Country music heavy-hitters Taylor Swift and Keith Urban have come under close scrutiny since a Nashville news agency uncovered massive ticket holdbacks on both stars’ fast-selling tours. However, country mogul Louis Messina, thinks the real solution to fans’ ticket-buying woes is stricter regulation of the secondary market.
In a follow-up to its earlier report that exposed the artists’ ticket holdback practices, WTVF-TV News Channel 5 interviewed the founder of The Messina Group, which promoted Swift’s 2009 Fearless Tour. Messina acknowledged that fans have difficulty obtaining tickets to high demand shows, but did not attribute that to ticket holdbacks and decreased availability of tickets.
Rather, the promoter pointed the blame at ticket brokers, claiming they are keeping tickets out of fans’ hands by driving up prices on the secondary market. (Watch WTVF’s interview with Messina below.)
“Here’s an artist that wanted to legitimately sell her tickets for $49.50 and $39.50 and $20,” Messina said, referring to Swift’s attempts to keep face values fairly low, “and before they even go on sale, it’s being advertised at $300. We tried.”
Not addressed in the interview was the fact that, for a Swift concert in Nashville, only about 1,600 made it to public onsales. A majority of the more than 13,000 tickets were allocated toward a variety of presales, including one arranged with American Express.
Messina defended such credit card presales, which can claim as many as 5,000 seats for cardholders. That was the scale of the holdbacks in Swift’s deal with American Express, which offered the best seat locations to only its wealthiest cardholders, as WTVF’s investigation found. Still, Messina argued that the financial support garnered by such a deal is important.
“It’s a great marketing vehicle for us,” Messina told the news station. “They spend a lot of money — full-page ads in the New York Times, which cost $150,000 to buy, full-page ads in the Philadelphia newspapers and LA. It just helps offset some costs.”
Ultimately, Messina feels that stricter regulation will put more tickets into the hands of fans. He told WTVF-TV that the only way to control ticket costs and distribution would be to either outlaw scalping entirely or to federally regulate the secondary market — and the secondary market only.
“What’s really going to curtail it is if [regulation] is from the top down, not…from the bottom up,” Messina added. “It’s got to be federal. It has to be. It has to be regulated. Right now, it’s not.”
However, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. has different ideas about how the industry should be regulated. Instead of focusing solely on the secondary market, Pascrell’s proposed BOSS ACT would impose industry wide regulation to make the business of buying and selling tickets more transparent for consumers. It would require primary sellers to fully disclose the number of tickets available, as well as the number being withheld, while secondary sellers would be required to publicize the face value of the ticket, among other things.
In his interview with WTVF-TV, Messina didn’t seem concerned about the availability of tickets on the primary market. However, he did advise fans without tickets not to attain them through any other avenue.
“Don’t buy the tickets — just don’t buy the tickets. Just don’t spend $500 on a $50 ticket,” he said, adding, “Just don’t go [to the concert]. Go buy the CD.”