And those who play with them are complicit in the abuse. As complicit as those who colluded with Cosby or Wienstein or the Catholic church.
Before I get flooded with comments about how artists (and fans) have no choice let me be clear- They absolutely have a choice. Period. Full stop. And we all know the choice most people are making.
Now- to detour for a moment. In my 20s I was given the book, The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander by ironically, of all people my mother. You see I grew up a house of wealth. But I also grew up in a house of abusers. I also grew up in a house where the abuse was obvious but those around me just stayed mute to protect their status or wealth and, “Not rock the boat”. For to deal the reality of the abuse would have crumbled the castle. And many would’ve ended up struggling (if not outright poor). So in my own life I had bullies and bystanders, and me the bullied. But eventually I learned I was also a bystander in my own abuse. So out of conviction and respect for my own self-identity and worth I left that wealth and never looked back. They may or may not still be telling the same lies and still be just as wealthy with all that dental money but I’m no longer part of that web.
When it comes to ticketmaster the same triangle of abuse exists. And I think you know who to put where; the fans, the artists, ticketmaster.
Artists that continue to work with an economic abuser like ticketmaster are part of the problem. I’m speaking mainly of the already wealthy artists filling arenas. But everyone who works with them while not in the same boat is sailing in the same ocean when it comes to tours and tickets. Some are on cruise ships, some on private multi-million dollar yachts, some of fishing boats or ferries, and many fans are stuck laying on drift wood or just trying to tread water to even get tickets. Most artists will not speak on ticketmaster or name them directly as we’ve seen with the recent Taylor Swift fiasco because they know in the end that would be utter hypocrisy and likely a breach of contract. And honestly… greed is real for some. The way ticketmaster operates makes them lots of money.
So if the hands are not as tied as people think, what can artists do? Pearl Jam tried to take on ticketmaster and failed, you can read up on that backstory here at Saving Country Music for a quick summary. Still more recently Pearl Jam worked out a deal with Ticketmaster where they do not allow transfers of Pearl Jam tickets and only allow resale for those shows in-house at face value. At the band’s request. Go to a Garth Brooks show? Every seat in the house costs the same price and is generally in the $100-200 range. At Garth’s request. And those are all nice ways of compromise and working in a bad situation but sadly, for this music fan, that still makes them complicit.
So Bear, what can artists (and fans) can do then Einstein?
Well, simply not work with ticketmaster at all… Yes, I’m saying, NOT TOUR.
WHAT?! Artists can’t not tour.
Yes they can. Look at Kate Bush, or Enya, or Annie Lennox etc. I understand some artists LIVE to perform that’s why they tour at all. That’s why The Rolling Stones have had some 10+ “Final Tour” tours. It is in their DNA at this point. And I also understand that playing any arena is a kind of high you don’t get just playing music for a backyard hang. I don’t care at this point. If we want to change the system, sacrifices must be made and those at the top have proven they don’t care to change the system to the benefit of the masses be it politicians, artists, and even those wealthier fans with excess money to toss at overpriced tickets.
In fact one theory as to why this current Swift debacle has any traction at all (outside of anything Swift being news at this point) is because some kids of our political leaders, even with all their connections, couldn’t get tickets. Hit them at home and people tend to wake up it seems. However, it should be noted, last year, BTS fans raised a similar stink about the exact same issue only to be ignored by the mainstream media entirely. If you don’t know of BTS, they are a HUGELY popular Korean idol group. Hugely popular, even in the west. But the culture is talking about Swift, so I guess it’s good people are speaking on this issue in the mainstream media again at all.
Also at this point I will not accept artists playing dumb or giving non-apologies because if Mainstreet knows what a monster ticketmaster is the artists you love DEFINITELY know. They have whole teams that paid to know. So to act surprised or not take any personal accountability is disingenuous at best and insulting at worst, IMO.
Tickmaster and livenation are owned by the same people and they own all the big venues and now even many mid size venues. John Oliver did a piece on ticketmaster
exposing how ticketmaster scalps their own product and how some artists (i.e. Justin Bieber even scalp their own tickets). To say nothing of ticketmaster getting a slice every time a ticket is resold on their site thanks to “service fees”. And after all this the masses acted shocked, shrugged their shoulders, and went back to supporting the system.
And that system is seems has only gotten worse for there is the option for artists to implement dynamic pricing, which Swift opted out of this tour despite championing it previously. And yet fans are claiming they watched dynamic pricing live while trying to get tickets. Either way when an artist opts out of dynamic pricing ticketmaster will throw in VIP or Premium Platinum tickets (same stinky shite just a different name). These tickets maybe come with a poster or some other poorly made merch as an incentive (that you can’t transfer if you sell your ticket BTW). They might even grant access to the (insert fancy name here) lounge.
I talked to some Roxy Music fans when they played The Chase Center. This couple payed $800 each for floor seats to be close and for the “perks”. They said the service was terrible all around and the drinks were weak and $25 each. The hated the entitled and monied audience around them in the floor section that were their filming or taking selfies (despite being told not by the band). They ultimately had an awful time, hated the venue, and the show. Way to loose a live music fan, no?
Meanwhile, me and my friend waited until the afternoon of the same show to buy tickets. We got decent seats in the lower back for $36 each (ticketmaster AND the band had made their money already by that point) and THEN were able to just walk down to closer seating with more room to dance because staff was not paid enough to care at this show, I guess. I liked the show fine. But the wildly different experiences people can have at the same show is always fascinating to me. And this example proves more expensive is not always better.
No solution is perfect here. But if we as a culture insist on working with this gaslighting, stress inducing, serial economic abuser we need to find some way to reign in the system and at least make it fairer for fans to even acquire tickets at all. I gave two examples with Pearl Jam and Garth Brooks but even Ed Sheeran facing a similar issues with scalpers forced ticketmaster to cancel the tickets marked up on resale sites like stubhub and seatgeek and start over (though ticketmaster already got their money on all the fees from the original tickets and the second run).
Honestly, I am kind of disgusted that more artists haven’t done something similar it just leaves a bad sound in my ears. So, I have very little hope in anyone deciding to give up money/greed here. But fairness in the presales and the queue and addressing scalping in a real way would be a decent start. It has been suggested tie each ticket to one person like an airline ticket and that’s it. I personally think forcing people to go to a box office and stand in line and limit tickets to four per person is the way to go. Bots can’t stand in line and scalpers don’t what to take the time and you will end up with mostly real fans at your show. Nine In Nails did that here a few years back just to try something different and I heard no complaints. But that will not happen as long as people keep buying overpriced tickets with excessive fees on-line out of FOMO and the artists we love keep signing contracts with a bully.
Continuing to do the same thing (i.e. working with ticketmaster) and expecting a different result is the definition of crazy. As I said above, I have been urging people to go to the box office instead. As I detailed in my Björk concert review I saved $50 on my ticket that way. And one time out of the blue a venue gave me a FREE ticket when I showed up the day of to a show. But FOMO is a virus in the modern concert world so you get people panic buying an $800 nosebleed ticket plus $200 in fees according to some comments. That is a months rent for many people and if you have that kind of money to toss at a concert you are either very lucky or might want to check your priorities.
I also understand tours like these are not just marquee names; Madonna, Bruce Spingsteen, Beyonce. They are teams of people who earn a living working the back ground or being back up dancers or even just selling merchandise and snacks. If all artists banded together to not tour these venues owned by livenation, what of those people who have rent and family that make these tour machines run? An often forgotten part of the ticket price equation are the roadies and staff. And this is another part of why this is a fiasco for artists to navigate because if they are stone cold, they know the name on the marquee is going to be fine without touring. But you can’t say the same for the others on their team.
A side story: One of my favorite films is the 1947 thriller, Out Of The Past with Robert Mitchum, the worlds greatest chin, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer as the luminiferous femme fatale. It was her star making role. And Greer was set to be the next Lauren Bacall. But her career hit a snitch when she refused to sleep with, either Howard Hughes or Orson Welles (I forget which). She immediately got smaller and smaller roles until she was largely forgetten. Though she did have a semi-decent TV career in the early days of the mdeium. Is that fair or right? No. But Jane Greer stands as one of my heroes because she said, “No”. She made the hard sacrifice, she had the conviction to know her value and worth was not dependent on abusers of power. And that she was better off without them.
So, at this point when it comes to artists and live music, especially the larger venues and larger acts, sacrifices- hard choices must be made (even outright breaking contracts in some cases). And if an artist takes a stand and calls out the abuse and refuses to stay silent and complicit they may find themselves more or less alone in that stand (like Pearl Jam in the 90s). But you never know, in this day and age of social media you might be the start of the groundswell. More importantly though, as a hardcore music fan, even if I don’t care for the music you’re producing I would applaud the conviction. And I KNOW the fans will not turn on you. With social media it will in fact allow them to rally behind you in your stance against those economically abusing your fans.
And to the fans… hard choices as well. Not seeing your favorite artist live sucks. But if you participate in the system you don’t really have room to complain, for you are complicit. And I willingly raise my hand here, though over the past 4 years I’ve only gone through ticketmaster once out of some 10+ shows and 7 of those were venues that are either owned by livenation or work with them for on-line sales. If the box office is not an option I will use craigslist and buy from somebody having to part with a ticket due to illness or flaky friends etc. But I am going to do my damnedest to not give ticketmaster any of my money anymore. And that may mean not seeing somebody on my bucket list, like Annie Lennox or Kylie Minogue. Is that sad? Well… not really… I’m kind of over putting music acts on pedstals like god at this point and I am definitely done being a partner in these ticketmaster crimes.
And as much as I want to scream and grind my teeth about corporate America and the wealthy class, that is largely out of my control and doesn’t offer any alternative. So I have GREAT alternative for you (and me) when it comes to concerts and ticketmaster, local music. As I’ve said elsewhere on SoundwavesTV, every city I look into across this country for my PopOff! show has a GREAT thriving local music scene with amazing acts. Sometimes you get three on one bill for under $30 and maybe a $1 fee! Elton John does not need my money. But The Hot Takes Do, State Line Empire does, Lockemy does, The Sam Chase, Bitchseat, Laura Benitez and the Heartache, Sunny Sweeny, Jamie Wyatt, Batfang, Moonbeau… So give ticketmaster the hard middle and go check out your local scene. The music is awesome, the drinks are cheaper, there is no stupid clear plastic bag hassle, no long line hassle, the aduience is in a MUCH Better mood because they have not been screwed over in every step of the concert process. And on top of all that, you are putting back into your local community more than ticketmaster and many artists we love will ever do.