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Ticketmaster is a horrible company (hjhart.github.io)
589 points by hjhart 289 days ago | hide | past | web | 245 comments | favorite



I used to do web contract work for a company that was eventually bought by Ticketmaster. I left before the sale. I was actually "let go" because I didn't comply with design goals.

One of the things that was encouraged in the design was to "hide away" things that detracted the user from checking out quickly. This included:

* Smaller font for things that you would gloss over or not even read, when you really needed to read it.

* A "time ticker" when one really was not needed. Create the illusion that those seats would be gone if they didn't checkout as fast as possible. In reality users were seldom in any danger of losing the seats.

* Put in the users face the event they were checking out for. Keep them reminded that they want to go to this event. Show them stuff about it and then show the cost and fee's in smaller font and break it up into steps so they see a smaller total first, keeps them happy, then add fees on but keep that "time ticker" going so they don't look to much.

Working there, I felt almost like we were a sleazy porn site.

Edits: clarifications

Edit 2: added that I didn't work for Ticketmaster.


Re: the time ticker. Is that true, because if you let that timer expire, you are indeed kicked back to the "Select Tickets" page and have to browse again.


back then, when a user selected seats, they were temporarily "locked" (at least from our end). If other users were "browsing" seats, they would see those seats as unavailable. Honestly, we did this because it was easier to "lock" the seats as it made searching easier for other users on the systems. It lessened the e-mails that said: "I thought I had these seats XYZ picked, but I didn't get them...". We weren't really being nice, but it came off that way.

If a user took longer than the 4 minutes or so there would have had to be more users on the system wanting the same type of seats and none available. This really didn't every happen except for insanely popular events, like NYE or some very popular singer, etc. If after 4 minutes, your time was up. You were taken back to search again, but we said "your last seats are still available. Check out now?".

I cannot say now-a-days, if the timer has more importance and I cannot say from a Ticketmaster standpoint technically. What I can say is how we used to do it.

Edit: added the "Honestly" part, first paragraph.


The timer is/was the worst, I once decided not to buy tickets for an event because the timer wasn't giving me enough time to fill out my CC info and I didn't want to bother rushing or filling out some kind of user profile w/saved card to fit their awful UX.


Timer is not sketchy if it's long enough, but four minutes is probably too short. You need locking for the reasons you said, and if you didn't have an expiration you'd have fun denial of service either accidentally from users deciding not to purchase, or purposely for the sheer malicious joy or from resellers who would scalp a ticket for a higher price, then use their lock to buy the actual product.

Fifteen minutes seems more appropriate, though.


You're kicked back, but it still creates artificial urgency in the sense that it's applied to shows that will take weeks to sell out any given section.

That wouldn't be so bad (airline tickets are similar) except that the "best available seats" function is very unreliable, and sometimes the only choice for picking seats. With no 'new seats if available' option, you're forced to pick blind and under time pressure whether to give up what you have for the possibility of better seats.


I think the parent means that they would revoke the tickets from you and put them back for sale, but there was no reason for the time crunch, because there weren't other people looking for tickets at the time.


The parent author responded and so I changed my comment here.

Originally I had said TM can't predict traffic after you put tickets in cart, so it makes sense to limit timing. However, it seems like originally the timer only was enabled when there were other users browsing the same event which makes sense.


All of these dark patterns (and more!) are common in the consumer web space.

While Ticketmaster is a special level of evil, IMO it's important to note that their scummy UX tactics are very much shared by more respectable members of the industry.

> "One of the things that was encouraged in the design was to "hide away" things that detracted the user from checking out quickly."

This for example is pretty much part of the UX playbook for every consumer web startup of any stripe...


I can't agree with you about it being part of "pretty much part of the UX playbook for every consumer web startup". I have worked for companies that are really, really transparent about the "small print". They wanted you to know everything and be well informed. These were companies in consumer space too.


As someone who often does read the small print (and sometimes does then decide not to do business with a company because I don't like their small print) I tend to think dark things of truly hiding away essential information.

On the other hand, as someone who now runs B2C sites and has done some of the testing, it is abundantly clear that providing too much in-your-face information during the checkout process (a) doesn't seem to help those who actually do want to find and act on it, and (b) does do horrific things to conversion rates.

For example, on the site for one B2C service I'm involved with, removing the in-your-face link to Ts and Cs and dubious "I have read and agree" check box during the checkout process dramatically reduced the number of visitors who'd go off to the Ts and Cs page and get lost there. They're still linked from the footer of every page in the usual place, and a noticeable proportion of visitors do still visit them while browsing and then continue to sign up. Some of those who got lost in the old design have also since visited again and signed up. So, I think it's fair to assume that it wasn't necessarily the Ts and Cs themselves that put people off before, but perhaps more the distraction effect of sticking another possible option in the middle of the sign-up flow.


I see the "time ticker" thing suggested as a strategy for successful marketing campaigns in pretty much every online marketing book I read. You see it in the offline world as well. "Buy now, because once these prices are gone, they are gone forever . . . ever . . . ever..."

I think a lot of companies use some sort of limited-time strategy to pressure people to buy. Most aren't quite as blatant, or short lived, as Ticketmaster's though.


Much of this reminds me of Vistaprint and Ryan Air. Horrible.


What evils has Vistaprint committed? I'm curious. I know their products suck.


Vistaprint tries to sell all sorts of addons after you've chosen what you want to buy. Got your business cards? Great—here's a mug, t-shirt, balloon, and hat that all say the same thing. Just finished your purchase? Here's an offer to get 50% more for a "discounted" price (which may actually be higher per-unit than what you just paid, if you used a coupon code).

For me, Vistaprint has actually been a good vendor with competitive prices (using coupon codes). Yes, you have to go through the gauntlet of addons every time you check out—but they don't opt you in for stuff so it's not as tricky as some other websites.

I have purchased my business cards from them for years (tried Moo and went back), and their prices on holiday cards can't be beat (glossy photos on front and back, matte photo inside for 60¢ each, shipped).


Yes, I am so careful when I order from them!

Since you mentioned this practice. I don't use GoDaddy anymore because of all the stuff they try and add on and select it by default hoping you don't notice before you checkout.


I actually had a fairly similar experience while trying to buy flowers for valentines day. At check out they would show you offers for other flowers that looked the same but in actuality cost more (for no immediate apparent reason) and then your total would end up being higher than you had anticipated. They would also stuff your face in other offers like it would be 15% off if you add this mason jar. But then the mason jar adds that 15% back to the cost and more.


Vistaprint effectively stole £30 off me when I ordered a few business cards for £5 or so. It seemed fine but four months later I found £10/month disappearing from my credit card. After calling the bank I found Vistaprint had signed me up to some 'discount club', presumably because I didn't check some no thanks box in the small print that I didn't see. I complained but only got the last payment refunded.


And Michael's Crafts.


That insurance scam is only reason #8382 not to use Ticketmaster.

Of course there is one reason to use Ticketmaster: you often don't get a choice anymore. The Venue box office is a joke, and Ticketmaster has an exclusive agreement for the rest so it's either them or pay even more to a scalper.

This is why I go to barely any shows anymore. The ones I do go to are at the one local venue that doesn't use Ticketmaster (Wolftrap).

It is a testament to our weak antitrust laws that Ticketmaster has been able to gouge the public for decades with no repercussions whatsoever.


"It is a testament to our weak antitrust laws that Ticketmaster has been able to gouge the public for decades with no repercussions whatsoever."

Genuinely interested to know what is keeping a nimble new startup from stepping in and blowing this up.


Dating myself by mentioning this, but when I was in college Pearl Jam (huge at the time) tried to go around Ticketmaster and got their asses handed to them. They basically had to end up cancelling and offering refunds.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pearl-jam-taking-on-t...


It was a really noble effort on their part. They were arguably one of the biggest bands in the world at that time and sadly they failed to make any impact on this issue.

Since then Ticketmaster has only grown more powerful.

It's interesting to read this article in from that time in NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/15/arts/pearl-jam-bows-to-tic...


Somewhat more recently comedian Louis CK attempted it:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/louis-ck-ticketmast...

I can't find a good copy of his conclusions from that experiment in my searches right now, but I remember his emails from around that time were not always the happiest.


He is still selling direct to fans on his site and from the looks of this he has taken this a step further by actively invalidating resold tickets;

https://louisck.net/tour-dates


Ironically enough, when you click "buy tickets" it takes you to Ticketmaster.


Louis CK was successful in 2012, although he admitted it meant playing smaller obscure theaters.


I bought tickets to his tour when he did that, it was as good a ticket buying experience as there could be, and even included a download of the show. It was disappointing to hear that he has since stopped doing his own ticket sales.

Previous comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11837453


I bought tickets to the San Diego show on the Vitalogy tour from ETM. They went out of business in 2000: http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jun/20/business/fi-42758


Ticketmaster either owns or has deals with all the venues. I wouldn't be surprised if all those deals specified exclusivity.

No venue will switch to a new entrant unless the new entrant can guarantee the same demand, so you have the normal chicken and egg program.


Of course the venues use exclusive deals. It would be foolish to try and maintain multiple ticketing systems, extra overhead with no benefit.

The venues provide the demand, not the ticketing system. The venues will use the ticketing system they can get the best pricing from.


Yeah, but I would think there's a corner of the market that TM doesn't have yet...maybe the really small venues. Start with those as MVP/proof of concept and then "wow" the medium venues, repeat.


There are a handful of smaller companies that have enough market share to be relevant. Ticketfly comes to mind. Parent mentioned an important point: Ticketmaster is owned by Live Nation, which also owns many of the venues (eg, the entire House of Blues chain). Independent venues are becoming more scarce, especially at the 500+ capacity size.


I've tried and failed in this space. In your MVP, you have to be relatively feature complete and be ready to handle chargebacks, CC processing, customer service, and be willing to sustain on whatever price you set as the surcharge -- the established players are often "free" to the venue.


Ticketmaster is now part of LiveNation entertainment. LiveNation "owns, leases, operates, has booking rights for and/or equity interests in a large number of U.S. entertainment venues"

If a large band is going on tour they're going to have to go through LiveNation/TM at a number of stops to use the premier venues.

A small startup can take on ticketing (and many do). But taking on the the venue infrastructure is no small undertaking.


And AEG is Pepsi to LiveNation/Ticketmaster's Coke. For live entertainments its basically a duopoly.


No need for a new startup. Brown Paper Tickets is the obvious successor.


We used them for a film festival I helped run almost 10 years ago now. We were a pretty shoestring operation at the time and needed to get our cut of the money from the first few days' sales to fund an event at the end of the festival (whee!) and they were quite helpful in transferring it to us in an expedited manner.

I don't know how they are now, but they were great to work with then.


I always cheer for competitors and I used Brown Paper Tickets a couple times now without issue, but in my experience, the alternatives tend to crumble under the pressure when they try selling tickets for a truly high-demand show (usually when a high-profile act plays a venue much smaller than they usually do). For all its sins, Ticketmaster does seem to manage to handle high loads on a regular basis.


There is also TicketLeap https://www.ticketleap.com/

There are plenty of start ups in this space I just don't believe any of them can get exclusive deals with the main huge venues that are part owned by Ticketmaster's parent company.


I've had to use them a couple times at a local gallery that I like, and I like their general idea but that site needs a lot of work.


https://dice.fm/

I'm in the UK and I use Dice whenever I can and absolutely avoid TicketMaster.

They also work up the road from me.


"Genuinely interested to know what is keeping a nimble new startup from stepping in and blowing this up."

I work at a nimble startup so I can tell you exactly why we haven't been able to secure a lot of Ticketmaster's clients.

They are part of a very large umbrella corporation that also owns booking agencies for popular international artists. So when a venue decides to ditch Ticketmaster, they will be instantly unable to book any big names that are almost guaranteed to get sold out. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Nation_(events_promoter)

This is one of the most important reasons most of our clients are independent event organizers that will never book mega stars.

Nimble new startups will have to take the market from the bottom up.


I would guess having exclusive agreements with almost everybody.


There are large barriers to entry in the form of existing interlocked exclusivity agreements. At this point is would be nearly impossible for a competitor to get traction in the large event market.


The venues have no reason to want to deal with a new company.


Not to mention how many venues are owned by LiveNation what owns Ticketmaster in the first place.


Agreed. I go to small gigs with max 200 people. I don't miss the overpriced crap beer, half a kilometre from the stage. I like the fact you can talk to the band after.


Agreed as well. It's a bit easier for me that my city is out of the way and generally doesn't get national touring acts (at least mainstream ones, we get plenty of (inter)national punk) and when we do the cheapest tickets are incredibly pricey and I'm paying at least $6 for a PBR.


You don't have a choice? I've never used Ticketmaster. You can too.


But that means not attending some events.


That's a choice you can make.


Can't explain that!


Ticketmaster recently lost a class action suit, but managed to be allowed to pay the customers it unfairly charged not in money, but in coupons for Ticketmaster.

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7370600/ticketmas...


That's a rage item for me.

Not only did you get "paid" in Tickemaster scrip, but redeeming it is some onerous process that requires all sorts of nonsense. After that, much of the supposed payment is limited to a tiny list of shows and venues. Last time I checked (October), the closest show was a punk band playing in Maryland. (I live in NY)


Ha! For the first week of that "offer", there was no events west of Chicago, but they were counting down from a global pool of tickets.


This settlement was even more bogus than the bogus sounding words make it sound. It is basically a non-remedy remedy. The judgment gave members of the class 1) 1 $2.xx voucher or 2) a "free ticket" (coupon) to a qualifying show. I was awarded a handful of the money vouchers (maybe 20 or so) and 10 or so of the "free tickets". Low and behold, when I go to redeem either of these awards I can a) only use 2 of the $2.xx vouchers at once (which is friggin absurd, that does not even cover the service fees for a show) and b) have never been able to find a single qualifying show on which I can use the "free tickets" - every single one has no qualifying tickets left.

And so the world turns and business continues as usual.


Yup, and til "outcry" made them "revise" their list, there wasn't an event anywhere on the West Coast _at all_ (let alone with anything other than, shocking I know, "no seats available").


Did they pay the lawyers in coupons for ticketmaster as well?


I was a recipient of those vouchers, they were only good for a certain subset of shows and then they didn't work when I tried using them.

That said, I never felt baited and switched by TM, the fees are ridiculous but they've always been right there in front of you when you buy the tickets. It was a shock the first time but hundreds of shows later you just kind of accept it. In any case the market drives the show prices for the most part.


> "In any case the market drives the show prices for the most part"

I completely disagree. Maybe for the ticket face value that may be true but look at the provided example:

$18.50 face value for a ticket (driven by the market/demand)

+ $1.50 "facility charge" + $4.50 "service fee" + $4.00 "order processing fee" + $2.25 "shipping"

so no you're paying $18.50 for the ticket plus $12.25 in fees just in order to get your ticket. That's 66% of the face value of the ticket in fees alone (assuming you don't get tricked into the $8 "protection" which would bring the fees to 109% of face value of the tickets)

Want to get 2 tickets? You'd think that you'd only have to pay the fees once since it is all processed together but nope, now the fees all double.

There are no alternative ticketing options short of going to the venue and getting tickets in person, so there is not really any competition, so I'm not sure how you can say the market drives the prices when the prices are set by a company that has no competition (and the lack of competition is due to exclusive deals, not really anything else)


The dirty secret is that those fees are really part of the ticket price. It is still the market at work, albeit a dark and slimy kind of market that makes you feel bad about the future of commerce. If in your example you truly couldn't/wouldn't pay more than 18.50 once you saw the fees, someone else would.


Just to add on, here's a link if someone is interested: http://www.laweekly.com/music/ticketmaster-and-servants-band...


That's a fair point. I think for me it's more a matter of principle. I believe everyone should have the opportunity (within reason, I don't expect bands/companies to take losses) to see live performances, so the argument of "well someone else is willing to pay more so tough luck" doesn't really hold weight to me. I think that a truly "good" ticketing company wouldn't put maximum profits above the artists/fans. I also don't believe that ticketing companies should be taking 40% (or more) of the ticket price.

Here's an interesting article: https://medium.com/@jackconte/pomplamoose-2014-tour-profits-...

It describes a band going on a 28 day tour in which they played 24 shows and ended up losing $11,819 overall, despite good ticket sales. Just out of curiosity I ran some basic numbers. They note in the article that they made just under $100k from tickets. They also mentioned that they sold 1129 tickets for just one show. Since that show was noteworthy, I'm going to assume that it was the biggest show of the tour, so for the purpose of calculations, I'll be conservative and estimate that they sold 750 tickets per show on average. Again, conservatively estimating, I'll assume their tickets were sold for $20 total, including fees. With those numbers, the total amount of revenue from ticket sales would be:

750 tickets x 24 shows x $20 = $360,000

So if they took away $100k from that, they're getting ~28% and in the end they operated at a loss. This is also a band that doesn't have a label, which is not true for many, which reduces that even further. Even if you drop the 750 estimate to 500, they're still taking away less than 50% when the whole tour is about them in the first place.

Obviously this is all speculation and assumptions but as someone who goes to a lot of concerts and has spoken with a lot of people involved in the industry, unless you're some super huge pop sensation (which is a whole different can of worms since many of those "artists" are not even involved in the creation of their own "art") this seems to be pretty indicative of the state of the industry.

I'm a firm believer in the importance of creative arts outside the realm of traditional capitalism, so I'll continue to have beef with Ticketmaster and any other company that preys on artists and fans for the sole purpose of maximum profits, but I can understand where you are coming from if you don't share the same ideals as I do.


I would feel bette about the fees if we could treat them like airline fares are treated now. All prices must be quoted inclusive of fees. Even if fees continue to make up 60+% of the total cost, at least it feels more honest.


Except you don't pay the fees at the box-office. Hence not really part of the ticket price.


WTH is the difference between a "service fee" and "order processing fee"?

Anyhow, this is not limited to Ticketmaster. Think "fuel surcharges" by airlines or "resort fees" from hotels.

The best way to solve it is to require all such mandatory "fees" be incorporated into the advertised base price. Why this isn't law already is beyond me.


"...hundreds of shows later..."

That's ... lots of shows. If that's your lifestyle, you certainly would become accustomed to the fees. Admittedly, my social circle is not really urban, so I'm not aware of anyone who'd be so accustomed to TM's fee structure.


That's insane. And despite losing the suit, they continue to do the exact same thing.


Well, if that's all they're going to get as punishment, why wouldn't they? The legal system just taught them that what they're doing is OK.


Only lawyers win class action suits.


Can anyone offer any evidence to confirm or dispute the rumor I frequently see online in message boards that Ticketmaster is passing most of the profit from these fees onto the venues and it's really the venues that are doing the price gouging here?

The idea that is frequently floated is that Ticketmaster bears the brunt of the hate from fans in exchange for letting the performers and venues collect most of the extra fees and giving TM a relatively small piece of the pie.


Sort of. Ticketmaster buys some venues (as LiveNation), and acquires exclusive online-ticket-sale rights to others. They enable this by pouring profit from fees into the venues (either to fund purchases or to afford licensing).

The result isn't greedy venues letting TicketMaster take the heat - if that were the case box office tickets wouldn't be so much cheaper. Instead, it's TicketMaster/LiveNation using venue lock-in to prevent artists from escaping their tendrils. There are some bands that have explicitly attempted to avoid using TicketMaster, and what they usually find is that it becomes very hard to find venues. In smaller cities/towns, it's often the case that there are no large non-TicketMaster theaters, so you can either feed the beast or abandon your fans in that location.

(So in a very indirect sense, TicketMaster is hiding behind zoning/licensing laws and that's why it can offer such anti-competitive pricing.)


It's more complicated than that and has nothing to do with zoning at all. TicketMaster aggressively seeks out venues and lands exclusive contracts, which is a model that makes sense for many venues.

They buy venues and operators/promoters. Some of these "facility" fees are really just payments going into the promoter/operators pockets. In many cases, those people are TicketMaster.


I mention the zoning thing only to explain why you can't push "just open a competitor" one level deeper and create your own vertically-integrated competitor - most regions have an essentially fixed number of major venues, so getting 100% buy-in is totally possible.

But yeah, it's not the proximate cause. That's just vertical control of the market, where TM took over online sales for people who needed a POS service for the web, then merged with LN to get control over promotion and venue operation (which among other things means that many box offices charge fees that get passed on to TM).


>which is a model that makes sense for many venues.

This is the point that so many people miss about Ticketmaster. The customer is the venue and not the ticket purchaser. For the venue, there is no one who offers as complete a package of services as Ticketmaster. They provide so much more than the consumer facing ticket sales website that is the only piece of Ticketmaster that most fans see.


They're ruthless in competing for that business too.

I worked for a startup years ago that got traction with its ticketing solution for certain markets which eventually brushed against TicketMaster. TM was distracted at the time with .com gold rush stuff, and we had traction. They ended up buying the company at a really high premium. A real rarity at the time.


Ticketmaster has exclusive contracts with venues and usually owns the venues outright, so it doesn't matter where the money goes, it's all back into their coffers.

http://www.livenationentertainment.com


Indeed, look at their filings:

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1335258/000119312512...

LOL: "Competition in the live entertainment industry is intense. We believe that we compete primarily on the basis of our ability to deliver quality music products, sell tickets and provide enhanced fan and artist experiences. We believe that our primary strengths include:

[...]

• ticketing software and services;

[...] "


"Competition... is intense", hah.

TicketMaster's big advantage is that competition between venues isn't intense. Smaller cities will generally only have 1-2 venues of a decently large size, especially if you require things like alcohol licenses and permission to stay open late at night.

In any market where opening a new competitor was easy, someone would be fighting TicketMaster on prices and services. But since they deal in heavy venue lock-in, and opening new venues is essentially impossible (hi there, zoning laws), they get to gouge basically everyone involved.


Wow what did they do in 2009 to 2010 to increase their customer database from 25 million to 96 million?


Merged with Live Nation.


> usually owns the venues outright

Really? "Usually?" I don't believe that.


Usually is a bit strong, yeah. Here's their ownership map: http://www.livenationentertainment.com/map/venues

They do have far more exclusive-license venues than that, though.


That map is only their large stadium sized venues.

http://www.houseofblues.com is one of the biggest conglomerates for small size venues, also owned by Live Nation.


House of Blues was actually what I was thinking of when I commented. Again though...

> one of the biggest conglomerates

House of Blues is 10 locations in 9 states.


Hmmm, do you know of a larger small venue group that is owned by a single entity? (or more specially not owned by Live Nation and requires TicketMaster tickets)


"Biggest" and "conglomerate" make it sound like something that it is not. There may not be larger small venue groups but if someone told me that there was a large "conglomerate" operating in the small venue space I'd assume it was more than 10 venues.


Oh thanks, didn't realize that. I saw that their filing cited only their 40 "arenas", but I somehow thought the map was everything.


It's not necessarily the venue, but also the promoter & sometimes the artist. If you promise a top A-list performer a 105% of the cover ticket price, you've got to find that 5% somewhere. (Not to mention other costs.)

One of the major reasons for Ticketmaster early success was its flexibility. Other systems expected you to conform to predefined contracts. Ticketmaster didn't. Want to slice your inventory into 10 price groups on Friday & Saturday, 5 on Sunday, and 2 during week? No problem. Want a $20 ticket price & $5 fee, no problem. Want a $15 ticket & $10 fee? That works too. Need to sell the Staples Center with one configuration for Madonna on Monday & a different setup for U2 on Tuesday, easy peasy. Need to put 3 more nights on sale? Done.

In a nutshell whatever the ticket owner wants (usually the promoter) Ticketmaster can do.

It was really hard to find that type of flexibility in the 70s. Let alone a system that can scale to the demand associated with live events. (LiveNation spent north of $100M trying to do so before throwing in the towel & buying Ticketmaster outright.)

Source: I'm a former TM engineering director.


Two things. One, Ticketmaster tells you where the fees go. http://help.ticketmaster.com/what-kinds-of-fees-charges-and-...

Second, the reason Ticketmaster, StubHub, AXS, etc. break out the fees is because it sells more tickets. Revenue will trump PR concerns every time. http://time.com/money/4018864/stubhub-fees-all-in-ticket-pri...


Fred Rosen was the former executive at Ticketmaster who came up with the idea to give the venues a cut of the service fee:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/business/12tickets.html

Whether that cut is "most of the fee" or 50/50 or a smaller percentage like 20% is unspecified. We'd probably need an ex-employee from one of those venues familiar with a Ticketmaster contract to disclose that figure.


While this is somewhat true, what it hides is that Ticketmaster is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Live Nation[1].

Live Nation is essentially the largest music promotor and owns or operates a huge number of venues. The majority of Ticketmaster-branded sales in my city are all at Live Nation operated venues, so those fees in many cases will funnel right back to Ticketmaster's holding company even if they're passed through to the venue operator. And since Live Nation is running the tours for so many acts, they just book them at Live Nation affiliated (owned or operated) venues as often as possible.

I'm curious how the fees are booked on the accounting side. For example, Live Nation won the bid to operate the Nashville Municipal Auditorium for the next three years[2]. Live Nation pays $1mm/yr to the operating fund, the city covers the rest. And Live Nation keeps all profits from the venue until over $2mm in profit is made (then it's split 50/50). That's after $2mm profit, not revenue. The venue is only projected to make $1.5mm/yr in program revenue and costs $2mm/yr to operate[3]. When the city was running the venue, that led to a $500k/yr operating deficit. But if those projections hold with this new contract, our city is on the hook to subsidize Live Nation to the tune of $1mm/yr unless bookings change dramatically. Depending on how they're accounting for those ticket fees, they very well could be shielding that fee revenue from the profit calculation and shafting our city. It's pretty darn easy for "Ticketmaster" (the subsidiary processing the tickets) to siphon off those fees and make them hide from the revenue that "Live Nation" (the promoter booking the tickets) sees. Even if one is owned by the other. Not that I know for sure this is happening, but I've been exposed to enough Fortune 500 accounting shenanigans to know there's usually a tax or liability advantage to these kind of things.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Nation_Entertainment [2] http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/music/2016/... [3] http://www.nashville.gov/Portals/0/SiteContent/Finance/docs/...


I have some knowledge of the ticketing contract with a small independently owned venue (posting anonymously because I don't want to share their business details in an identifiable fashion). We contract with Ticketfly, a Ticketmaster competitor (Ticketfly is owned by Pandora). Ticketfly may not have as many dark patterns, but they also charge material fees (on a recent transaction, close to 30% more).

I can confirm that while Ticketfly keeps the fees, they pay the venue a pretty substantial contract-signing fee every time we renew. In this fashion, the act gets a certain percentage (even 100%) of ticket sales, but the venue ends up participating in Ticketfly's revenue stream on top of that. I'm sure Ticketmaster and others have similar strategies for creating and concealing incentives. While some ticketing companies may be abusive, there's a certain amount of letting the ticketing companies take the heat for revenue streams that others (venues and performers) benefit from, either directly or indirectly.

Separately, on one point OP is wrong: "Facility Fee" goes entirely to the facility and would be charged at the box office as well.


I can't point to tangible evidence, but I did work in the touring industry for a number of years. In venues that TM doesn't own, the exorbitant fees are not being driven by the venues, nor do they or the artists see any appreciable cut of those fees.

Edit: clarification


Even if that were true, that fee is definitely not going to the performers. The venue could definitely be getting a kickback, but that's usually owned by the same parent company anyway.


I've heard the same rumor from an engineer at eventbrite; that would be an odd rumor to spread about a competitor.


Yeah they've been disgraceful to deal with for me too. They once double-booked seats I was in and I was given the option of being seated elsewhere or leaving with a refund. I opted to be seated elsewhere, but the venue took so long to do it I missed the first few songs and ended up seated where the show wasn't even visible. I was then refused a refund because it was too late to choose that option, and the venue insisted it was Ticketmasters fault, and Ticketmaster I had missed my chance for any compensation by entering the stadium to see my other seats.

I eventually only got an offer of credit for Ticketmaster, so I just informed my credit card company that they had not delivered what I had paid for and did a charge-back. Only remotely satisfactory outcome after spending hours on the phone with them. Not even an apology - just constant passing the buck.


Yeah, just like the tales from the NBA Playoffs, etc.

Got 200K Twitter followers? Ticket sites will "reach out to the team" to get you seats when they mess up.

No? Well, you'll get a "so sad, too bad, credit toward future purchases from us".

Also happened (one of the most egregious) - someone bought tickets to the Lakers in what would become, months later, Kobe's last home game. -MONTHS- after the purchase (and when ticket prices were now sky high for that game), buyer got an email saying "Sorry, the original seller told us he sold you those tickets by mistake. Here's a refund."


> Also happened (one of the most egregious) - someone bought tickets to the Lakers in what would become, months later, Kobe's last home game. -MONTHS- after the purchase (and when ticket prices were now sky high for that game), buyer got an email saying "Sorry, the original seller told us he sold you those tickets by mistake. Here's a refund."

That was resold tickets via StubHub, not Ticketmaster.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10857478


True, I knew it was a different site, though I was a little vague - "other sites".


Louis CK is really the only celebrity that I can think of that went out of their way to cut out ticketmaster. We really need attempts like this to succeed

http://www.ticketnews.com/louis-c-k-sells-tickets-for-tour-w...


I've been to his past two shows in Chicago, and absolutely appreciated this both times. Two years ago it was $35, no matter where your seat was. No fees, nothing. $70 for two tickets. Last year it was $100, total, for two tickets and we were in the front row.

Interestingly we bought them from Ticketmaster both times, but he had the deal with TM to ensure no extra fees.

I plan to keep going every year - especially if he plans to keep up this honest, up-front ticket-price deal.


The Federal Trade Commission very actively prosecutes 'Deceptive Practices' that affect consumers. Sounds like the author (or anyone else affected) should file a complaint. A FTC 'consent decree' is effectively a $100m fine. Google, Microsoft and others have had to comply with FTC consent decrees: https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca....


In the comments of that article, the author says he's filed a complaint https://hjhart.github.io/2017/01/03/ticketmaster-is-a-horrib...


What have they done to tm?


Looks like their last interactions were in 2010. Time for a rematch :-)

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2010/02/ticke...


I wanted to buy tickets for MLS final in Toronto this year. General Sale was at 1pm. I log on at 1pm, site doesn't load. Keep refreshing and all tickets are sold by 1:01pm. And rows appear on stubhub at 1:20pm for ~$500 a ticket. I can fucking watch Real Madrid vs Barcelona (arguably the biggest soccer game in the world after CL final) for a ticket price cheaper than that.

Fuck Ticketmaster.


What would be fair is an auction. Then the price would be more representative of the market value.

The reason those tickets all sell out in 30 seconds is that they are too cheap.


I feel like a lottery would be more "fair", if you want to use a socially aware definition of "fair".


No, the reason they sell out in 30 seconds is because of cheating.


While this may be true in a pure capitalistic sense, many believe that experiencing the arts isn't something that should be limited to the rich


Being physically present in the stadium is not necessary to watch the game and in a way, those tickets subsidize the game for the rest of us at home. This is especially true for the arts since many artists make most of their money from concert tours (a great example of price discrimination).


I'm generally speaking about concerts more than sporting events, and as someone who frequently goes to concerts, I wouldn't consider live music to be anywhere near the same thing as listening to recordings


Auctions are obviously the least fair model. A lottery would probably be the most fair.


I've repeatedly experienced this frustration when trying to buy tickets to see big bands. It's impossible to buy a ticket for a major band these days, I just stick to small bands at local venues now.


I'm lucky i'm into underground music where tickets are usually sold on wanttickets or i can message the promoter and directly buy tickets from them. Hate it when i have to use ticketmaster.


Saw the same exact thing happen at OldChella.

  Ticket sale starts at 10am.  I enter line.  Sit in virtual line for 3.5 hours.  Get to the front of the line, the tickets I wanted were sold out (The $1700 GA tickets mind you).  

  Right below the 'sold out' button Ticketmaster has a 'Premium Tickets' CTA.  I click that.  The $1700 GA tickets are being scalped for $5,500 on Ticketmaster's partner sight.


New York City tried to introduce anti-resale laws. Guess who lobbied against them? Hint: not (just) the resale sites.


The stadium in Toronto seats 31k people, for the most important game of the year in front of a home crowd. El Clasico is a game famous for quality, prestige and tradition but doesn't decide anything. It's played in some of the largest venues in Europe - Camp Nou seats nearly 100k and the Bernabeu seats 81k. It's probably not Ticketmaster's fault the venue is not nearly large enough for the demand.


The stadium seats 31K for a side that wouldn't even probably be good enough Segunda division. 2nd Leg of El Classico is usually crucial for title race.

Ticket prices for CL final are : Category 4: €70 Category 3: €160 Category 2: €320 Category 1: €440 [0]

It IS Ticketmaster's fault that fans don't even get a decent shot at buying the tickets. How do you justify site not loading at 1:00pm and tickets selling out at 1:01 pm. There was a per-sale that started at 12:00pm and by 12:10pm, pre-sale tickets were sold out. Let's say, there actually was demand, but then how come rows and rows started to appear on stubhub for ~500 bucks whereas original ticket prices were ~100-150 bucks (you missed that point of mine completely).

[0]:http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/ticketing/


I didn't miss your point, it just makes your comparison even worse. You're comparing secondary market ticket prices to tickets with artificially lowered prices sold through a lottery. Decent El Clasico tickets cost a lot more and the median income in Spain is about half the Canadian one.

The relative quality of the games also doesn't really matter, what matters is there are a lot more people in Toronto who want to see an MLS final than there are places to put their butts in. Maybe there should have been a lottery for them but that's also not up to Ticketmaster.


"but people will pay it" is not a proper response to the argument that people are being gouged. For one, scalpers drive up the price beyond what most would consider a fair market. Secondly, TicketMaster itself allows the resale of tickets on their site. This creates huge opportunities to buy up tickets and resell. But people pay. Yes they do but it the price is not being dictated by true market demand, rather they are being driven up by parasites. The scalpers are creating an unjustified sense of scarcity to feed their bottom line and ticketmaster goes along with it because it's all profit. The 2nd sale on their site is even more free money for TicketMaster.

"but people will pay it" is not a proper response to the argument that people are being gouged. Especially given the monopoly conditions often in place.


I don't know if 'but people will pay for it' is a 'proper' response but it's not one I made.


>> what matters is there are a lot more people in Toronto who want to see an MLS final than there are places to put their butts in.

The TFC demand in Toronto is a very recent thing though. They pretty much sucked for most of their existence, and there's a huge hunger in Toronto to win a title from a "big league" sport, even if it is "just" MLS.


You are missing the point. It IS upto Ticketmaster to try and avoid scalpers/bots buying all the tickets and then reselling. Bring credit card that you bought tickets with and show it at the door along with government ID. It is easily possible. MLS is to blame, but so is Ticketmaster.


You can't tell me your point is the price is unreasonable when comparing non-comprable prices inaccurately and then when I say that's not true, I'm missing the point because ticketmaster, who doesn't organize the event or the venue, didn't magically run some fairer ticket distribution system. I mean. You can, it just doesn't make any sense.


>It IS Ticketmaster's fault that fans don't even get a decent shot at buying the tickets. How do you justify site not loading at 1:00pm and tickets selling out at 1:01 pm. There was a per-sale that started at 12:00pm and by 12:10pm, pre-sale tickets were sold out.

That was my main point. Maybe you just don't understand what i said or maybe you don't want to.


"And rows appear on stubhub at 1:20pm for ~$500 a ticket. I can fucking watch Real Madrid vs Barcelona (arguably the biggest soccer game in the world after CL final) for a ticket price cheaper than that."

I suppose I don't.


> Fuck Ticketmaster.

How exactly is Ticketmaster at fault?

Their site is to quick for users?

They sell tickets to people who want to buy them?

They can't telepathically tell scalpers from normal people?


Australian here, so things are probably a little different, but I have direct experience using Ticketmaster to put on a large show at the State Theatre here in Melbourne.

Here's how the charges work here:

- You decide how much your ticket should cost. Let's call it $100.

- Ticketmaster takes an "inside charge" off that for the privilege of selling your tickets. From memory, it's around $8. So you get $92.

- Ticketmaster adds an "outside charge", which is the processing fee that the punter sees. So your ticket actually costs $108, plus any additional credit card, postage, etc. It's likely to end up costing ~$112.

So, that's a rort. What do they do for their $20/ticket? Very, very little. The main thing is that they have access to enormous EDMs that, especially as a small indie producer, you really want. They'll send a message or two out to that list for you.

Otherwise, their actual database software is hideous. Putting on a stage show involves complicated ticketing - what seats are reserved for the house, which rows are A reserve, which are B reserve, all of which can be different for each instance of your show, blah blah. I ended up writing my own database in FileMaker Pro to interface with theirs; the other producers I saw literally printed out the seat maps and highlighted them with marker pens before manually entering all of the seat information in and sending back to TM.

A disgrace of a company.


That "Minutes left to complete the purchase" is one of the oldest tricks in the sales book. I felt my blood pressure going up just looking at that gif, and I wasn't even buying tickets!

Edit: I know why they do it, but it isn't necessary for most ticket sales. Just turn it on when there's high demand.


Not a huge Ticketmaster fan, but I actually don't have much of a problem with this as they have a complicated problem: allocate demand of a often scarce good (event tickets) in a way that's fair to non automated buyers. By placing a hold on the stock for a few minutes (rather than allocating at final checkout), it gives humans a fair chance to check out as their ability to secure the stock isn't based on how quickly they check out. Showing the time left to purchase is transparent to the buyer and eliminates confusion.


I don't know if this is common elsewhere but to buy hockey tickets up here in communist canuckland, the local broker uses a virtual queue system. You can register up to 4 hours in advance and get placed in the pool.

When the countdown reaches zero, they randomly, yes randomly, place you in the giant queue. When it's your turn, you just select what day and place you want and confirm.

There is no slowdown unless you check in the pool at the last minute. If you register after the countdown, you get placed at the end of the queue and your chance of getting anything are basically zero.


If they are selling out fast enough that Automated buyers are a problem then the price is to low.

A 'presale' at 5x price that ticks down to normal prices over say 2 weeks would solve this problem. However, Ticketmaster makes more money getting a cut from scalpers without paying the bands their cut.


Under certain circumstances, sure. But it doesn't make sense to enforce the time limit by forcing you to re-do the purchase when there are still available tickets not being held by an active checkout.


It's really just a "countdown to being infuriated." I've had it lapse on me and I had to go back, find the right seats, and repeat literally the entire process all over again. "Give us your money quickly or we'll wage a bizarre form of psychological warfare on you." it seems to say.


To be fair, it's 100x better than the old days of waiting in 6-8 hour lines to guarantee a ticket to popular events.


Have you ever tried to get a ticket for something popular with TM?


To elaborate for the above commenter, ticket master sales for popular events often sell out within seconds of the sale starting as a swarm of bots attacks the site and buy up available tickets. It usually takes just a few minutes for ticket sales to go up on Craigslist or eBay. Users see just a blank page or ticket masters internal loading errors while scalping bots buy up tickets.

I remember trying to get tickets for my younger cousin to The International and I didn't evn have a chance. Even worse was neither Valve nor ticket master at the time has announced they weren't allowing ticket transfers so trying for tickets from those lucky enough to get some was useless as well. My uncle unfortunately was out $400some on eBay as a result; the guy I found on Craigslist was luckily way more understanding and when he was unable to initiate the transfer after a cash in hand meetup, he gladly offered to stay in contact until he could sort the issue on his side and transfer.

It's honestly a mess and it leaves a lot to be desired for most users. I get that ultimately they can't satisfy all customers because we all want the same scarce product, but it's very hard to shake the feeling that botting and ticket scalpers get too many of the tickets, a


It's a great deal for TM and the like, they get paid 3 times! 1. Scalper pays fee when buying ticket. 2. Scalper pays fee when selling ticket on TM's reselling platform (stubhub?) 3. Concert goer pays fee when buying ticket from reseller platform.

In the UK there's been some investigation into this business practice (select committee) but I doubt anything will come of it.


So, if all tickets go to scalpers and no-one (including presumably the scalpers) can transfer a ticket, it must be that the venues remained empty. How is this a sustainable business for anyone?


You can simply sell the tickets. Sometimes people were scammed by buying doubly sold e-tickets.

ticketswap.com solves this problem in coop with also ticketmaster if I'm not mistaken


At least there is no wait, the website just stops responding for 5 minutes then comes back with "all tickets sold (to scalpers)".


Every year TM knows the Great American Beer Festival is going to be crazy popular and sell out within 10 minutes, and every year it's still a mess.

I mean I get it's a hard problem and a large crowd like that can't be easy, but if anyone can do it, Ticketmaster should be able to.


In the sense you can not get tickets from the convenience of your couch!


How would you propose not doing this for any purchase of a specific product like a seat in a theater which must be held for the customer while they are making the purchase? Would you prefer they don't hold it for you and at the end of the process you get a message "Your seat has been sold to someone else."?

Ticketmaster sucks but not because they hold your seat for you while you place your order.


Thats to stop DOS attacks by putting all seats in a shopping cart and having the next guy who logs in see no seats available. You need to hold them somehow as it takes a couple minutes for most people to pull out their credit card and fill out the form, so you use a timer. If they don't finish, the seat gets listed as open again. I don't think its a sales tactic at all, but certainly can be made to look more urgent than it needs to be to.

Back when I was a teen we had to get up at 6am to buy tickets for popular shows and go wait outside our local reseller, which was usually a department store in the mall and join the long line of people ahead of us. I much prefer the web based system.

Also its worth mentioning that TM is only as evil as venues allow them to be. A lot of the fees and charges are kickbacks to the venue. That's why there's no competition. Venues say, "Look we're getting an extra $7 per ticket with TM, can you beat that?" They're not interested in less fees as these fees are free money for them.


Yep. I hate most ticketing practices but the countdown is reasonable.


Well that's a sensible explanation for events that sell out quickly. They shouldn't be trying to "upsell by default" on the smae page however.


Is that really what it means? I was unsure about it because nobody would be that scummy. But then I have no previous experience with Ticketmaster.


> "If I can help it, I will never order another ticket from them again."

I find these to be weasel words.

I don't use Ticketmaster. Full stop.

If your concert uses Ticketmaster, I'm not going to that.

It's not a problem because all the cool acts don't use Ticketmaster. Only lame old decrepit acts use Ticketmaster anyway. And if I wanted to see those, I'd go to Vegas, and at least get a comped all you can eat buffet as well.

Brown Paper Tickets is an alternative that is fair and reasonable. Oddly, many fantastic acts I've see such as The Orb use them for ticket sales instead of the vile corrupt corparate boondoogle that is Ticketmaster.

https://www.brownpapertickets.com/

Ticketmaster was corrupt and horrible 30 years ago. If you are still using them or claiming to buy tickets from them for any reason then you're either a corporate shill or terminally clueless.


The acts do not dictate the ticketing agency, the venue does. These ticketing agency will have an exclusive for every event at the venue. Occasionally, an artist, usually via their fan club, will sell tickets themselves using services like Brown Paper Tickets.

If you want to see a concert that can sell out very quickly, buying tickets online is the only option. The only time I have used TM is the past several months (I go to a lot of shows), was for a concert that eventually sold out in two minutes.


You're not serious, are you? As a person who goes to dozens of concerts a year, not using Ticketmaster would be a huge hassle.

Let's take just one example: I'm going to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in NYC. I have three options to get tickets directly:

-Ticketmaster

-In person

-Over the phone

Since I don't live in NYC, I don't want to give my CC number to some random theater employee over the phone, and I am not going to skip seeing my favorite band in the world, what do you suggest I do?


> Since I don't live in NYC, I don't want to give my CC number to some random theater employee over the phone

I seriously wonder why people are so paranoid about their CCs. Most cards have really good fraud protection with pretty much zero liability, and there's also the option of a virtual CC. E.g. some banks like Citicards allow you to generate a temporary CC number with a very low limit, and then you can safely give that number to any merchant over the phone or internet.


>I am not going to skip seeing my favorite band in the world, what do you suggest I do?

See them somewhere else, in a venue that hasn't sold out to Ticketmaster.


Because people should spend potentially thousands of dollars just to avoid seeing one artist at a venue using Ticketmaster - this is ludicrous.

There were a couple of times I had no choice this year but to go through Ticketmaster because they were the only times when the day & location aligned. I had little choice when booking an Iron Maiden ticket, or a ticket to two Dream Theater shows. I generally avoid Ticketmaster when I can and when it is convenient enough to do so, but I'm not going to idiotically avoid going to a show I want to go to and sacrifice enormous time & money to not use Ticketmaster.

The reality is that Ticketmaster is largely immune to a ticket purchase boycott - their involvement in owning venues mitigates the effect of a boycott because they're the only way to see a huge swath of entertainment.


Ticketmaster is immune to a ticket purchase boycott because of people like you who will go to great lengths to justify why they have no choice but to continue purchasing their tickets.


I agree. Patronizing a company diametrically opposed to one's interests is terrible. Disproportionately, music lovers seem to be the first to deride TM but defend why they won't use anything else.


What choice do they have? Music is not fungible. You can't substitute Kanye West for Michael Bublé, or Miley Cyrus for Bruce Springsteen.For most shows, there is only one online option. An increasing number of venues don't even sell advance tickets in person any more, and when it is an option, it has additional costs in time and effort, as well as risk of missing out completely.


The choice is to not participate. Boycotts are not supposed to be easy. This discussion reminds me of the "It's impossible to not use Facebook" arguments.


Buy the music, not the live performance. A live performance is usually suboptimal because the audience is noisy, the venue's acoustics aren't wonderful, the performers have done the same sets for the last three weeks, and you have to make a significant effort dealing with transportation and the like.

Just buy the music. Cut ticketmaster out, cut live nation's venues out, and listen to a great performance with good acoustics in the comfort of your own home as often as you wish. For much less money.


So the alternative is to spend $1000+ just to avoid Ticketmaster? Yeah, you go do that - you're not going convince many people that this is rational, or going to happen. Most people don't even have that luxury.

Basic economics isn't on your side here, putting the blame on others for the situation that is almost wholly Ticketmaster's fault is laughable and disgusting.


Buy a prepaid vanilla visa. Give credit card info over the phone.

Give regular credit card over the phone.

Buy tickets on craigslist (at least not directly supporting TM)

Go a day early, buy tickets at the venue.

Have friend buy extra tickets at the venue.


> Only lame old decrepit acts use Ticketmaster anyway

... and a few little sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, and NHL (for primary sales).


I dearly, dearly wish that the Resident Advisor system would be adopted for more shows. RA only cater for a particular subset of music genres, but the way the ticketing system works with regards to combating touts is awesome.

If you decide to not go to a show you bought tickets for, you can relinquish them and they goes back into the stack to be re-sold. Once the standard stock of tickets is exhausted, your tickets get put back into the pool of available tickets. If someone buys them, you get your money back minus the service fee. Whenever I've put tickets back in the pool this has happened, often within minutes of them being re-listed.

Yes you can probably get more £ for your tickets by hawking them on gumtree or craigslist, but thanks to countless horrible transactions with ticket touts I'm always more than happy to use this system, as I know I'm getting a fair amount of my money back, and I know that whoever buys my tickets is getting a fair price too.

https://www.residentadvisor.net/news.aspx?id=25747


I try to be reasonable and to see the other side of things. I try not to whinge. Even if it's a business I don't like, I recognize they may have issues I don't understand well. But I run my own business, I'm a programmer, and I know what kind of fee discount Ticketmaster can get with credit card companies. I hate them. I buy tickets through them when I have to, but every time I do they are building up whatever the opposite of loyalty is. I wish that company only the worst. Did I mention I hate them?


They also store passwords in plain text. They emailed me my password for a reminder on a season ticket account. My account is a few thousand dollars, others would be 10s of thousands.


Ticketmaster has been horrible since forever. Having no real competition, Ticketmaster has zero motivation to treat customers decently. They're kind of like taxis before Uber.


And like taxis, they operate in a space where creating legal competitors is incredibly difficult. They just get their legal barriers at one remove - you can't get zoned for new venues, and so by getting venue lock-in they avoid competition.

There are a few groups like SoFar Sound doing the Uber thing of creating safe-but-quasi-legal competition, but it's not a simple task.


And once Uber squashes Lyft, there will be no competition again, and they can start treating customers as badly as Ticketmaster does!


The barriers in this case are legal, not market-based. Presumably someone could start up Lyft-2 and compete with Uber.

Uber would have to literally become what they replaced to avoid this.


I understand the psychology here, but it seems pretty irrational. Even after every modifier Ticketmaster applies, tickets to major events are underpriced, as evidenced by the fact that things like the Japandroids show this person bought tickets for almost certainly sold out, and by the fact that the secondary market for tickets clears.

I too would rather get one simple straightforward price, rather than the pointlessly itemized breakdown Ticketmaster provides. But that's just because I want to read and click less to make my purchase.


In Atlanta I have purchased tickets from Ticketmaster the day before or even the day of a show on numerous occasions. Seems like shows always sell out here in the bay area, but I don't know if that's true for the majority of shows across the country. From my experience it more rarely happens in the southeast.


The fact that many tickets are underpriced doesn't change the fact that TicketMaster's site is misleading and frustrating. Just because the market is willing to pay even more for the product than the advertised price + hidden fees doesn't mean I am, and even if I am it's still an obtuse experience.


The difference is if you paid more to the band, I'd be ok with that. My suspicion is this mostly involves paying more to ticketmaster.


Bands are in a fluid negotiation with both Ticketmaster and the venue for how much of the proceeds of their shows they get. It's different for different bands; you can't look at any breakdown of Ticketmaster's fees or the ticket price and know what it is. Moreover, to whatever extent the bands themselves aren't getting fee income, the venue sure does; the venues might have more market power than Ticketmaster does. The split between the venue and the artist is one of the oldest business negotiations in entertainment. Why are we alarmed about it now?


A favorite quote of mine:

"If Hitler owned Halliburton, it would not be as evil of a company as Ticketmaster."

https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/c4704/fuck_you_ticket...


The hidden service fee may not be legal under WA state's fairly strong consumer protections. You can and should report this to the AG's office at: http://atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx

If there are enough complaints, things can actually happen.


Thanks. I filed a complaint through that website.


The unfortunate truth is that it is impossible for a live music fan to completely avoid Ticketmaster in 2017 without missing many of the best shows.

They strongarm venues into exclusivity agreements: all phone and online tickets at those venue must be sold through Ticketmaster.

Even walking up to buy a ticket at some box offices results in a venue using Ticketmaster as point of sale.

Their parent company Live Nation also outright owns many venues, a true monopoly in my opinion.


I would disagree that they strong arm venues into exclusive agreements. If I owned a concert hall or arena, signing an exclusive agreement would be an easy decision. Have your tickets sold and processed by one of the well known and experienced companies. So what if it has a bad reputation, it doesn't stop people from buying up all the tickets. It's probably the easiest decisions as a venue owner. I'm not saying I agree with it, but if you think about it, Ticketmaster is a great resource for owners.


Then the path to disruption is clear -- bypass the venues.

Hmmm, maybe this Internet thing might be useful after all, assuming you can set up a decent streaming service and avoid the pitfalls.


Sounds like someone that hasn't seen music live, physically, for a long time.

Computer speakers are incapable of replicating the sounds and air distortions that your body can actually feel. Computer screens are incapable of emulating the pyrotechnics that your body can actually feel even from way back of the venue.

There are plenty other nuances that limit the utility of a streaming service.


What about buying rights to the liveatream and setting up a huge movie screen and sound system. Sell tickets to the live rebroadcasting venue.


Many bands, startups, and other well-intentioned people have taken on TicketMaster in an effort to shake up the industry.

All have lost. Nothing has changed.


Yup the first one I remember was Pearl Jam http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pearl-jam-taking-on-t...


Hoping more people use seatgeek & gametime as alternatives - even stubhub is getting monopolistic as the single 'exchange' platform


As somewhat of an antidote to the tale here, but probably worse than useless to a chap from Seattle, when I discovered this website[0] it restored my faith in humanity. I only discovered it after a similar experience on Ticketmaster and reached out to try and get some gig tickets a few years back. Scarlet Mist saved the day, even if it is a truly abysmal example of a website.

edit: oh yeah, and news is[1] that Ticketmaster / Livenation supplies tickets directly to touts/scalpers whatever they call them in your locality, so yes they truly are a horrible company.

[0] http://www.scarletmist.com/

[1] http://www.musicweek.com/live/read/reports-suggest-italian-g...


At https://gutstickets.com we're currently trying to somewhat disrupt the ticketing market where, of course, ticket master is the big evil giant.

Our primary focus is to make disgraceful secondary ticket pricing impossible, something from which TM profits directly through subsidiaries such as seatwave.

But we also just want to have a fair price for fans. No hidden fees or absurd prices for minimal features. No dark patterns.

The fact that our tickets can't be copied, faked or printed makes this a lot easier - we couldn't charge for an fraud insurance or printed tickets even if we wanted to :)

And even though a lot of the market is locked-in there's still a huge long-tail of events and organizers that are free to chose their ticketing company. Hopefully the rest will follow :)


With all the comments here regarding "why doesn't another start-up come in and disrupt this market", I'm surprised nobody has mentioned SongKick which had an exclusive to sell Adele tickets in Europe in 2015. They're making inroads, but it is a long and challenging market.


Perhaps time to start a facebook awareness campaign, and have TM boycotted by artists and fans (?)


TM uses venue lock-in to prevent this. Multiple artists have tried, but they quickly have to choose between dealing with TM and abandoning fans in smaller cities that only have a few venues available, all of which are TM-contracted.


Perhaps the campaign should include a petition then, to address this through politics.


Well said. It's a shame TM has a monopoly when it comes to the larger events in my country.


They're also the worst company I've ever had a phone screen with.

I remember being told it was with a member of the technical team, and it was a technical recruiter who asked me questions straight off of a paper that made no sense

I hate having to use their service but they seem to be the best worst to use when it comes to selection.

They screwed me a bit too when I bought a pair of pricey US Open tickets ($800+ total) and wanted to sell them through their site. Apparently the combo I had purchased was not "resellable" but no where was that found on their site or terms.

I really hope a company "disruptes" them, as much as I hate that word, because as far as their service goes it's absolutely horrid.


Being an effective monopoly means you don't need to care about customer service.


TicketFly, EventBrite, Queue, and Front Gate Tickets sell probably 90% of the event tickets here in Austin. AFAIK, TM only handles the arena shows here (Cedar Park Center, Frank Erwin).

Disruption is out there, but as long as Live Nation/AEG owns the big venues where you can see Journey or Kanye or whatever popular thing, there will probably always be TM extracting their pound of flesh.


The problem is they tend to own everything down to the venue. It makes disrupting them a cash intensive, long process.


Their giftcard system does not even work mostly, completely broken (by code, bugs). Tried purchasing a e-giftcard with a custom photo for weeks. Contacted support and no response for over 3 weeks.

Finally made a purchase of a normal giftcard in Safari. Think it was just pure luck, had to go back and forth the contact details page several times to be able to check out.

Seems like Ticketmaster simply does not want our stash? :)


I've stopped using them for similar reasons. I don't mind them adding all the fees as much. But it's wrong for the original price listed by them to be so far off from what you will actually pay. You see something listed for $15, and end up paying $30.

That's misleading and should be prohibited. Unfortunately this seems to be common practice in most marketing now ... smartphone plans come to mind...


Pearl Jam tried to boycott and sue Ticketmaster over these same practices in the 90's, and they lost. Good luck beating them now..


Ticketmaster has single handedly stopped a lot of impulse buys for me. So I at least saved some money because they are shitty.


> I’m going to go hop on my scooter and drive 15 minutes out of my way to the theatre’s box office to go pick up a single ticket. Out of spite!

I have some really bad news for you. The venue is probably also using Ticketmaster as their POS and some of those fees will be the same.

Other than that completely agree, Ticketmaster is a racket.


If anyone's looking for alternatives, check out https://dice.fm/

No booking fees, timers, insurance, etc. Browse gigs and in 2 presses on the screen you could have a ticket.

I don't work for em, just a satisfied customer.


Hey, first off: chillllll out. Choose your battles carefully. Ticketmaster is not a great company, but it's become a lot better than it used to be. Truth!

Anyhow, you need to be aware that venues absolutely will charge a venue fee. Even purchasing tickets at my local club in Toronto from the front bar there is a 10% markup or $1 minimum, whatever is greater.

You don't have to get tickets printed and mailed to you for $2.25. It's 2017 and virtual tickets work very well. In fact, they have advantages like being able to electronically transfer them to your friends in a way they can verify. That is better in every way except that you don't get a stub for your collection.

Anyhow, your post is a sign that their business model is working: you think that TM exists to sell you tickets, but their actual and entire business model is to provide a layer of abstraction over the venues+radio+promoters so that they absorb all of your bad vibes. It's literally the only thing that they add, and they do it really well.


I'm not sure any of this is accurate.

First: how has TM gotten better? Their fees have gotten higher, they merged with Live Nation to gain market control and raised prices, and they lost a class action suit but are still doing exactly what they were sued for the first time.

Not all venues charge a venue fee - some of my local theaters are fee-free at the box office, some aren't. (They all take a cut somewhere obviously, but some build it into ticket prices and some even extract all their profit by selling merch and food at the show. $10 beer is damn profitable.) TicketMaster's website explains that they're merely collecting these fees on behalf of venues, but after their merger with Live Nation they own many of those venues, so this is pretty misleading.

Virtual tickets work great, yes. Except that TM charges an "E-ticket convenience fee". And a "will call fee" if you try that. So if 100% of ticketing methods have a fee, it's just an extra cost dressed up as a choice.

And no, they aren't just absorbing hate: when they do promotion as Live Nation, own the venue as Live Nation, and sell me the tickets as TicketMaster, they making every choice not given to the band.


> I'm not sure any of this is accurate.

"We don't know that he's lying, but do we know that he isn't lying?"

I have a long memory. You used to have to go to a physical location and wait in line while a student worker called up tickets on a green screen terminal. And TM's web checkout experience through the late 90s and last decade was AWFUL; none of the mapping, seat selection was there. You'd just sit there and refresh. You could also accidentally purchase two tickets by hitting Back. It was Not Good.

First, a venue that isn't charging a fee is a rare exception and I have two shoeboxes full of paper tickets that prove this. I'm going to draw a line and say that Real Venues charge fees. The fact that there are >0 outliers is still an outlier.

TicketMaster was acquired by LiveNation but functions as a separate business unit in all of the ways that serve their interests. So, of course they are collecting fees on behalf of venues. Just because they are all owned by the same corporate interests doesn't make this less true. Do you know that there are IT depts in major banks that charge other depts for installing network jacks?

Different venues and different countries have different fees attached to pickup methods. Here in Canada, I can get a ticket by email/SMS that shows up as a QR code that I don't have to pay extra for. The order processing fee (total bullshit) is in a separate category from ticket retrieval fees.

Anyhow, you're welcome to your opinion about whether TicketMaster exists to absorb hate or not. It doesn't make you any more correct, but if it makes you happier then I absolutely agree to whatever it is that you said next. Ticketmaster is awful, but not for the motivations that the OP suggested.


They charge you to print your own tickets as well.


digital tickets though. I've never had an issue pulling up the ticket on my phone and letting them scan it


"E-ticket convenience fee" still applies though, at least much of the time.


Not always an option. Some tickets even say that the venue will not accept a barcode on a phone, and the ticket must be printed out. Recently went to a Trans-Sierian Orchestra show where this was the case.


"Surely I wouldn’t be charged this facility charge if I went directly to Neptune Theatre and purchased tickets"

Yes you would, because the venue pays Ticketmaster a small slice of every ticket sold to use their system.

They just don't explicitly tell you as part of the transaction.


I've mistakenly clicked the "insure my tickets!" which is done by a third party anyways...

I ended up calling after reviewing my email I received afterwards and saw the added fee. They promptly removed it, but it seemed like that happens all too often...


Yep, welcome to the club. I always buy directly from the venue whenever possible.


Unfortunately these sort of practices are getting very common. This should be submitted to http://darkpatterns.org/


This is why you want to be a winner in a market with network effects. You can treat customers however you'd like once you've won.

Ticketmaster has 'earned' this spot in the ecosystem, and the benefits that comes with. To challenge that would be to challenge the nature of capitalism itself.

As a consumer I'm infuriated but as an entrepreneur, I can relate- why would I stick my neck out there if the potential benefits don't outweigh the costs? Every entrepreneur in the valley wants to be the "Tickermaster of X" or "Uber for X". Everybody wants the luxury of answering to nobody, including customers.


Well, you should move out of the country. Here, in France, we have Ticketmaster, but also Fnac Spectacles, Digitick and many others. It's less awful.


I would gladly fund a startup dedicated to overthrowing their empire. I guess it would need to start in NYC?


So how would one compete with them since they seem to have exclusive deals with the venues.


Another A/B test casualty.


This is called "drip pricing", and it's illegal in many countries.


Some venues will sell you tickets directly if you are able to go there in person.


Trying help disrupt TM by building a Stripe version of ticketing to provide nice APIs/grpc etc. https://ticketscale.io/ (still very much alpha)


I think the main issue is not having a different way to buy tickets, but actually signing deals with bands/venues to sell them. There have been many companies that have tried to compete against them, and typically they only get bands that want to move away from TM (Pearl Jam).


It's focused on providing the platform for developers to build a better ticketing experience thus enabling bands/venues to jump ship.


A better ticketing experience is not what bands/venues are looking for. Sorry, but it doesn't sound like you understand this market (and why Ticketmaster has a stranglehold on it).


There already are plenty of good platforms available. That's not the problem. The problem is that Ticketmaster/Live Nation have exclusivity with most artists and venues already.


Sidenote: I love Japandroids! Saw them in vancouver!


Those are some dark design patterns


Yup. They're horrible.


>Interesting, actually, that if you add up all the extra Ticketmaster charges that they are actually making $22.74 - which is more than Japandroids are making and they're doing the actual work.

and this is why Louis CK decided to ignore ticketscam and sell his own tickets directly for 2012 tour. Interestingly I just looked up and current events are all handled by Ticketmaster, guess they offered him something he couldnt refuse, or he was simply unable to find venues willing to work around the scam (tickermaster has exclusive deals prohibiting competing inline sales).


I take issue with the title itself.

> Ticketmaster is a horrible company, and I won't give them my business anymore

Ok, but what choice do you have, if Foo Fighters are playing in your City and you want to go? Or Manny Pacquiao is fighting Floyd Mayweather and you want to go?

It's not like there's a choice. There is, and that is to not go to the event. Because the core premise of TicketMaster's scam is the exclusive contracts they have with Venues and Artists.


Usually they have an exclusive contract for online sales. You can still go line up outside your local arena and buy tickets from the box office just like your parents used to do.


Provided you have the luxury of being able to take the extra time and effort to do so. And by the time you do so (unless you lined up early), you will probably end up with worse tickets than you could have gotten online.


Isn't that still how it worked before TicketMaster existed, though?


Seriously though, what are the alternatives? Until then we all all 'stuck' with this Sh*t company. The only alternative is to 'not go' to watch your favorite performer / artist / fighter / singer.

Why hasn't this space been disrupted like how Uber disrupted the Cab Mob (oops, I mean the Taxi Medallions)


It's a hard space to disrupt because Ticketmaster has exclusive rights on venues. So the only disruption is scalpers really.

Uber disrupted the cab business because the cabs don't have exclusive rights on the road (although regulatory issues have perhaps indicated they do have exclusive rights on certain transportation verticals).


Wow. Very smart reasoning. Thank you! I never thought of it this way. You are right about Uber vs Ticketmaster.


Am I the only person who first heard about Ticketmaster on the website of Terry Davis? He wrote an operating system for them.


Listen, I'm no fan of Ticketmaster but you should be very careful in your wording of a piece like this.

Although clearly opinion, it contains real slander and you should tread lightly. For example, "Which means that ticketmaster is purposefully delaying their efficiency in order to get people to purchase more expensive shipping times". This is the conclusion you came to but the company may be able to prove it has the delays for various other reasons. Because it's not a "fact", it's likely slander or defamation. The title is also problematic, "Ticketmaster is a horrible company". You might or might not be able to prove that as fact.


You need to look up libel law (this would be libel, because it is written, not slander). This is all opinion, there is nothing legally actionable in this piece. I don't think you have a background in this kind of law to be giving this kind of advice (at least not in the U.S.). The article is definitely protected speech here.


I hope he doesn't change his wording. If Ticketmaster sues, it will draw more attention to all of this.

If the blogger is taking a risk (which I doubt is a significant one), I think he should be commended for it.


It's neither slander nor defamation, it's someone's opinion based on a very real, repeatable, documented experience.


This comment is closer to defamation than the article is. And neither is close. (Assuming U.S. law, as Live Nation is U.S. company.)




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