This post has been thrashing about in my head for quite awhile now. On one hand, I’ve been angry enough to write about it for months now. On the other, I’ve been too angry to put together a cohesive post.
What in the actual f*ck is going on, Ticketmaster?? Was it not enough for you to decide when, where and how you’d release seats? Charging twenty dollars or more over the top of regular ticket prices didn’t help your P and L statements? Offering up “Platinum” packages of your own didn’t spin your wheels fast enough? Oh, how about those resale tickets…on your own site…even those weren’t good enough?
If you’ve had the pleasure of having Ticketmaster ream you lately, then you must have heard about Dynamic Pricing. This is the ultimate in Ticketmaster’s evil, devious plan to manipulate buyers into emptying bank accounts to see live entertainment. Essentially, the more demand there is for tickets, the more the prices go up. It is like watching the most basic law of economics (demand vs. supply) happen in real time.
I started writing about Ticketmaster’s use of dynamic pricing several years ago, probably just before Covid. My concerns were simply that the prices of tickets would escalate well-beyond the means of average concert-goers. People privately, and even publicly, shared me they were happy. They were able to buy the expensive tickets with less competition. I was told to settle down, not to worry so much. “Ticketmaster would never let the prices go so out of control that real fans wouldn’t be able to buy tickets. That’s crazy.”
Famous last words, am I right?
Time went on, Covid happened, and I didn’t hear much about dynamic pricing until just before summer. I knew that ticket prices felt higher than they were a few years back. It annoyed me, but I can’t say it was a surprise. After all, entertainment venues were dark for many months, and in some cases – years. Entertainers themselves needed to recoup their losses (an impossibility for most). I grumbled, purchased what I could, and climbed the stairs to my mezzanine seats. However, the situation has only gotten worse in the months since.
Fan pre-sales. A quick review
What was at one time a minor annoyance has become untenable for many fans, including me. I have sat through a few pre-sales in the past several months. It has become alarming. I would watch “normal” ticket prices climb well-beyond anything I’ve ever paid before. In markets such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, I’m seeing seats that at one time might have cost me a few hundred dollars now sell for over a thousand. That $300 price tag might get you in the venue. Then again, it might not. These are indeed pre-sale tickets. In case anyone has forgotten the pain of a pre-sale, let’s do a quick review.
On Ticketmaster, there is a fan pre-sale on a given day at 10am. At 10:00 am on the day in question, (unless of course you’re duranduran.com…where fans might not get the password OR be able to log in to find it at all) fans use the password carefully sent out to the fan base in order to see what tickets are available during the pre-sale. These days, it is not uncommon for fans not to be sure of ticket prices in advance. You log on hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.
The trouble is, many of us really don’t know just how bad “worst case” can really be nowadays. Many fans want the closest seats they can get, so they click on “best available”. It is kind of like playing roulette in Vegas. You see the message come up that Ticketmaster is searching for seats. As the wheel spins, you’re making bets with yourself as to what row will come up. In that first few moments during a pre-sale, you’re not even thinking about price. You’re hoping for the first few rows. Some want front and center. Others are okay with mid-floor and up. I’m a big fan of Dom’s side. Nobody is thinking about price.
Okay, some of us ARE thinking about price. You know who you are (Hi Jason!). You’re not thinking about being up front. You’re thinking about how much it is going to take to even get in the venue. That’s fair. I’ll get to you in a second.
When the wheel stops spinning and tickets come up – IF they come up at all – the last thing you are thinking is that you’ll have to sell a kidney. You’re thinking, *I* am thinking, “Maybe I’ll get front!!” Lately though, it has taken just that, if not more. Hello Dynamic Pricing. You might get lucky and grab tickets near the front! You quickly dump them in your cart. Nervously, your hands shaking all the while, you hit “checkout”. The wheel spins. You begin biting your nails. A window pops up telling you there’s nothing in your cart!! Back in the queue you go, only to pull tickets that have since doubled, if not tripled. Why? The more people demand, the more the tickets cost. So the more people fighting for those seats, the higher the ticket price goes. This is a rip-off!!
I sat through a recent pre-sale for Blink 182 and watched seat prices change by the second. What started as extremely pricey $400 nosebleed seats in an LA venue doubled in price from one moment to the next. Third and fourth row seats were in the four thousand dollar range at one point. I didn’t stick around to see what they ended up selling for, because the entire tour was out of my price range within a few precious moments.
These are only a few examples of the complete chaos that I’ve witnessed lately. Those Duran Duran Halloween shows in Vegas? I know of friends who bought pre-sale tickets that skyrocketed to nearly $600, for seats in the very back of the orchestra section. For comparison sake, I’ve never spent $600 to even sit in the front row of a Duran Duran show. Granted though, this is Vegas. I get that. Sure, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend spending nearly $600 for back row orchestra is normal.
Well, dynamic pricing is just that. Dynamic – it can and will change, just as the amount of people purchasing fluctuates. At it’s most basic, Dynamic Pricing is meant to be a reflection of the market at any given time. So, when there are a couple weeks before a show and there are still seats for sale but no buyers, what do you think happens? The seats go down in price.
This of course, affects everyone in the same way! Those who haven’t bought yet are able to go in and pluck tickets for what were the beginning ticket price of $280. Those who are reselling though, might have a seat right next to that one someone just bought for $280 that is selling for the slightly elevated price of $495. Why?
Well, the sorry sap that bought a ticket for $575 during the pre-sale is trying to sell it, and I’ll be darned if they don’t want to recoup their money, or at least try. Ticketmaster makes that nearly impossible, though. Who on earth would be willing to spend $575 when there’s a seat right next to it going for nearly $300 less?
Even better, Ticketmaster has limits on how low of a price one can accept for their resale ticket on their site – so it isn’t as though you can even compete properly with these unsold tickets. Yes, I’m saying that even if you want to sell the ticket at a loss, there’s only so low you can go through Ticketmaster’s secondary market. Essentially, you’re stuck with that $575 ticket unless you sell it above the arbitrary limit that Ticketmaster has set, or you sell it directly to a buyer in cash, and transfer the ticket to the buyer as though you’re handing it over for free. What a complete, utter shit show of a racket.
Ticketmaster is taking full advantage
Here is where my dismay turns to anger, though. The venues, promoters, booking agents, management, artists, bands and talent all know this is happening, although perhaps not to what extent. At some point, somewhere, someone has to be willing to cry foul. This isn’t about making money. I’m all for that. Entertainers have the right to make money, just as I do. This isn’t about that. Ticketmaster is taking full advantage of fans and then some, and everyone is laughing their way to the bank in the process. The business practice of Dynamic Pricing is unfair at best, unlawful at worst. How long it will take before the US government finally does their job to protect the rights of consumers.
As a fan, at what point do I say enough is enough? I love Duran Duran. Anyone reading this blog likely feels the same. The fact remains though, that I am not a bank. I’m intelligent enough to know that spending a couple grand to sit near the band is a really fast way to spend money that I might not necessarily have readily available. The FOMO I wrote about last week is a real thing, though. I don’t like missing out. I want to go to shows, have fun and enjoy the music. I’m not super young these days, and I’m aware that the clock ticks away for all of us. Missing out isn’t something I do lightly.
I love going to the shows and feeling the rush of adrenaline as the band takes the stage. I like sitting in about the fourth or fifth row, slightly towards Dom’s end of the stage. As I’ve openly admitted many times, the back and forth “banter” that he and I share during the shows are a major part of what continues to make them fun. Sitting in the back, or up in the mezzanine, doesn’t provide the same experience. So what do I do? Well, for me, it makes sense to save up that cash I would have spent on US shows, and go to the UK instead. I am completely appalled that I’ve reached a point in my frustration where it has become more advantageous to fly to a completely different continent rather than allow Ticketmaster even one more cent of my money. Regardless, here I am.
At this juncture, I would be more likely to save up and fly to go see Dom’s band in the UK. I’ve never seen Uncovered live, and while my love for Duran Duran remains intact – I’d much rather give my money to musicians who need it, than continue to fill Ticketmaster’s company coffers.
Who will (really) fill the seats?
John Taylor tells us that shows will be happening next year. I would imagine they won’t all take place in the US, but surely many will. As I am continually reminded by the rest of the world, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t matter to anyone but the US. If that is indeed the case, then I would imagine the band will take full advantage of that by playing as many shows here as they can.
It pains me to wonder whether or not I’ll be able to really be at many of the shows. I do know that for as long as Dynamic Pricing continues, the last thing I will be doing is participating in pre-sales, unless the band can somehow circumvent that whole situation and make the pricing fair. The chance of buying ridiculously priced tickets and then not being able to sell them later is too high. I have my doubts the band would change things even if they could, based purely on the way they’ve handled the most recent pre-sales.
Ticketmaster is at the ready to take our money, Dynamic Pricing in place. I just wonder how many true fans will fill the seats.