Ticket Prices: Market Manipulation Or What The Market Will Bear?

Have you ever wanted to buy concert tickets or theatre tickets and found the prices too high to begin with, then a series of fees that add a hefty sum to the total? Or been put on hold, discovered the site has crashed, only to later find out the show has been sold out or the scalpers have grabbed all the good seats?

Ticket selling practices have been in the news quite a bit lately, starting with Taylor Swift, and the Ticketmaster-Live Nation monopoly, not to mention that The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, has been swept into the mess.

An article on CNBC.com from January 2023 goes into some detail: Why Live Nation and Ticketmaster Dominate The Live Event Industry. And there is a Wikipedia page that examines the 2022 Ticketmaster-Taylor Swift controversy

As noted in the CNBC article by Emily Lorsch: “It’s no secret that Taylor Swift fans were outraged in November 2022, when millions flocked to Ticketmaster.com to grab tickets to see the heartbreak queen for the first time since 2018 and the website crashed. The long wait lines and frozen screens sparked an uproar with fans, blaming Ticketmaster for ruining their chances to see the pop star.”

Bruce Springsteen’s fans are also disappointing, or even hopping mad, that some tickets for his current tour are pricing as high as $5,000. An article in American Songwriter addresses that issue, and  AP News has reported that Backstreets, a magazine and website that has served Bruce Springsteen’s fans for 43 years is shutting down, with its publisher writing that he’s been disillusioned by the debate over ticket prices for their hero’s current tour. As the article notes... "the complaints about high ticket prices left people there “dispirited, downhearted and yes, disillusioned,” publisher Christopher Phillips wrote late last week in a post announcing the shutdown."

After the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco, as it has been called, the US Congress held a Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2023 to investigate “the consolidation in the ticketing industry after the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. Senators questioned ticketing execs about whether Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, has a monopoly in the industry,” as noted in Time Magazine's article: What Happened During Congress' Hearing on Ticketmaster and the Taylor Swift Concert Mess.

A February 1, 2023 article in Variety.com addresses the issue: wondering if the hearing will change anything. Can artists and tours avoid using Ticketmaster? AEG would like to think so as the other entertainment giant has its own ticketing service, AXS, and there are smaller players trying to enter the market, such as SeatGeek. But Ticketmaster Live Nation Entertainment  are the 800-pound gorilla that might prove hard to tame.

But Live Nation must hear the increasingly loud drumbeats as they now exhibiting support for a Fair Ticketing Act. At the Pollstar event this week, Irving Azoff (formerly chairman/CEO of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, chaired a panel with Garth Brooks, Jim Dolan and Makan Delrahim. The concept is to put more of the ticketing process in the hands of the artists themselves. Give them a bigger voice.

So, what’s next: Government intervention or simply go with what the market will bear?