The ticket bundle sales tactic is becoming more and more popular, and it’s no mystery why – by “giving” fans a physical or digital download of their album with every concert ticket purchase, artists are able to boost their chart positions in a big way. The consequences for the fans, however, are neither as apparent or advantageous; album inclusion does invisibly increase the price of tickets, forcing fans to buy a product that, considering the rise of streaming service popularity, they probably never would have asked for.
Billboard reported that Kenny Chesney’s Live in No Shoes Nation is the first live album to top the Billboard 200 in seven years and the best-selling live album since since Paul McCartney’s Back in the U.S.: Live 2002. Why? The album was bundled with Chesney’s summer 2018 tour with Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion, and Brandon Lay, which took over the ticket marketplace as soon as it went on sale.
Last month, P!nk’s newest album, Beautiful Trauma, was included with the price of a pair of tickets to her tour of the same name, which saw even more popularity at on sale. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200; two-thirds of album sales were tied to tickets.
Ticket bundles are no new tactic to the industry; Ticketmaster VP of Music David Marcus says Warner Music Group was the first to capitalize on the strategy, and that Ticketmaster began bundling albums with tickets regularly about a decade ago.
Now, “every couple days, I get a new request,” says One Live Media’s Andy Martel – responsible for helping artists to create ticket bundles.
Record labels collect money from the bundled album regardless. In order for it to be eligible towards the Billboard 200, however, the bundled album must be redeemed by the ticket-buyer (which only 20 -30 percent of fans will actually do). Because of this caveat, some artists will go as far as to remind fans to redeem the album.
Billboard notes that Maroon 5 did so via Twitter just the other day for their new album/tour Red Pill Blues, and that when Metallica worked with Warner Music Group to send reminder to fans who bought tickets to their North American stadium tour earlier this year, the bundled 2016 album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct jumped back up to No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
— Maroon 5 (@maroon5) November 6, 2017
While clearly beneficial for the artist and recording company, indie concert promoter and venue owner-operator Seth Hurwitz sees the ticket bundle differently: “It’s just a flat-out scam.”
Hurwitz says bundling forces people to buy music so artists “can jack up first-week album sales,” but in doing so “people are putting tours on sale way before they ought to. The tour onsales are suffering greatly, and then those shows’ momentum is gone forever. It becomes a house that’s on the market too long.”
Both P!nk and Kenny Chesney’s tours don’t kick off until April and August of next year, respectively.
Other ticket bundle winners are Shania Twain, whose Now album attributed 80,000 of the 134,000 total copies sold in its first week to tour ticket purchases. According to Nielson Music, ticket bundles helped Katy Perry, Arcade Fire, and The Chainsmokers top the charts, too.
Next time you receive an album redemption (that you very well may never use) with the purchase of a concert ticket, remember that nothing is ever free. Would you sacrifice a CD for a seat closer to the stage?