I love buying tickets to events. No, scratch that—I love the process of buying tickets to events.
I’m not talking about the honourable old-school style of camping out in front of the glass windowed booth the night before, earning your rightful place in the front row through patience and braving the elements with your fellow man. I mean battling in the barbwire trenches of Ticketmaster’s website, waiting online in the wee hours of the morning, only to type in the damn security check words wrong because you can’t read twisted lettering in your sleep-deprived state, and finding out that by 10:01 am, you’re already going to be trolling eBay for nosebleed tickets to Good Charlotte.
For those of you who love this highly inconvenient nuisance as much as I do, last week’s news about the prospects for the future might just cause your brain to implode. As you may have heard, Ticketmaster, the largest ticket company in the world, has moved to merge with Live Nation, the largest promoter in the world, creating an entertainment behemoth that would rule over the entire industry like Big Brother over Oceania.
Despite the two companies’ dubious PR claim that the corporate fusion will “improve the live entertainment experience and drive major innovations in ticketing technology, marketing, and service” and “strengthen and enhance the direct connection between artists and fans.” This has the potential to create a monopoly the likes of which Rich Uncle Pennybags couldn’t have predicted, and could result in a worst-case-scenario for ticket purchasing that has the potential to bankrupt consumers just so that they can get their kids Hannah Montana tickets.
Granted, Ticketmaster has always been shifty in their practices, as has been seen in the past month with the controversy over their site TicketsNow, which allows people to auction off tickets that they’ve bought to the highest bidder. This drew the ire of the Boss himself after fans said that no tickets for his concert were available immediately after they were put on sale, and asserted that Ticketmaster had just flipped them directly to their auction site to sell them for double the price, effectively becoming the world’s largest scalper. As well, they’ve been at the centre of several class-action lawsuits for their grotesque “convenience” charges.
But it’s been rumoured that if Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged (due to what would be a colossal failure of American antitrust courts and the Justice Department), they may shift to a completely TicketsNow-like auction-based system, with no more fixed price tickets anywhere.
The entire situation represents a huge step backwards for the industry, as Live Nation’s growth and emergence in the ticketing market over the past few years had represented one of the few worthy competitors and threats to Ticketmaster in decades. If this deal goes through, it could mean that fans would be paying more for tickets and that artists couldn’t even control how they sell seats at their own shows. Imagine a world where you could never get tickets to your show without bidding hundreds of dollars and you’ll see how poorly this situation could play out.
Luckily, there’s already significant resistance to the plan by both artists as well as US Senators, and the merger could be jammed in antitrust courts for a while as the Justice Department reviews the case.
However, if it somehow, against all logic, does get approved, instead of getting ripped off by Ticketmaster online, we may be reduced to buying from the greasy guy in the trenchcoat outside the venue—he might even end up being cheaper and at least he’s not lying about how he’s ripping off his customers.