The ‘Elephant in the Room’ | Concert Industry Ticket Talk

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Last week I discussed concert industry giant Live Nation and its attempts to utilize the web to continue to focus its business truly on the “live music fan.” My post came just days before the Concert Industry Consortium took place in LA, where it offered a space for the Live Nations and Ticketmasters of the world to unveil new biz plans and debate the evolving nature of the concert industry.

It also sparked some great responses throughout the music blog world that should interest you…


As usual, Hypebot has some solid coverage of the Concert Industry Consortium. Here are some highlights of Bruce’s coverage, along with other comments from across the web and a few of my own thoughts:

Live Nation continues its plans to focus on “the fan”…

“At a well attended “10,000 Foot View” panel yesterday, Live Nation head Michael Rapino kept focusing on how LN is going to find ways to connect direct to fans, make the experience for them better, fairer priced, and more convenient. He admits that they can’t make a viable return on just tickets with the venue overheads they have in big arenas, and that is one reason the club level is so important now.”

Once again, Rapino is generally short on deets, but illustrates how Live Nation wants to get into the smaller, mid-size clubs biz, for better or worse. Last week, I discussed some of the practical elements of an evolving Live Nation, sparking some good discussion in the comments section.

TicketMaster, whose CEO Sean Moriarty gave this year’s keynote speech, unveiled a plan to sell downloads alongside ticket listings on Ticketmaster.com. Not a terrible idea, but I think Ticketmaster (and all ticket outlets) would be smart to think of dong the inverse of something like this: finding a way to more easily and efficiently place ticket sales in the same context of music sales and promotions (which I’ve suggested before in another context as a prediction for 2007).

Of course, this is just another way for TicketMaster to generate additional revenue. Hey, maybe now they’ll stop charging me in fees what amounts to about third or half of the cost of my actual tickets? Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath for that one!

But clearly more important to the TicketBastard folks is the ever-growing “secondary ticket market” where Stubhub has been so successful (the company was recently acquired be eBay). Seems to be the case…[also via Hypebot]:

“There’s lots of chatter about the secondary ticket (re-sale) market and whether the promoters and acts should control the re-sale thus co-opting Stub Hub and others at their own game by running more auctions etc. Many of non-arena level promoters and agents counter “it’s no big deal”. Ticketmaster stated strongly that they are going after the secondary market too.”

It seems the re-sale market they’re now calling the “secondary ticket market” has thoroughly morphed away from the negative connotation of ticket “scalping.” It is now just another free-market business area to be developed, and the big guns all want a piece of the action. Bob Lefsetz, in his usual abrasive manner, takes these guys to task and says they’re too late, while Fred Wilson follows up on Bob’s rant with a revealing personal tale of his own ticket troubles. He evens suggests that maybe ALL tickets should be auctioned off in some form (one of the better suggestions I’ve heard, that will likely never happen). I do wish we could somehow get the artists more of the monetary value the tickets to their shows actually end up generating. Heck, maybe Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will “invent” another “new” model?

And finally then there’s JamBase’s Andy Gadiel, who also documents his experience at the CIC:

“In all honesty, the comments I heard felt a little bit like major labels complaining about Napster. Shouldn’t people be excited that folks still want to go out and see music?”

Andy’s point that these companies should just be happy people are actually paying to see concerts is a good one. It’s also something Live Nation’s Michael Rapino harped on in last year’s CIC Keynote address. It may be a surprise to people who read this site, but the bottom line is that people just don’t see that many concerts each year (present company obviously excluded). Perhaps there are too many other ways to amuse ourselves? Or maybe there are just too many obstacles to getting people “off their asses” for a Wednesday night show?

Although Andy suggests actual ticket prices are not the issue, he also makes a key point about ticket fees that served as the title of this post and will resonate with any avid live music fan:

“The real elephant in the room which I didn’t hear anybody talk about are ticket service fees (tax). Two $20 tickets to the Fillmore cost $60 in advance when all is said and done.”

Exactly. But as a big live music fan, I lump all these costs and fees in together as the “cost of the show” no matter what percentage of it goes to the band, the promoter, or to Ticketmaster’s ridiculous fees. So any raise in price DOES affect my purchasing habits and overall number of concerts I am able to see each year. Most readers of this site are probably like me and would go to upwards of 20-30 shows a year (maybe more?)….IF we could afford it. I can think of plenty of shows where I honestly factored the extra fees and higher prices into the equation and decided NOT to go.

I feel like the entire industry could be better about making it easier and more enticing for people to go to concerts on a more frequent basis. If it were easier to buy tickets and there were fewer obstacles, that’s just more money to be had right? Instead of trying to squeeze even more money out the big arena shows, why not help generate more “live music fans” like the folks who read this blog?

It’s time for independent bands and alternative outlets to find their own ways to sell tickets and get the “real” value that fans are willing to shell out, be it $10 or $100.

I certainly don’t know what’s the best solution, but maybe Fred Wilson’s auction suggestion ain’t such a bad idea.

So, all of you folks out there see a ton of concerts and buy a lot of tickets…what do you think?

WHITperson -- aka Marc Whitman or simply "Whit" -- is a long-time LMB contributor known for his in-depth posting style and his knack for crafting interesting podcasts. Whit currently resides in Brooklyn, where he's building up his web development chops and hoping to put his technical skills towards something interesting in the music world. Follow his updates over at whitperson.com and on twitter @whitperson.
  • robotic

    the last time i bought tickets through ticketmaster i was utterly appalled. it was a couple years ago for a moe. and allman bros show that justin and i went to. i needed support because there was some kind of mistake with my tickets. their customer support sucks. since then, i have been on a proactive and successful boycott of ticketmaster. i’ll head to the box office or find another way to circumvent ticketmaster getting paid for the ticket that i purchase. it’s hard and i end up going out of my way, but it is worth it to me. here is my reasoning: when you buy a ticket to the concert you are paying for venue fees and costs associated with getting the band up on the stage. ticketmaster charges a PREMIUM price for their service of getting you the ticket, however the premium price does NOT afford you a PREMIUM service. in this day in age there is no reason why even the smallest of venues can’t set up an online or via-email ticket expediting service. the reason i don’t support ticketmaster isn’t because they are a big, greedy company. everybody has the right to make money. i just don’t think that the service they provide is worth the money that they collect for said service. this is the beauty of the free market. i know that by not paying my service fees that i’m not going to put ticketmaster out of business, i just don’t support their business practices, namely their customer support. it isn’t about the money for me. i have on many an occasion paid EXTRA money at the door for admission on the day of an event. that is a service that i am willing to pay for because i understand the costs involved in providing support at the door for the actual event.

  • robotic

    the last time i bought tickets through ticketmaster i was utterly appalled. it was a couple years ago for a moe. and allman bros show that justin and i went to. i needed support because there was some kind of mistake with my tickets. their customer support sucks. since then, i have been on a proactive and successful boycott of ticketmaster. i’ll head to the box office or find another way to circumvent ticketmaster getting paid for the ticket that i purchase. it’s hard and i end up going out of my way, but it is worth it to me. here is my reasoning: when you buy a ticket to the concert you are paying for venue fees and costs associated with getting the band up on the stage. ticketmaster charges a PREMIUM price for their service of getting you the ticket, however the premium price does NOT afford you a PREMIUM service. in this day in age there is no reason why even the smallest of venues can’t set up an online or via-email ticket expediting service. the reason i don’t support ticketmaster isn’t because they are a big, greedy company. everybody has the right to make money. i just don’t think that the service they provide is worth the money that they collect for said service. this is the beauty of the free market. i know that by not paying my service fees that i’m not going to put ticketmaster out of business, i just don’t support their business practices, namely their customer support. it isn’t about the money for me. i have on many an occasion paid EXTRA money at the door for admission on the day of an event. that is a service that i am willing to pay for because i understand the costs involved in providing support at the door for the actual event.

  • http://www.ihoz.com zzyzx

    “He evens suggests that maybe ALL tickets should be auctioned off in some form (one of the better suggestions I’ve heard, that will likely never happen). ”

    Why should someone have special rights to see a show just because they have more disposable income than someone else? The Superbowl uses that model; how are those crowds?

    If you price teens out of the market, they’ll just find something else to do at night.

  • http://www.ihoz.com zzyzx

    “He evens suggests that maybe ALL tickets should be auctioned off in some form (one of the better suggestions I’ve heard, that will likely never happen). ”

    Why should someone have special rights to see a show just because they have more disposable income than someone else? The Superbowl uses that model; how are those crowds?

    If you price teens out of the market, they’ll just find something else to do at night.

  • http://www.andrewjstone.com Andrew

    Here is the point that is missed in the discussions about StubHub and other ticket resellers… THEY ARE MAKING A PROFIT, AND A LARGE ONE, ON CONCERTS, AND NOT A PENNY OF IT GOES BACK TO THE ARTIST, TO THE VENUE, OR TO THE PROMOTER.

    The fact is, plain and simple, they are profiting off an industries hard work without contributing back. And they are doing it by finding workarounds on the ticketmaster website, by bribing box office managers, or by otherwise beating the system.

    How does this help the fan? How does this help the artist or venue?

    Don’t say “It is now just another free-market business area to be developed” or “I’m gonna boycott ticketmaster”… when you go the route of stubhub, you are making somebody rich on the work of others.

  • http://www.andrewjstone.com Andrew

    Here is the point that is missed in the discussions about StubHub and other ticket resellers… THEY ARE MAKING A PROFIT, AND A LARGE ONE, ON CONCERTS, AND NOT A PENNY OF IT GOES BACK TO THE ARTIST, TO THE VENUE, OR TO THE PROMOTER.

    The fact is, plain and simple, they are profiting off an industries hard work without contributing back. And they are doing it by finding workarounds on the ticketmaster website, by bribing box office managers, or by otherwise beating the system.

    How does this help the fan? How does this help the artist or venue?

    Don’t say “It is now just another free-market business area to be developed” or “I’m gonna boycott ticketmaster”… when you go the route of stubhub, you are making somebody rich on the work of others.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com WHITperson

    Had a minute to check back to the site while out of town and couldn’t pass up a quick response to the last two comments.

    zzyzx has a good point, but I’m not sure the current ticket scene is all that much different than what he described. And andrew’s comment hammers home something I breifly discussed in my post about the artists not seeing any of the additional value.

    the brokers and scammers are ALREADY working deals to pull in big chunks of tickets for re-sale, and thus pricing out lots of these “teenagers” anyways. They also screw over all sorts of other folks who are even willing to buy the ticket and pay the ridiculous fees. So I might re-phrase your questions like this:

    why should someone have special access these tickets at all? Why can they resell them on stubhub without the artist getting any value that their concerts actually generate?

    I found Fred Wilson’s auction idea compelling because it acknowledges much of what ALREADY exists for popular shows (in his case, he got duped out of Arcade Fire in NYC). And for the shows that aren’t as hot tickets or sell-outs, the auction could actually serve to bring down the costs. As I said, I don’t have the perfect answer, but it was an interesting idea…espcially for some of the independent bands.

    I’m glad peeps are into this either way. One of the reasons I wrote this post was to generate discussion from fans who probably see a lot of shows, and thus have to deal with this ticket scene frequently. thanks for the comments!

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com WHITperson

    Had a minute to check back to the site while out of town and couldn’t pass up a quick response to the last two comments.

    zzyzx has a good point, but I’m not sure the current ticket scene is all that much different than what he described. And andrew’s comment hammers home something I breifly discussed in my post about the artists not seeing any of the additional value.

    the brokers and scammers are ALREADY working deals to pull in big chunks of tickets for re-sale, and thus pricing out lots of these “teenagers” anyways. They also screw over all sorts of other folks who are even willing to buy the ticket and pay the ridiculous fees. So I might re-phrase your questions like this:

    why should someone have special access these tickets at all? Why can they resell them on stubhub without the artist getting any value that their concerts actually generate?

    I found Fred Wilson’s auction idea compelling because it acknowledges much of what ALREADY exists for popular shows (in his case, he got duped out of Arcade Fire in NYC). And for the shows that aren’t as hot tickets or sell-outs, the auction could actually serve to bring down the costs. As I said, I don’t have the perfect answer, but it was an interesting idea…espcially for some of the independent bands.

    I’m glad peeps are into this either way. One of the reasons I wrote this post was to generate discussion from fans who probably see a lot of shows, and thus have to deal with this ticket scene frequently. thanks for the comments!

  • http://www.ihoz.com zzyzx

    See how I see it is that tickets are like a raffle. What scalpers do is to try to increase their odds by buying extra tickets. They hire people so they can have 100 people trying instead of just one, increasing their odds. It’s annoying to have that middleman in there making it harder, but the poorer person still has a shot of getting tickets at the lower price.

    If you set things up so that everything went through StubHub, then that wouldn’t happen at all. Instead of researching the best way of getting tickets and getting a friend or two to help and hoping for luck, they’re left with a situation where the only way to get in is to have money. That sets up all sorts of class issues (which I would be on the right side of to get in fwiw) and it changes the expectations of the concert goers if they’re paying a lot more.

    I’d rather get shut out on occasion than go that route.

  • http://www.ihoz.com zzyzx

    See how I see it is that tickets are like a raffle. What scalpers do is to try to increase their odds by buying extra tickets. They hire people so they can have 100 people trying instead of just one, increasing their odds. It’s annoying to have that middleman in there making it harder, but the poorer person still has a shot of getting tickets at the lower price.

    If you set things up so that everything went through StubHub, then that wouldn’t happen at all. Instead of researching the best way of getting tickets and getting a friend or two to help and hoping for luck, they’re left with a situation where the only way to get in is to have money. That sets up all sorts of class issues (which I would be on the right side of to get in fwiw) and it changes the expectations of the concert goers if they’re paying a lot more.

    I’d rather get shut out on occasion than go that route.

  • stems

    I don’t see why more bands don’t follow jamnation’s lead and sell tickets themselves.

    Pearl Jam began the good fight against Ticketmaster over a year ago by booking a tour exclusively in non-TM-affiliated venues. (I believe it opened in Idaho.) The tour collapsed essentially and they still use the bastards to sell tix.

    The String Cheese Incident also had public battle against Ticketmaster. But instead of just trying to avoid “the elephant in the room” they came up with an alternative: SCITicketing. Now they can still get their tickets to their dedicated fans but not pay a middle man.

    Lots of jambands have jumped on, either using SCITicketing or creating their own service, while the rest of the concert industry stalls and most Americans pick a hobby that’s cheaper than a $50 Incubus ticket.

  • stems

    I don’t see why more bands don’t follow jamnation’s lead and sell tickets themselves.

    Pearl Jam began the good fight against Ticketmaster over a year ago by booking a tour exclusively in non-TM-affiliated venues. (I believe it opened in Idaho.) The tour collapsed essentially and they still use the bastards to sell tix.

    The String Cheese Incident also had public battle against Ticketmaster. But instead of just trying to avoid “the elephant in the room” they came up with an alternative: SCITicketing. Now they can still get their tickets to their dedicated fans but not pay a middle man.

    Lots of jambands have jumped on, either using SCITicketing or creating their own service, while the rest of the concert industry stalls and most Americans pick a hobby that’s cheaper than a $50 Incubus ticket.

  • stems

    OK, I meant “decade” in that second paragraph. PJ’s anti-Ticketmaster tour was in ’94 or ’95.

  • stems

    OK, I meant “decade” in that second paragraph. PJ’s anti-Ticketmaster tour was in ’94 or ’95.

  • dave

    this is specifically to zzyzx, andrew and WHITperson:

    why do you think “special rights” have anything to do with this?

    Tickets to concerts are not a ‘public good.’ What makes you think you are entitled to go to a show? This is a free market economy, remember? not stalinist russia, got it?

    Put another way, do you whine about not being able to afford a Porsche 911 Turbo? I think not. Why is it your god given right to see a show?

    Which leads to the bottom line, regarding bottom lines… People are willing to pay a lot for tickets. I dont see ‘scalpers’ holding ‘guns to their heads,’ do you? Why is it that people abandon all notions of personal responsibility when it comes to paying for concert tickets. If a scalper is charging too much for a ticket, then no one HAS TO buy it, right? Arent we adults? Stop the f-ing crying! Trust me, don’t buy it and the price will come down. remember supply and demand, or too busy pouting?

    The funniest implication of what youve said is that Ticketmaster itself is somehow too negligent towards its shareholders to capture the revenue that is generated in the secondary, tertiary, and so on, markets… Do you really think they are that stupid?

    look at what andrew said:

    THEY ARE MAKING A PROFIT, AND A LARGE ONE, ON CONCERTS, AND NOT A PENNY OF IT GOES BACK TO THE ARTIST, TO THE VENUE, OR TO THE PROMOTER.

    So who is the f-ing idiot that let happen? Sean Moriarty? Are you calling IACI the words dumbest and most horrendously retarded company ever?

    Naw, what youll never really admit is that if ticketmaster actually charged the “market price” for tickets, and not your notion of teenage-communist-manifesto prices, then you would be in uproar and outrage at ticketmaster for obeying some simple laws, that one day, when you have a job, youll respect; supply and demand. So for now, ticketmaster avoids your wrath, generated by some sophomoric idea that concerts are somehow promised to us in the declaration of independence, and lets you rage at how unfair all this is.

    The real problem with concerts: too many asses, not enough seats.

  • dave

    this is specifically to zzyzx, andrew and WHITperson:

    why do you think “special rights” have anything to do with this?

    Tickets to concerts are not a ‘public good.’ What makes you think you are entitled to go to a show? This is a free market economy, remember? not stalinist russia, got it?

    Put another way, do you whine about not being able to afford a Porsche 911 Turbo? I think not. Why is it your god given right to see a show?

    Which leads to the bottom line, regarding bottom lines… People are willing to pay a lot for tickets. I dont see ‘scalpers’ holding ‘guns to their heads,’ do you? Why is it that people abandon all notions of personal responsibility when it comes to paying for concert tickets. If a scalper is charging too much for a ticket, then no one HAS TO buy it, right? Arent we adults? Stop the f-ing crying! Trust me, don’t buy it and the price will come down. remember supply and demand, or too busy pouting?

    The funniest implication of what youve said is that Ticketmaster itself is somehow too negligent towards its shareholders to capture the revenue that is generated in the secondary, tertiary, and so on, markets… Do you really think they are that stupid?

    look at what andrew said:

    THEY ARE MAKING A PROFIT, AND A LARGE ONE, ON CONCERTS, AND NOT A PENNY OF IT GOES BACK TO THE ARTIST, TO THE VENUE, OR TO THE PROMOTER.

    So who is the f-ing idiot that let happen? Sean Moriarty? Are you calling IACI the words dumbest and most horrendously retarded company ever?

    Naw, what youll never really admit is that if ticketmaster actually charged the “market price” for tickets, and not your notion of teenage-communist-manifesto prices, then you would be in uproar and outrage at ticketmaster for obeying some simple laws, that one day, when you have a job, youll respect; supply and demand. So for now, ticketmaster avoids your wrath, generated by some sophomoric idea that concerts are somehow promised to us in the declaration of independence, and lets you rage at how unfair all this is.

    The real problem with concerts: too many asses, not enough seats.

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