This story was updated at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Friday, October 8, 2010, to include a statement from Andrew Dreskin, CEO of TicketFly.
With only eight day’s warning – and without giving a reason why – Ticketmaster has decided to stop paying commissions for tickets sold through its online affiliate marketing program.
Affiliates were notified of the change via email yesterday, October 7, and the discontinuance will take effect at the end of next week on Friday, October 15. The number of affiliates affected by the move was not disclosed, but considering Ticketmaster’s size and reach, the number will likely be substantial.
The move follows a similar decision to stop paying commission for presale ticket sales that the company announced over the summer. That decision was based, in part, on protecting artist presales, but the reasoning behind this latest move was not disclosed in the Thursday email.
A spokesperson for Ticketmaster parent company, Live Nation, did not reply to questions about the decision. Ticketmaster’s affiliate program is run through Buy.at and it was paying up to $5 for a $500 primary ticket purchase, or up to 7 percent for a resale ticket purchase. Live Nation has a separate affiliate program, but whether there will be changes to it, too, is unknown.
The text of the email reads:
We regret to inform you that as of October 15, 2010, we will no longer award commissions for tickets sold through our program. As the program cookie period is 30 days, we will make payments on any cookies dropped up to the 15th but none there after. This was a difficult decision to make, as we recognize the fiscal impact on our affiliates.
Despite this decision, we realize that many affiliates may still benefit from the information and content available via our extensive event database. As a result, we will continue to offer our affiliates access to our creative database, product feeds, as well as our real time tracking and reporting. If you think your website could benefit from using our API, please email us to learn more.
We sincerely appreciate your participation in our program and are very thankful for the partnership that we’ve had with you these past few years. As always if you have any questions, you can contact us at Affiliates@ticketmaster.com.
Ticketmaster Affiliate Team
Ticketmaster’s decision to eliminate the commission payments follows the recent announcement that the company will power the ticketing initiative launched by Apple through its Ping social network. By eliminating the affiliate commission payments, the company appears to be betting that Ping will essentially replace much of the traffic that those thousands of affiliates had generated.
This year has been a difficult one for Live Nation due to slow ticket sales because of the economy, so saving on those commission payments and administrative costs likely played heavily into the decision. How much the company paid out in commissions is not known.
The company anticipated millions of dollars in savings as a result of the merger with Ticketmaster, and while the company has experienced some, those savings have not yet been huge. Among other cost-saving moves, the company has laid off employees, and it plans to cut back on artist guarantees for 2011 tours the company promotes.
Eliminating the affiliate commission payments will create an opportunity for another primary ticket company to potentially capture some of the spurned Ticketmaster affiliates, but the move also could open the door for secondary ticket companies to gain more marketing affiliates.
Andrew Dreskin, the CEO of primary ticketing company TicketFly, a smaller but aggressive rival to Ticketmaster, recently launched an affiliate marketing program and hopes to capitalize on Ticketmaster’s decision.
“It’s telling that Ticketmaster is winding down its affiliate program just as we are ratcheting ours up. The decision for Ticketmaster to slash and burn its affiliate program is emblematic of the old school thinking that plagues the live music industry,” Dreskin said in a statement. “They have consistently taken a command-and-control approach that alienates the music community: fans, bloggers, promoters and now developers. In contrast, Ticketfly’s goal is to provide as broad a marketing platform as possible for our clients. We are building open, social technologies that embrace the community and make room for anyone who loves live music.”
Some offer various other features, such as an API, search plugins, customizable banner ads, or widgets, in addition to commission payments. The TicketNetwork program, for example, offers all of those and leads the industry with a 12.5 percent commission. The company also plans to launch an affiliate program through its Spanish-language sister site SuperBoletería.
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.