John Oliver has become a voice of reason over the last few years via his satirical news program Last Week Tonight, and he recently took on the Ticketmaster and the ticket sales industry in a new episode.
Anyone interested in live music has seen ticket prices get and higher and higher as the years pass. Sure local indie venues keep their prices reasonable, but tickets for any mainstream artists have become incredibly expensive.
“If you think ticket prices have been getting ridiculously expensive, they have,” Oliver explained on the show. “The average price for a popular concert has more than tripled since the mid-’90s, vastly outpacing inflation, and that is before they hit the resale market.”
That is already an incredibly expensive price for a seat so far in the back. But things become even more expensive when service fees get added at the end, bringing the total to $153.40.
The service fees exist to essentially make Ticketmaster “deliver bad news,” gathering fees that eventually go to venues, promoters, and other people working behind the scenes to make the performance happen.
In the episode of Last Week Tonight there is a clip ofTicketmaster CEO Irving Azoff speaking to Congress in 2009 wherein he says:
“When people hear what Ticketmaster’s service charge is, you know, Ticketmaster was set up as a system where they took the heat for everybody. … In that service charge are the credit card fees, the rebates to the buildings, rebates sometimes to artists, sometimes rebates to promoters. … We’re like the IRS.”
Overall such a service is not entirely immoral. The people behind the scenes deserve to be compensated from ticket revenue. However, it would be more fair if Ticketmaster actually released the full load of tickets during the official sale.
In today’s culture, people will set their alarms for the second tickets go on sale, click just as the window opens and still come up short. It may be baffling considering these venues hold 50,000 people or more. Well, it should be because Ticketmaster will often release only a fraction of the total tickets through the primary sale.
“Here’s the thing, selling 20,000 tickets in 30 seconds would be crazy if that’s what Bieber did, but he didn’t,” Oliver said of a Justin Bieber concert at Madison Square Garden in 2012. “Because a report from the New York [Attorney General] later revealed that ‘fewer than 2,000 tickets to each show’ were actually put on sale that day, and that’s by no means a one-off. For many top shows, less than 25% of tickets are initially released to the general public.”
So what happens to the other tickets? Ticketmaster will provide them to services like Stubhub to massively increase the prices without scrutiny. Sometimes they’ll even add these tickets as “verified resale” on their own site. Literally withholding tickets for their own profit. Other times, these tickets will be set aside for the artist, and the artist will almost scalp them themselves.
Watch the full clip of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver below to get the full rundown of Ticketmaster’s clandestine activities. Unfortunately Ticketmaster still has a monopoly on ticket sales in the United States and beyond, but the first step to progress is awareness.
Featured image provided by HBO