Comedian John Oliver used the main segment of Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight on HBO to tear into Ticketmaster, giving an in-depth report on how the company and its policies have led to surging prices and consumer issues for years. The 20-minute broadside against what he described as “one of the most hated companies on earth” is available in its entirety on YouTube (embedded below).
For a mainstream report, Oliver and his staff actually did a fairly comprehensive job of detailing the modern ticket ecosystem. Discussion points several facts that Ticketmaster and similar companies hate to see brought up when blaming all the ills of consumer ticketing woes on ticket resale:
- Average ticket prices on the primary market have tripled since the mid-1990s
- Fees are an enormous percentage of the actual cost of purchasing tickets, and those fees are hidden until the last minute by default
- Ticketmaster and companies like it exist to take the blame for the high fees and rising prices, which are shared as rebates to artists and promoters
- As much as 90 percent of tickets are held back for high profile shows, and sold through platinum schemes, or routed directly through to the secondary market by artists
- Artists scalp their own tickets regularly
- Ticketmaster is one of the largest players on the secondary ticket market as well as the primary
None of these things are mysterious to many involved in the industry (just browse the Ticketmaster or Live Nation tag history on TicketNews if you’d care to read further), but mainstream media outlets have a tendency to parrot handy “bot” or “scalper” talking points, so the comprehensive look was something of a refreshing change.
In his conclusion, Oliver put it plainly, saying that “the reason tickets are so hard to get when they’re on sale is that they’re often not on sale, and the reason they cost so much on the secondary market is that you’re paying exorbitant fees to the platform. And at the center of all of this is Ticketmaster, because it turbo-charged many of these shitty practices that have now become industry standard.”
According to Variety, the company and its parent, Live Nation, have plans to respond to the report.