Dear Ticketmaster, YOU Are What’s Ruining Music

If any of you are Rammstein fans, then there’s about a 98% chance you’re feeling the same frustration as everybody else about one date in America and how it sold out Madison Square Garden in less than 20 minutes on Friday.  I was one of the tens of thousands of faithful slaves to Ticketmaster on Friday just trying to score a ticket and pay out the ass for fees that I don’t even know what they go to.  Tickets went on sale at noon and pretty much everyone figured you had to be there right away to get pit tickets but there’s no way they’d fill up a place as big as MSG.  I was hitting the F5 button repeatedly until tickets went on sale and had to try buying tickets five times before one order would process and got a lone seat for $92 dollars.  I know of at least four other people who were attempting to buy tickets at the same time as me and couldn’t have gotten to the website any closer to the on sale time than possible and they all came up empty handed.

I can’t fault Ticketmaster for Rammstein only having one US show, and I give the band props for being able to fill the place up so quickly, which will hopefully lure them into a full tour here sooner rather than later.  I can however fault Ticketmaster for being a total cluster fuck every time that any event is in high demand as well as monopolizing ticket prices and excessive price gouging.  Any show with large money potential usually causes their website to temporarily crash and makes for unpredictably predictable results of the good seats being scalped for ten times the face value on a ‘partner site’.  The first time I searched for a ticket, I was given something in Section 129 which sucks pretty bad for being there within the second of the on sale time.  I reluctantly agreed to buy it until ‘Ticketmaster cannot find the requested page’ and then I’ve lost my seat and have to search again.  I search again and find something even worse up in the 300’s and get the same error message.  Now I’m beyond pissed off and figuring my trip to New York is dead before it even gets started.  I search again and get the ‘no results found for your match’ which usually means sold out in Ticketmaster lingo.  I give it another shot and find seats in the 400’s this time for 62 dollars and I give up the seat because I won’t fly across the country to sit in nosebleeds.  One last shot before I give up and it’s now 12:14 and magically enough I get a seat in Section 7, Row S which is the first set of seats on the floor and 19 rows back.  This time I’m allowed to buy my ticket and by the time the checkout process is complete it’s about 12:21 and the show is sold out and everybody else is shit out of luck.  I consider myself fortunate because I didn’t really win or lose a game of internet roulette with Ticketmaster this time.

Before the show is even sold out, they are advertising to find tickets on which of course is owned by, you guessed it, Ticketmaster.  The gaudy numbers they put up on the site is for $1,300 dollar seats that are shittier than mine and up to $2,500 per ticket for the pit.  Do you really expect me to believe that customers already have tickets in hand (which is a requirement to sell tickets on the site) have gotten online and are reselling them within 15 minutes of tickets going on sale?  Do I believe that somehow Ebay (which coincidentally enough owns scalping site Stubhub) has legally obtained tickets 2 hours before the show has even publically gone on sale?  Just because we’re music fans doesn’t mean we’re all retarded.  This doesn’t apply to just metal obviously, because this is one of the few metal shows that can even compare to the sales of the Lady Gaga’s and Jay-Z’s on Ticketmaster.  If ticket companies and auction companies own scalping sites and are charging outlandish prices for good seats that were never made available to the public before the public could even obtain them, how are we supposed to trust them?  That is like the only A student in class having the answer key to the final exam two weeks before the test.  Once the show is sold out we are stuck begging our friends or looking for a few honest sellers on Craigslist that aren’t trying to show us pictures of their penis or have their secretary in Kenya write us a check.

Let’s just say we’re not going to see Rammstein and we’re going to see a band like Motorhead who only charges $35 dollars and won’t sell out anything bigger than the Hammerstein Ballroom.  Plenty of metalheads would gladly spend $35 to see the closest thing we have to a God playing a bass guitar and crooning about loose women and booze with a smile on their face.  When that $35 becomes $56 after service fees, convenience fees, building fees, ticket printing fees, and order processing charges, it’s no longer in the price range of any casual fan and is reserved for the diehards who won’t miss a Motorhead show.  Any venue that Motorhead plays is going to hold over 1,000 people, which makes it a 99.5% guarantee that they are under contract with either Ticketmaster or Live Nation as the exclusive ticket seller.  The competition is good because Live Nation having control of certain venues will keep Ticketmaster’s prices in check.  Oh wait, scratch that, this isn’t 2006 anymore, I’m sorry.  Ticketmaster magically owns Live Nation now as well, meaning they are their own competition.  Even before the merger was announced last year, did anybody else notice the cross linking of each other’s sites already?  If you searched on Ticketmaster for certain (but not all) Live Nation or Ticketweb shows, it would redirect you to their ‘partner site’ long before the merger was announced.  Oh yeah, Ticketweb is also a subsidiary of Ticketmaster which controls the majority of the under 1,000 person venues in case you haven’t dealt with them yet.  Sure does sound fair doesn’t it?  I’m sure that since Ticketmaster extends to everything from every pro and collegiate sport to Broadway plays to Barney on Ice, that this monopoly surely has nothing to do with Americans being more reluctant to spend money on entertainment and has nothing to do with the death of the economy.

Ever since the whole Napster ordeal, it’s always been label execs and bands claiming that downloading has killed the music industry.  Does that make for a doubling of ticket prices and fees not an issue anymore?  For as much as CDs are a dead media, the feeling of a live show cannot be duplicated by Youtube or bootleg recordings no matter how hard you try.  Bands make a couple of dollars per album sale tops, which makes up a small percentage of any regular touring band’s income in reality.  Album sales are more important in keeping the labels happy and showing the labels there is a demand for the band out on the road.  Merchandise sales are much more crucial, since profit is much higher on shirts and hoodies than it is on CDs, but bands don’t move shirts without fans paying to see them on tour first.  There also is the issue of upstart bands and sometimes forgotten bands getting recognition from touring that disappears when 75 people show up to see a band like Ill Nino that used to draw 500 or more back when $33 dollar tickets were fifteen dollars.  It makes it a lot easier for a band to fade from prominence to obscurity when they go from filling up the House of Blues to playing a shitty bar that holds 150 without the service fees down the street a couple of years later.  Sure, without album sales there isn’t as much touring, but without ticket sales there is no touring, which becomes the demise of most financially strapped bands trying to make it out on the road.  A lot of fans will also use the show as an opportune time to pick up the new album especially if you can get the band to sign it or if it’s a new band that you were impressed by and have to have their stuff.  That sales outlet now disappears and the label wants to know why a band can’t move one box of albums in a 35 city tour.

One of the other things that I’ve personally noticed that may or may not hold true to everyone else is that I am a person who expects more from something if I paid more for it.  I want a BMW to drive better than a Kia, so I expect $88 dollar shows to be absolutely unforgettable.  If I go to a ten dollar show and it sucks, it’s usually permissible and at least it was a night out of the house.  If I go to a fifty dollar show, it damned well better be awesome or I’m feeling screwed.  If most people have the same mentality as I do, it makes for a lot of disheartened fans that look at their monthly finances and try to squeeze in a show or two if they’re lucky and want to go home thoroughly satisfied when two tickets, gas, $17 dollars to park at the Hard Rock Live, and dinner for two turns into a $250 dollar night to see a subpar show.

I used to be a very careless spender when it came to shows, as they are my only sanity in a fucked up world, so I’d buy tickets the minute they went on sale to everything.  You could usually find a stack of tickets that were my agenda for the next three months in advance hidden in my room and I could even buy an extra ticket so that I could let a friend tag along or even use it as a fun, cheap date that wasn’t as boring as the fair or as cliché as the movies.  Of course a ticket would be 12 bucks and after fees it would be 16 and I could do a few per week if the bands wanted to come.  Now to spring for a band like Rammstein, I have to sacrifice five or six small shows that realistically should be 10 or 15 dollar shows that are more like 28-30 not including the tank of gas now.  I will also stress myself out and not buy tickets if I’m fairly confident that the band won’t sell out the venue and just buy them at the door to avoid the fees.  When I hear my parents and their friends talk about seeing Aerosmith for under 20 dollars and now seeing the band is guaranteed a million dollars per stop on a tour and their already high ticket prices are being padded with another 50 dollars a piece in fees, it’s glaringly obvious exactly what is wrong with the music industry.  If Walmart owned every music retailer like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, FYE, and any other place without getting it directly from the band, CD’s would be $35 a piece and only the most diehard of fan would buy them.  That is essentially all that Ticketmaster is doing right now but in a much larger scale that expands to all walks of life and anybody’s taste.  They are manipulating an already fragile economy into paying what they want you to pay for entertainment by owning everything and forcing your hand to either deal with them, or their scalping sites.  Or else you can do like the majority of casual music fans and sit home cursing the band for charging so much for tickets and boycotting an innocent band that never sees the majority of the money you’re shelling out to Ticketmaster fees.

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