Concerts are fun. Seeing a well-rehearsed production involving your favorite artist while surrounded by like-minded fans is usually a great, memorable experience. I’ve personally found myself at a wide variety of shows throughout my life – from Pitbull to the Red Hot Chili Peppers – and garnered my own arsenal of good stories.
But something has changed in the concert-going process, something that a decade ago was rather insignificant: ticket prices. Whereas older generations had the luxury of paying pocket change to get into concert halls, modern music fans have to save one, sometimes multiple, paychecks to afford seeing their favorite stars in person. Even the so-called “nosebleed” seats have become monetarily unattainable.
I was made hyper-aware of this issue a couple of months ago when my favorite band announced their upcoming tour. Naturally, being a big fan, I went online to purchase tickets but was shocked to discover almost all of them had been bought by reseller platforms, making $50 pit tickets now a whopping $600.
This band was rather small, and the last time I’d seen them (a year ago and with good seats) I had only paid $80 after tax. What was going on this time that made some tickets more than my paycheck?
Taylor Swift had one of the biggest (and most expensive) concerts of all time: Forbes
Well, as I noted when describing my ticket-buying experience, most, if not all, of the concert tickets for the band I wanted to see had been snagged by resellers. But how did these money-hungry sites manage to get the tickets?
It’s something that’s been decades in the making. In the early 2000s, when ticket sales began taking a radical shift towards an online approach, ticket resellers, who for many years had to deal with waiting in lines of angry people or dialing frantically on the phone, could now acquire vast amounts of tickets with a click of a button.
Automated bots would (and still do) infiltrate websites with ease, nabbing thousands of tickets with a speed unknown to any average (human) fan. A persistent practice disapproved by many, the usage of bots to purchase tickets en masse was deemed illegal by federal law in 2016 (although the practice continues to this day).
Unfortunately, even pre-sales or member-only exclusives do little to quell the ravenous ticket bots. Just last year for Taylor Swift’s massive Eras tour, bots were able to break through Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan” system that aimed to give true fans early access to the best seats. According to Axios, nosebleed tickets began “at $1,000…with some closer views topping $8,000 per ticket (plus fees).” Additionally, according to the article, these tickets originally ranged from $49-$499. It seems I’m actually rather lucky with the prices I faced for my band!
Then there are the dreaded ticket fees. When I finally stumbled upon some not-so-egregious (although still ridiculous) ticket prices for my desired band’s tour, I decided to purchase them, but turned around once again at checkout. This certain reseller had fees that automatically applied at checkout, fees that had doubled my ticket price. Doubled. And those fees weren’t for anything pertinent to me, the ticket holder, or the concert venue, or the band, or anything. Just fees for the sake of having fees.
This year, Joe Biden passed a similar law to the 2016 ticket bot ban, but this time dealing with the after-effects of ticket resellers, that is, what happens when you inevitably must purchase from them. The TICKET (Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing) Act, states that ticket sellers must state the entire ticket price (including fees) upfront in any and all advertising or marketing.
An article by Pitchfork describes a method also utilizing the law. They describe an approach in which tickets would be made “non-transferrable”, meaning tickets would not be able to be bought and then resold. For fans who couldn’t use their tickets for one reason or another, this would mean giving their ticket to another fan or a family member. For reseller websites, they would essentially be breaking the law if they bought and then resold tickets, as they are the sole purchaser and therefore legal owner of the tickets (that person who cannot exchange their tickets with another person for monetary gain).
Another simple option would be to have multiple, trustworthy ticket platforms selling tickets. By spreading out the tickets, people can claim their seats faster without having to wait in lines or deal with network crashes from the density of traffic on the sites. Part of the problem of high prices stems from Ticketmaster’s near monopoly over ticket sales. If they believe they are the only ones who can give the people what they want, they will do whatever they can to get the most money. Not cool.
There’s a happy ending to my story so fear not, dear reader. I was able to find tickets with minimal fees and I am now able to see my favorite band in concert next week. Did it hurt my bank account? Yeah, a little. But not nearly as bad as the $600 tickets I saw early on in my journey. I also feel hope knowing that even the president of the United States is trying to address this issue. There are also lots of other, lesser-known folks trying to address this problem and I have faith we may see more affordable tickets in the future. But for now, maybe we should go back to good old-fashioned ticket booths.
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