you have a law, without manpower, without enforcement, the law is toothless. Think about the IRS… The Republicans want funding removed, saying that the IRS targets small businesses. Don’t you  see there’s going to be the same argument when it comes to anti-bot enforcement? Even if there’s a law, if it’s enforced, the blowback will be loud.

As for the scalpers utilizing these bots… The truth is both promoters and fans like scalpers. On risky shows, promoters sell directly to scalpers, to take some of the risk off the table. Especially in sports. And the public likes to know that a ticket is always available if they’re willing to pay. And, the public wants to be able to resell/scalp its own tickets. So tying the ticket to the individual and disallowing resale, the fans are not happy with this.

Okay, how do we address the evil Ticketmaster?

Forget the merger with Live Nation, that ship has sailed. How can Ticketmaster be hobbled?

The only way is by declaring it a monopoly. On the surface, this appears to be the case, with even Ticketmaster saying it has 60% of the market, others saying as much as 80%.

Easy to throw the m-word around, but proving a monopoly? Much harder. Now under previous administrations antitrust laws have not been strictly enforced. This has changed under Lina Khan, who is experienced and knows the landscape. This is important, unlike previous heads of the Federal Trade Commission, Khan has worked in the field and understands it. Whereas the public and congresspeople don’t understand ticketing.

So, one way of proving a monopoly is harm to the consumer. Just raw market share is not enough to take action.

But let’s say Khan takes action.

Now let’s just focus on ticketing, not the consent decree, whether Live Nation uses Ticketmaster as a pawn for concerts.

So, jumping to the end here, let’s just say the FTC says Ticketmaster is a monopoly. Now if this happens, the FTC must come up with a solution, THAT OBVIATES THE MONOPOLY! In other words, when the decision is dealt, the resulting company or companies must not have a monopoly.

Well everybody inside knows that as much as it’s a national punching bag, Ticketmaster is the best ticketing company. Sure, use someone else for a club, but if you want scale, Ticketmaster is the only choice. As for someone rising up and competing? Why invest all that money if Ticketmaster has exclusive deals.

But let’s say we get rid of exclusive deals. Let’s use the English model.

In the English model, the arena controls 60% of the ticket inventory, and the promoter 40%. So the building still gets fees, and the remaining pool of tickets is open to other companies. Yes, the promoter picks. So there is competition. Maybe it’s price, maybe it’s efficiency. But at scale, no one is close to Ticketmaster’s efficiency. Is a company going to invest to compete with Ticketmaster? That’s a big ask. All that money with no guarantee. But it could happen. Or it could turn out that Ticketmaster does all of the ticketing anyway, and you end up with a monopoly.

The dreaded monopoly… The only real solution is to break up Ticketmaster into smaller companies, a la the breakup of AT&T. This could be done in theory, but it wouldn’t be easy. Maybe everybody gets the underlying tech and…

Now with AT&T, we saw the smaller companies ended up merging and the result was there were few companies left. Right now, really only three, Verizon, T-Mobile and a company that uses the original AT&T moniker. T-Mobile merged with Sprint and it still offers deals, but not as good, but…

We’re talking about ticketing.

Yes, if Ticketmaster is a monopoly it must be broken up, otherwise it ends up with most of the market share anyway.

So, the resulting companies, along with theoretical newbies, all compete. Will ticketing be improved? Possibly. Ticketmaster is built on legacy spaghetti code, just like Windows. But it’s a big risk, investing all that money, will you end up being able to sell tickets?

But here’s the dirty little secret, even if you break up Ticketmaster, ticket prices will not go down, they could even go up, as a result of needing to compensate the ticketing companies for all that investment to compete! There’d still be the fee problem, and the bot problem and…

As for the Taylor Swift on-sale “debacle”… Remove all the bots and I bet you’d still have a problem, or a close facsimile thereto. Because you get in and you want to choose your ticket. Remember the old days, when you had to go to Sears or wherever to get tickets? There might be someone in front of you, not even buying a concert ticket, but a ticket for another event, spending ten minutes nailing down what they wanted. Ticketmaster delivered choice, choose your seat, unlike Ticketron, but this inherently adds friction. Oh, we could go to a model where you take what we give you, but how many people would end up complaining about that?

Here’s the bottom line. When people rail against Ticketmaster it’s because demand exceeds supply. People are inherently left out. And unhappy. And, inherently those tickets that are available will either be worth more than the face price or end up being very expensive.

And you know who is responsible for that? THE ACTS! They want you to blame Ticketmaster as opposed to themselves. Oh, they could price the tickets at what they’re worth, but you’d call them greedy, and they are uber-protective of their image. The Stones price their tickets at what they’re worth, but there’s not a lot of runway left in their concert career, and they are the STONES!

Which brings me back to the fact that the fans are delusional. They believe they are entitled to be in the building, in a good seat at a low price. And oftentimes that’s literally impossible!

And, of course, there are all those shows that aren’t instant sellouts, where the promoter is at risk… So it’s not hard to get a ticket and people don’t complain, except for the fees. And, once again, the fee problem was generated by the acts!

I’m not saying Ticketmaster has perfectly clean hands, but I will say both the acts and the fans are responsible for ticketing hiccups, but just like seemingly everyone else in America today they won’t accept responsibility, it must be somebody else’s fault.

That’s assuming you can get the FTC to declare Ticketmaster a monopoly to begin with. Which is a big lift in itself.

And, once again, if Ticketmaster is a monopoly, the solution must ensure that that monopoly is broken and won’t reappear. Which means you’ve got to take drastic action against Ticketmaster, a breakup, and not allow the resulting companies to ever merge to the point where the result is a monopoly. And with smaller companies will there be as much investment? Unclear. But one thing is clear, ticket prices will not go down, as I stated earlier, there’s a good chance they’ll go up! Maybe someone will invest enough that a national stadium tour can go on sale all at once… But why do we need that anyway? Breaking it up by gig solves so much of this problem.

So, if you want to fix ticketing…

You must sacrifice. And you still might not end up with the result you desired.

We test drove an electric Hyundai Ioniq after Felice’s car got totalled. A great automobile. But the only one you could buy had four wheel drive, which we didn’t want, and was ten grand over sticker. What did we do? Moved on and bought something else. Oh, Hyundai can sell every one they build, with a markup over list price, and you can buy it at that price, or not.

The law of supply and demand affects everything. Why should it not apply to ticketing? IT DOES!

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