Allegations have been swirling for months about Ticketmaster’s potential scalping of their own concert tickets. Louis Messina, Nashville area promoter and president of TMG/AEG live, is the latest to add his voice to the growing chorus of concern.
In an interview aired this week on WTVF-TV News Channel 5 in Nashville, Messina shared his concerns that Ticketmaster regularly moves tickets from the primary market to the secondary market. When asked by investigative reporter Phil Williams if Ticketmaster was “standing at the front of the line grabbing tickets”, Messina responded, “Ticketmaster had all of the tickets. They don’t have to stand at the front of the line.”
“Are they [Ticketmaster] feeding their own companies? If you owned a company… I would think the answer is yes.”
In the interview, Messina also confirmed that in the past he has been approached (though he did not specify by whom) regarding scalping tickets for his own events. See the video below.
According to the promoter, Taylor Swift recently rejected a deal with Ticketmaster that she believed came too close to scalping her own concert tickets. These allegations come on the heels of news that Keith Urban allowed Ticketmaster to withhold hundreds of tickets for his recent world tour, hiking up the prices and renaming them “Official Platinum Seats”.
Ticketmaster responded to Messina’s claims by stating that the artists, venues and promoters are in charge of decisions on ticket withholding, and not Ticketmaster itself.
Last week, WTVF-TV reported that thousands of tickets for recent Nashville appearances by Swift and Urban were redirected to American Express, for exclusive sale to card members, and fan clubs for sale there. Many of these holdbacks were later found at the ticketer’s secondary site, TicketsNow. The ultimate result of this action was to drastically reduce the number of tickets available for public sale.
As for legal action against the ticketing giant, everyone remembers the Bruce Springsteen controversy earlier this year, when he alleged that Ticketmaster arbitrarily redirected fans to its secondary seller site, TicketsNow.
New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram took Ticketmaster to task over these allegations. This event was the inspiration for U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell, Jr.’s (D-NJ-08) proposed Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing or BOSS act, which would, among other things, require primary ticket sellers to specify the number of tickets available for public onsale as well as those withheld for sale elsewhere. Secondary sites to would be forced to make clear that their tickets are resale tickets. Also under this provision, primary ticketers, artists, promoters and their employees would be prohibited from reselling tickets for events in which they are involved for more than face value.
Milgram’s action earlier this year has been only one of many initiated over concerns regarding Ticketmaster’s activities. Recently, a New Jersey ticket broker, Chuck Lombardo, brought suit, alleging that a Ticketmaster-affiliated company managing the Eagles was involved in scalping tickets for their 2008-2009 tour, and that Ticketmaster scalped tickets for a number of other high profile bands, including Van Halen and Def Leppard.
There is also news of another lawsuit, a class-action suit filed by fans, claiming that Ticketmaster, through an action title “Project Showtime” withheld a pre-determined number of tickets from the primary market for a mark-up on the secondary.
When reached for comment, Ticketmaster’s Hannah Kampf directed TicketNews to Thursday’s Billboard.biz article in which Messina attempted to clarify some statements he’d made in WTVF’s investigative piece. In the article, Messina noted that his “feeding their own companies” comment referred to the Springsteen incident only and nothing else. He added that the television piece did not air his comments regarding Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff, whom he says is working hard to “clean all this up”. Messina never specifically denied his previous allegations that Ticketmaster is involved in moving tickets to the secondary market.
In seeming agreement with Ticketmaster, Messina confirmed that ticket withholding occurs at the discretion of promoter and venue. He also claimed that presales, which can eat up a number of tickets from public onsale, are directed to the public, though usually to those in fan clubs or who have previously purchased tickets, and to radio stations. He did acknowledge that many tickets from the primary market do, and will continue to, find their way to the secondary market. “This system is so wired, no matter what everything winds up on the secondary ticket market.”