For you K-pop stans this Ticketmaster kerfuffle has been an on going issue for more than a decade. However more recently Ticketmaster and their questionable practices have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and loosely regulated standards of practice for the ticketing industry. In addition with the use of “bots“, a computer program that runs automated tasks over the internet and scalpers aka resellers, “a person who buys tickets for concerts, sports events, etc. and then sells them to other people at a higher price” (Oxford’s Learners Dictionary) the quest for tickets is even more prevalent than ever before. Many asks why hasn’t Ticketmaster done anything about both is these issues? The quick easy answer as always is money.
Not the First Time in Hot Water: Lawsuits
In 2003 there was a class action lawsuit Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster that alleged that Ticketmaster did not fully disclose all aspects of its UPS and order processing fees to consumers. These charges included “”Building/Facility Charge,” a “Convenience Charge,” and an “Order Processing Charge” Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster, B248597, 2 (Cal. Ct. App. May. 8, 2014). As we all know the additional charges by TM are absolutely ridiculous. A $79 ticket will end up costing you $105 by the time you checkout. These fees also vary based on the face value of the ticket. Meaning that a $200 ticket will have a different convivence fee than the $79 ticket even though it is the same process to purchase either.
The class action suit included all consumers who purchased tickets on Ticketmaster.com between the period of October 21, 1999 and February 27, 2013. In 2013 the suit was settled agreeing to issue ticket vouchers and discount codes to class members, which allows class members to receive discounts for future ticket purchases and/or receive discounts on future UPS ticket deliveries. I was one of many who were a part of this class action lawsuit. Since I was usually the primary person purchasing concert and event tickets for myself and friends I ended up with approximately 20 vouchers ranging from $2.25 to $5 per voucher, which I could use towards ticket purchase or shipping of tickets.
The “Monopoly” of TM and Live Nation
Live Nation which is a global entertainment company that promotes, operates, and manages ticket sales for live entertainment in the United States and internationally, purchased Ticketmaster in 2010. From this merger a new monster was born. As most of the U.S. major venues and tours use Live Nation as the promoter that means all ticket sales go through Ticketmaster. Ultimately meaning that the only way to purchase tickets for your favorite artist or venue is through TM. Let me give you an example of how much power they hold with these venues through my own experience. I have anxiety and claustrophobic, which means I usually need an aisle seat when I attend an event or concert. Often I find myself going to concerts solo so I only need to purchase one ticket. For most venues purchasing an aisle seat is not a problem, however, I learned, that it can depends on the promoter whether or not single aisle seats can be purchased.
At New York City’s famous Madison Square Garden you can not purchase single aisle seats, they must be purchased in pairs or more. So I try to avoid any events at the Garden if solo. However, on one occasion I really wanted to see an artist that was only playing there, so I tried to call Ticketmaster to see about an acceptation. The wait time to speak to representative was 25 minutes!!! Refusing to wait that long, I tried to find a seat in one of the continuous rows that have seats in from of the stairs which would be a concession to an aisle seat. On event day I go early and get to my seat to find that I was off by 2 seats. My anxiety wouldn’t let me stay seated there. I explained my situation to an attendant who told me to go to guest services. I explained my issue and they were so kind and accommodating. One of them took me to a section where they have reserved seats for incidences that would accommodate my needs. I asked the representative with guest services why the Garden won’t allow single purchase aisle seats? She informed me that all ticketing is done through TM and this is their policy, not the Garden. I was beyond shocked to hear this information because all this time I was blaming the Garden. She told me the only thing I can do is either call TM directly for an aisle seat or come to the box office to purchase tickets. But, how does that help me when tickets drop for a concert that is sure to sell out within the first hour. Also the box office at Madison Square Garden is only open Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, during working hours. How is this fair, or accommodating to the people who support these artist who are in need of special accommodations. I have since learned that my needs qualify for ADA accommodations, but that still means I have to go through the same procedure as someone with a visual or hearing impairment or person needing wheelchair assistance. Yet, all I really need is the ability to purchase a lone aisle seat.
If you want an in depth look into Ticketmaster and what’s the U.S. government’s role in all of this, then I highly recommend you take a look at Cory Doctorow of More Perfect Union YouTube video called How Ticketmaster Is Destroying Live Music.
“Official Platinum”, “Resellers” and the $15,000 Concert Seats
If you have purchased popular concert tickets from TM in the past few years you may have noticed these two little words “Official Platinum”. In the land of TM they describe this as “Ticketmaster’s Official Platinum seat program enables market-based pricing (adjusting prices according to supply and demand) for live event tickets, similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold. The goal is to give fans fair and safe access to the best tickets, while enabling artists and other people involved in staging live events to price tickets closer to their true market value.” What does this really mean? It means that during an initial sale for an event TM can charge a premium for event tickets based on demand. I literally watched the same seat for Stray Kids tickets in the “nosebleed” section that was face value $79 go from $275 to $600 dollars in the span of 10 minutes. And yes, as of right now, all of this legal. In addition, a certain number of seats are held back from going on sale for various reasons. Those reasons can be at the request of the event promoter for special guest or staff, requested by the artist for the same reason or by record labels for guest and staff as well. This could range from 30-50 seats to a couple of hundred. If they no longer need those seats, then they will be released, often just days before or day of an event takes place.
After you realize you’re not able to purchase tickets from the direct sale you look for resale on TM’s official resale section. Although these seats are guaranteed without fear of you being scammed, you realize that instead you’re being screwed. Since TM does not regulate the price that resellers aka scalpers can resell tickets for, face value tickets can go as high as $15,000 as it did during the BTS Permission to Dance L.A. and Vegas tour. ARMY has been pledging with TM to do something about these unreasonable resell prices, however TM gets paid a percentage of the resell. So do we really think they are going to regulate prices when they are getting a cut of the sale.
I’ve been purchasing concert tickets for a couple of decades (yes I’m that old) and I have never seen the frenzy and price gouging like I have seen in the past 2 years. As for K-pop concerts, I have been purchasing tickets since 2019, 16 concerts so far, and although it’s hard it’s never been this bad. With the new popularity of K-pop in the west, TM and resellers have realized that big money can be made and they prey on the support and desperation of fans.
Swifties and the Petition for Change
In November 2022 the world gasped as Swifties, Taylor Swifts fandom, everywhere were angry and upset when the presale for Taylor Swifts 2023 tour went on sale. It was for lack of a better word a shit show. People kept getting bumped out of TM after being on online queues for hours. Correct presale codes were being rejected. Fans were unable to secure tickets that were in their cart because they kept receiving errors. Later to find out multiple charge attempts went through that led to credit cards being charged multiple times or cards frozen. To then the ultimate, crashing of the entire TM system and the cancellation of the general sale. People were outraged by this occurrence and found themselves wondering how could something like this happen. Two days after the incident TM put out a public apology to Swifties for the debacle. They twitted the following:
“We want to apologize to Taylor and all of her fans — especially those who had a terrible experience trying to purchase tickets,” Ticketmaster tweeted. “We feel we owe it to everyone to share some information to help explain what happened.” “Never before has a Verified Fan onsale sparked so much attention — or traffic,” the company wrote. “This disrupted the predictability and reliability that is the hallmark of our Verified Fan platform.” https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/ticketmaster-taylor-swift-apology-eras-tour-ticket-disaster-1235174302/
Really!!!!!! Never before has a Verified Fan onsale sparked so much attention!! While all of this was going on BTS ARMY’s sat back drinking the proverbial “tea” as we watched all of this unfold. Were we shocked by these events, not in the slightest. Why were we not shocked, because the exact same thing happened during the 2021 presale for BTS Permission to Dance L.A. concert. Anticipation was high as this was the first concert held prior to the pandemic. Since no other concert dates were announced people from all over the world were trying to get tickets to this one concert. Two presales and one general sale was to occur a month prior to the concert. First presale was for original ticket holders from their canceled 2020 concert. Next presale was for those who held fan club membership. Then after those two sales, if seats were still available, there would be a general sale. It was a shit show! Presale codes wouldn’t work, people got bumped out of online queues they were in for hours, and tickets in carts could not be purchased. Then, the entire system crashed, sounds familiar, right.
ARMY’s waged war on TM. They pleaded with BigHit/Hybe, BTS label to intervene. Asked that they get down to the bottom of what happened. Hundreds of emails and social media post went out to TM to asks for an explanation and resolve to the issue. No response from TM. We did not receive the same public apology for literally the same exact thing. What was difference? Many have their theories, that I will not go into for a number of reasons. However, Taylor did publicly shame TM for the incident, and asked for an official inquiry. Mainstream media ran wild with stories of how Swifties were demanding answers. So was ARMY back in 2021. Yet, no one heard the depends for change of a system that holds fans by the neck for wanting to support their favorite artist. A few ARMY’s even got together and created a Twitter group called TM TaskForce (@TMTaskForce) which have dedicated time to collect information of specific issues and incidences that ARMY has dealt with because of TM. All of this in hopes that there will be eventual change in how the ticketing system in the U.S. is currently operating.
Time For Change: NOW
One of the best things to come from this current public interest and outrage is now the U.S. Congress is taking another serious look at how Ticketmaster and Live Nation does business. Recently senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking for the Department of Justice to investigate “Live Nation’s market dominance and seemingly ongoing anticompetitive behavior.”. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/live-nation-ticketmaster-may-need-breakup-some-senators-say-2022-11-22/
According to an article by the Huffington Post;
Critics say the company’s apparent monopoly allowed it to get away with providing a subpar service rife with technical glitches that proved unable to meet customer demand. Many people frustrated by last week’s ticket-buying ordeal emphasized that Ticketmaster had approved a set number of customers to access Tuesday’s sale, and thus should have been adequately prepared to meet what it later called a “historically unprecedented demand.” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/senate-hearing-ticketmaster-taylor-swift_n_637eb8b5e4b0b7f653035a53
Also Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), also twitted support saying “Ticketmaster is a monopoly, [its] merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be [reined] in. Break them up.”. Hopefully with members of Congress putting out statements of outcry for change and another formal investigation, we can see an end to TM practices and disservice to artist and fans.
What Have I Learned
First, change will only come with persistence and numbers. Meaning we as fans can not back down. We have to continue to demand change and for the U.S. federal government to seriously take a look at the public business practices of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. There are laws in place to protect consumers from businesses controlling too much of one market that people are solely depended on them for goods and services. Yet for years this has been allowed to happen without any recourse.
Second, fandoms need to stick together. All fandoms, from all genres are in this fight together. I can not explain why now of all times this issue is gaining traction. However, now that it is we can work together to force real change. Whether its, Pop, K-Pop, Rock or R&B, all fandoms have faced the pressure and disappointment in just trying to get tickets to see your favorite artist. TM TaskForce has reached out to various news agencies with stats of specific incidences to show the patterns and issues created by TM way before November 2022. All of this in hopes that finally someone is listening and together we can all make a difference.
Until Next Time…….