||Ticketmaster's Stranglehold over Music & Politics
by Dave Marsh
Ticketmaster now charges "convenience" fees up to 60 percent on concert tickets: They get $9 on the $15 tickets to John Mayer's shows, for instance.
There's nothing Mayer can do to evade this "convenience," unless he'd like to play joints tiny or hard to find or otherwise inconvenient.
'Til recently, there has been a way around Ticketmaster's "convenience." An artist holds a percentage of tickets for its fan club. Most artists hold 10 percent, but Dave Matthews, probably the biggest concert draw in North America, holds about half the tickets to his shows. Ticketmaster's various "conveniences" do not apply to such sales. Some--not many--artists add their own surcharges, but those are always far less than Ticketmaster would apply.
Ticketmaster doesn't like the practice of not offering concert-goers its conveniences. A couple weeks ago, venues and concert promoters around the country received letters from Ticketmaster, which controls sales at virtually all of them. The letter claimed that artist holds for fan clubs violate Ticketmaster contracts. A week or so later, Ticketmaster sent another letter, modifying the earlier one. According to this latest missive, artists can hold back no more than eight per cent of their tickets, and they can only sell them to fan clubs of which Ticketmaster approves--there has to be an annual fee of at least $15, for instance.
There is nothing you, me, Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews can do to change the situation. Under the Clinton-Gore administration, even after a Congressional hearing at which Pearl Jam and others (including me) testified to the effects of Ticketmaster's stranglehold, the Justice Department ruled--against the advice of most of its Antitrust division staff--that Ticketmaster shouldn't be sanctioned as a monopoly. (The fact that Ticketmaster employed Mickey Kantor, the Clinton "trade representative," may have helped the company.) It is hardly likely that the Bush gang is going to be more consumer friendly.
Fans cannot turn to alternative ticket providers. Ticketmaster drove them all out of business. Artists cannot turn to alternative venues and promoters because as part of its fanatic "free market" philosophy, the Bush-Clinton-Bush administration decided not to enforce those. The result is one company, Clear Channel, controlling virtually all American venues and promoters. Fans can't count on using the publicly-owned airwaves to express their discontent with being inconvenienced because Clear Channel also owns virtually all the radio stations. We could call our Congressmen and demand a law against it, but that law wouldn't be enforced because:
a) it wouldn't pass because Ticketmaster would outspend us on lobbying,
b) our congressmen believe in unregulated free-market capitalism, and
c) our government doesn't enforce such laws (see beginning of paragraph).
Incidentally, guess who owns Ticketmaster? Barry Diller's U.S.A. Networks. Which were just sold to Vivendi. Which just happens to own Universal, the record company that controls 40 percent of the U.S. market and belongs to what the Federal Trade Commission calls a major label "cartel."
For the past 20 years, we have stood by while free market fanatics and cowed liberals beat their chests over the wisdom of the market, the genius of privatization, the global triumph of capitalism. This is the result.
So enjoy this summer's shows--if you can afford them. I am sure that Ronald Perelman or some other billionaire privateer will be shaking his fat ass in the front rows. You should smile broadly as you watch that person pretend to enjoy the show. What they're really enjoying is the convenience you've provided by swallowing the bogus rhetoric of the capitalists.
||"An artist holds a percentage of tickets for its fan club. Most artists hold 10 percent, but Dave Matthews, probably the biggest concert draw in North America, holds about half the tickets to his shows. Ticketmaster's various "conveniences" do not apply to such sales."
meanwhile, the Stones (cough!) "fan club" (cough!) holds a percentage of tickets aside for fans then charges them $90 to purchase them PLUS makes them STILL pay handling fees!!! Even though they arent able to tell you where your seats are for over 2 weeks!
||Ticketmaster charges have never really bothered me. They're charging for a service. Yes, sometimes more than expected or dreamed, but they're a business. When the add "building facility charge" and "order processing charge", then I start getting red under the collar.
An example with actual figures:
One $90 ticket (SkyDome, Toronto)
$11.40 - convenience charge
$1.00 - building facility charge
$3.25 - order processing
total service charge = $15.65 (17.4%)
Now, I'll compare this to say buying a Stones cd. To buy a Stones cd here in Canada, it needs to be imported from the US and they're not manufactured here anymore. So, I'd look at $25-$35 (plus taxes) for a disc that costs a couple bucks to make.
Then I compare the satisfaction of the Stones touring again and purchasing an opportunity to see them live compared with buying a cd that I'd only listen to in my basement or car.
With this, I'm not saying that I agree with charges TM enforces, just that it's never overly bothered me.