The name is hardly my main grievance, but it nevertheless seems a reasonable place to start. Putting aside the antebellum undertones, what is it that Ticketmaster can really claim to be the ‘master’ of? Deception, scalping and computer hacking are all acceptable answers.
Ticketmaster has carved out a digital forest, operating with folklorish greed. A reverse Robin Hood, it plunders the accounts of the many to serve one gargantuan python, constricting itself around wallets of consumers, refusing to let go until the final breath of judicial intervention. The company can afford to be this predatory because of its market share. Christine Jurzenski, a financial analyst at Avenir Capital, states; “The company operates an impenetrable moat that has a monopoly-like structure. Live Nation has long-term contracts with two fragmented markets that are interdependent: talent and venues.”
This market dominance permits the kind of dubious business practices I’m sure you’ve heard about before. There is, for instance, the time they compromised the data of 40,000 UK customers due to malware on a customer support product, but this kind of oversight is not my main concern. It’s the manipulation, gamesmanship and quasi-darwinistic dominance it exerts on the industry which elicits the ire of concert-goers and sports fans alike.
In one such example, Ticketmaster surreptitiously enrolled over a million customers into a $9 per month rewards program only to pay out a $23m settlement in 2013. This, objectively, is not a very subtle scam. For a company with an annual revenue in the tens of billions it seems odd that they resorted to stealing money directly from customer accounts. $9 is a perfectly annoying sum to lose each month, enough to cover a couple lunches but not enough to endure a conversation with their defective customer support team, who may accidentally sell your webcam footage to a Balkan sextortion syndicate.
In 2019, Live Nation (Ticketmaster’s parent company) was forced to acknowledge it has ‘facilitated the quiet transfer of concert tickets directly into the hands of resellers through the years’. This means that Ticketmaster doesn’t just turn a blind eye to ticket scalping but has integrated it into its business model. This practice, in combination with ‘slow ticketing’ (a type of manufactured scarcity) denies fans the opportunity to get their hands on tickets and imposes aggressive surcharges on those that do.
2019 was a lucrative year to be a Ticketmaster defence attorney. The company was also fined $4.5 million Canadian dollars in a settlement after it was found to have “topped advertised costs by more than 20% — and sometimes as much as 65%.” The charge of deceptive pricing has been levelled at Ticketmaster for years and appears only to be taken seriously during settlement negotiations.
Having written the above, perhaps I ought to get wary about my own communications. In 2020, Ticketmaster paid a $10m fine after reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. According to FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Williams Sweeney, “Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law.”
If all of this information has made you cynical, angry, and longing for a watchdog for abusive sales tactics, look no further than Ticketmaster’s ‘buyer abuse’ division. You can count on them to have your back and keep a watchful eye on suspicious online ticket sales.
It’s this kind of shoddy sleight-of-hand that makes consumers angry. When we talk about watching the beautiful game without the ugly fees, we’re talking about Ticketmaster’s ‘facility charge’, ‘delivery fee’ and ‘service fee’ all of which should be factored into the advertised price. Perhaps there is room for a delivery fee add-on, but given that most tickets can be delivered digitally, even this seems antiquated. It is a considerable stretch, even by the standards of ticket touts, to add a facility charge to the final cost. What is the function of the ticket if it doesn’t get me into the venue? Surely, at bare minimum, that’s what I’m paying for when I buy a ticket.
Despite how effectively Ticketmaster and Live Nation have locked up the market, there may be some cause for hope. In recent months, five members of Congress have urged President Biden to investigate the Live Nation-Ticketmaster ‘monopoly’, which, due to lack of competition, allows for the numerous abusive practices detailed above.
The mission of Euro Ticket Club is to eliminate multi-billion dollar corporations who offer nothing of value, acting as gratuitous intermediaries between fans and clubs. While ticket touts make money at the expense of fans, inflating prices and engendering the process with an undue sense of psychological trauma, we seek to save our users time and money by finding face-value tickets as they’re released by clubs and pairing them with cheap flights.
If you want last-minute tickets to the Champions League final Ticketmaster is better placed to meet your needs (provided you’re willing to sell a kidney). However, if you want to watch football across Europe at just about any other point in the season, you’re better off signing up with us and buying directly from clubs when the tickets are released. By using Euro Ticket Club, you can help get the ugly fees out of the beautiful game.