Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s monopoly

Your favorite music artist has just announced a tour in the U.S. You see a date with “Philadelphia” written next to it. You then check your calendar and see that the show is in summer: perfect timing. You log onto Ticketmaster and see tickets are not on sale yet, and you will have to wait a week to purchase any. 

One week later, you open Ticketmaster again and check the concert in your area. Instead of seeing the small blue dots that represent seats with the original price, you only see the purple-pink of resale tickets, ranging from an outrageous $100 for a nosebleed seat to almost $500+ for a seat anywhere close to the stage. And on top of the substantially marked-up tickets, there are fees: convenience fees, delivery fees, and venue fees that add another $30 to the total.  Disappointment fills your stomach as you angrily curse out the scalpers that made tickets so expensive.

Buying tickets for sporting events, concerts, or even comedy shows was not always like this. In fact, it may have been even worse in the past prior to the creation of ticket-selling websites. As there was no centralized network to sell tickets, venues would sell tickets to vendors who would then distribute them to buyers. This led to a frenzy to buy tickets: prices varied greatly, some vendors sold out faster than others, and many people would leave the lines angry and aggrieved at their misfortune. Worst of all, scalpers would buy as many tickets as they could and would sell them in the ticket lines they just waited through. 

Ticketmaster was originally a solution to these problems. The original creators made a system that could distribute tickets in one location, with standard prices and an equal opportunity for everybody with access to the internet to be able to see their favorite band. It was a gift from the heavens. 

So what happened?

As Ticketmaster grew, it acquired more and more of its competitors.

Capitalism happened. As Ticketmaster grew, it acquired more and more of its competitors. In conjunction with this acquisition of companies, ticket prices began to rise. Soon, it became the largest ticket seller on the market and had almost no competition. That was until 2010, when Ticketmaster and Live Nation, another ticket-selling company, decided to merge, making them the undisputed kings of the ticket market. Now, Ticketmaster controls over 70% of the market, using exclusive deals for artists and venues to extend its iron hand around the entertainment industry. 

In a capitalistic society, this kind of growth can only come from greed. Ticketmaster began to scheme ways to generate more revenue and began to use two different methods: reselling and fees. 

Fees appeared to just be a modicum of cash, pocket change really. A small fee for the use of the website, another small fee for the venue of the concert. These “small” fees soon piled up. Originally, Ticketmaster had to keep these prices low if they did not want to be outcompeted. However, now that Ticketmaster controls the majority of the market and has artists locked into using their system, they can pile as many fees on as they want with few consequences. 

Ticket reselling is where the majority of Ticketmaster’s problems reside. The current system of Ticketmaster promotes scalping, and Ticketmaster even has had secret deals with scalpers to drive up prices. These marked-up prices make Ticketmaster more money, which is why they allow it. With the creation of bots that can move instantly, regular people like you and I have nearly no chance of buying original price tickets. 

Ticketmaster is not the only one to blame here: artists also make money from the higher reselling of tickets.

Ticketmaster is not the only one to blame here: artists also make money from the higher reselling of tickets. In fact, Live Nation has a history of letting artists mark up their prices from the get-go, essentially making themselves scalpers.

Ticketmaster has no competition. This means that they can do whatever they want and strongarm consumers into paying ridiculous prices to see live events. En masse, we have the power to force artists and Ticketmaster to sell tickets for reasonable prices. As consumers, we need to call on Congress to revert the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger in order to get fairly priced and equally accessible tickets again. 

Author: Ethan Lee '24

Ethan Lee is a Managing Editor for The Index, a position he took in May 2022. He has previously edited the News section of The Index. When not writing, Ethan can be found on the squash court or in a crew boat, or working on an art project.