The live entertainment and ticketing industries can be baffling to fans who are just trying to get a seat at the next big event. Even for those versed in the industry, issues of rising ticket prices, inflated service fees, and supply and demand can be sources of frustration and puzzlement.
Enter Dean Budnick and Josh Baron, who took it upon themselves to find answers to the ever-increasing questions that swirl around the industry and how live entertainment ticketing got to where it is today. The result was the new book “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.”
As avid fans of live entertainment and editors at established music magazine Relix, Budnick and Baron have experience interacting with artists, managers and other industry personnel. However, the pair still found themselves asking many of the same questions as other fans and casual observers of the industry.
Their interest reached a peaked in 2003 when the String Cheese Incident sued Ticketmaster for the right to sell a greater percentage of its tickets through the band’s own agency, SCI Ticketing (now known as Baseline Ticketing).
“Once we started looking around that case, it seemed a lot would be uncovered,” Baron explained in a recent interview with TicketNews. The “Ticket Masters” co-authors sat down for the interview shortly after appearing together on the July 14 keynote panel at Ticket Summit – Vegas 2011.
Baron continued his explanation of the motivation behind “Ticket Masters”: “We had a genuine interest in trying to understand it all. [Researching and writing the book] was filling our own need for answers, but that was the glory of it.”
For Budnick, the mindset was similar to when he began following the iconic jam band Phish, early in the group’s career. When friends asked about his passion for the group, which he frequently promoted by word-of-mouth, his response was simple: If he liked the band so much, why wouldn’t others?
His approach to researching and writing “Ticket Masters” — and educating the public about the industry — was the same. “We think it’s fascinating, and we dedicated three years of our life to learning all we could about it,” Budnick told TicketNews. “So it is that mindset of, ‘If we think it’s fascinating, why shouldn’t everyone else?'”
Of course, once the authors began lifting the veil on the concert industry, they needed to present their newfound knowledge — no matter how technical and intricate — in a way that would appeal to a wide audience.
“We had, and we have, very high hopes for the book,” Baron said of his work’s potential reach. “We tried to make it interesting to a sector inside the business without becoming so inside baseball to be inaccessible to the general public.”
It appears Budnick and Baron may have hit their mark. Since “Ticket Masters” was released in early June, the book has received a wave of positive publicity from industry trade publications, like Pollstar, to major news outlets, like the Wall Street Journal.
In fact, the media response to “Ticket Masters” has been a bit of a whirlwind for the authors. And while any author will have high hopes for a published work, both seem genuinely humbled by the outpouring of support — outside and inside the industry.
“It’s good to hear that the feedback’s been pretty positive,” Baron acknowledged. He noted, though, that the positive reviews always caught him by surprise because he was never certain who would be reviewing the book or when, if at all.
“And it was very gratifying to hear Don [Vaccaro] talk about it so positively,” Budnick nodded, referencing their earlier Ticket Summit keynote, in which the TicketNetwork founder took multiple opportunities to praise the authors for their work.
“They did a great job on the book — very fair,” Vaccaro had said to the Ticket Summit audience at one point. He went on to note his surprise at the accuracy of some of their figures, stating that “they have a lot of numbers in [the book] that I’m not sure how they got,” and which he felt closely reflected the realities of the industry.
The response of professionals within the secondary ticket market was an uncertainty for Budnick and Baron as they moved ahead with “Ticket Masters.” While the authors made it a point to approach as many industry executives as possible for insight and commentary, some, including Vaccaro, were initially hesitant to contribute due to uncertainty about how the industry would be portrayed.
Now that the book is published, Budnick and Baron hope brokers and others within the ticketing community will be more open to them and any future research they may want to do on the subject — a very real prospect, since the book leaves off with the approval of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger.
“Our presence [at Ticket Summit] gives the broker community assurance that we’ll give them a fair shake,” Baron said. “We’ll try to present all the facts accurately.”
Budnick agreed. “We do try to present the story from all the participants’ perspectives.”
For more information on “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped” by Dean Budnick and Josh Baron (ECW Press, 372 pages), visit ticketmastersthebook.com.