Sonic Perspectives

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I’m Mad at LiveNation and Metallica, BUT NOT For the Same Reason You Are

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By now you’ve probably heard about the secretly recorded phone call that saw Metallica, ticketing powerhouse LiveNation, and a third party broker conspiring to sell tickets for the World Wired Tour through the secondary market, bypassing the opportunity for fans to purchase over 4,000 tickets at each show at the advertised prices. This recording brought to light a practice that almost everyone assumed happened to some degree, either with dirty directness or a simple lack of prevention by those that might be able to take steps to stop it.

My anger isn’t at Metallica for wanting to make money at their concerts. My anger isn’t at LiveNation for wanting to get the most out of the product they’re offering. My anger isn’t at people wanting to take proper advantage of supply and demand when the opportunity is there for them. My anger is at all parties involved for not being able to operate in a transparent manner, in part because of a live music consuming public that probably can’t handle the truth.

Imagine with me, if you will, you’ve pulled up the ticketing map of your local arena for the soon to start sale for the upcoming Justin Bieber show. You’ve got Bieber Fever, and I’m certainly not going to blame you. Who among us doesn’t swoon at the sight of that hunky Canadian heartthrob. In any case, you view the map when tickets go on sale and a few items shock you. Half of the front 3 rows are blacked out, you glance over at the key and see they are held for marketing promotions, local radio giveaways and such. Other chunks of the first 15 rows are unavailable, noted that they were for Bieber’s private silver, gold, platinum, and maple packages sold through his fan club. Rest assured those fans paid a premium for those tickets, and if you want to be that close, you will too.

Of those seats left in the front you see that the front row costs $1,500 a ticket. Second and third row will run you $1,250. Fourth and fifth will only set you back an even $1,000. Sections of the arena, with the least desirable views show that they will unlock only when a number of the more expensive tickets have sold. Generally speaking the better the seat, the more you’re going to pay right from the box office.

You gasp. How can these greedy bands and venues expect you to pay more for better seats? We all know that you put an entire arena floor on sale for the same price, and through a series of refreshes award a select seven fans with awesome tickets at a reasonable price, while everyone else settles for the best they can find.

All I want is for the smoke and mirrors to be stripped away, and for the public to accept that the scalper market, and the move to get tickets there is just a boogeyman put in place because they can’t accept the simple truth that higher value tickets are either going to be extremely hard to come by at a low price, or they are going to be easy to access at a high price. All we’re doing by adding extra layers is giving ourselves and outlet for our anger at reality while pushing that price up just a bit more by adding extra steps into the process.

The secondary market is an amazing awesome tool. It allows fans to transfer tickets from one another in a wide range of circumstances that is helpful to buyers and sellers alike. There is no reason it should be flooded with a bunch of extra tickets that should have gone directly to the public in the first place. It’s time for bands, promoters, and ticket outlets to step up, and give us the real cost of tickets up front. There is no shame in a band with excess demand for the venues they are playing, or the promoters who booked them to collect all the money they can from tickets up front. Because until a scalperless ticket system is perfected, any low miscalculation on their part isn’t putting money back into fans pockets, it’s simply transferring it to scalpers and other third parties.

And for our part, we just have to accept that for every show there are only so many truly premium seats, and plenty of people who want them. And given that there has to be some sort of system with which who decides who gets them I ask for a simple dollar amount that is reflective of their value. This won’t make everyone happy, but no system will, but the least we can do is make the system open and honest. Let’s be angry that currently we all have to participate in a charade that annoys pretty much everyone who takes part in it, not that business entities want to maximize profits.

And hey, even if you disagree with everything up until this point, let’s all agree that if you’re buying your ticket to see the Biebs from the primary point of purchase, and you get it sent electronically, if you have to pay a penny more than the advertised price (service fees, venue fees, handling fees, etc), then the person responsible gets an angry beaver right up their Biebhole. That’s part two of my open and honest ticketing system. 

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