Not too many years ago Top Class Actions and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that Ticketmaster settled a class action lawsuit for $16.5 million with irate Bruce Springsteen fans that were tricked into buying more expensive tickets on a resale website that it owned. On the day tickets were first offered for sale, minutes after the sale started, Ticketmaster redirected the fans to TicketsNow, its secondary resale site, where seats to the same shows sold for sometimes hundreds of dollars over face value. In the business, in the old days this practice was called ticket scalping.
This month, Garth Brooks announced that he was partnering with Ticketmaster to reduce ticket scalping. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” Brooks said in a statement. “Ticketmaster’s scalper screening system is a wonderful idea.” He went on to say that “all I saw were tickets on every scalping site and the people that just wanted to come to the show could not get in.”
Ticketmaster owns and controls no less than three other resale sites, TicketsNow, Ticketmaster Plus and Getmein.com, and is arguably the biggest ticket scalper in the world. So this partnership begs the question, does partnering with the Gigantor of ticket scalping reduce ticket scalping and ticket prices?
Let’s take a look and see. On Garth Brooks’ official website, he states that for his Atlanta shows, “Tickets available ONLY at Ticketmaster.com” and ticket prices are “$56.94 plus $4.56 tax, $4.00 facility fee, and $6.00 service charge” for a grand total of $71.50.
But wait, on Ticketmaster’s resale site, TicketsNow, where the tickets are listed as “Ticketmaster verified”, the same Atlanta concert tickets are listed from “$85 to $405”.
On the resale site Stubhub, Brooks tickets begin at $90, and at TicketNetwork the seats go for as low as $67.
So what’s happening with Brook’s promise, blared in a Showbizz411 headline, “Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood Has Surprisingly Low Ticket Price”?
What happened is that Brooks got into bed with the biggest ticket scalper in the world, Ticketmaster.
Did Brooks know he was partnering with a ticket reseller?
One leading industry expert believes he had to know. Don Vaccaro, CEO of TicketNetwork, a leading online secondary marketplace for tickets, stated that “Garth Brooks is one of the smartest and most hands on business performers in live entertainment. I find it hard to believe that he didn’t understand those relationships.”
In a previous article on TicketNews titled “Who’s Really Scalping Ticket Buyers”, author Rachel Fogg concluded that “many artists claim they are trying to stop scalpers from exploiting customers, when they are in fact profiting on the secondary market.” She cited Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban as the latest in a number of artists selling their own concert tickets in the secondary market for above face value. She also wrote about how few tickets are available to the general public, in Keith Urban’s case just 389 out of 15,000 seats.
Blogger Steve Pociask believes that many of these artists are pulling the old “bait and switch” tactic. He argues that the ticket industry should be subject to the same consumer protection laws that other retailers face and should do more to protect consumers.
In the end, the fans are left to wonder, did Garth Brooks get duped by the behemoth ticket scalper Ticketmaster, or is he pulling the old “bait and switch” on his own fans?