Ticketmaster: The Monopoly on Live Music

Hoping to catch some live music or sports this coming fall? Be prepared to shell out more than you bargained for. Back in February 2009, when I purchased my tickets for the upcoming U2 360 Concert Tour I came across what appeared to be an extra $13.25 attached to the face value of the ticket. While these “service charges” aren’t new, I hadn’t been completely aware of them until that point. Now with the U2 concert postponed perhaps I could catch another concert meanwhile. No dice. I realized that I’d prefer to just pay the face value of the ticket.

Browsing other ticketing websites like Ticketsnow.com, I realized that the prices were heavily inflated. For example, for a Killers concert in Toronto, tickets were going for $1,199 for a $44 face value ticket. I was pretty much out of alternatives. Ticketmaster had the tickets to the concerts I wanted to attend. On top of the face value of the ticket, which is determined by the venue, artist or promoter, Ticketmaster adds a convenience charge that covers the costs of providing tickets at their outlet centers, staffing call centers and maintenance of its web site. But customers are forced to pay this fee regardless of the way in which they purchase their tickets. Besides the convenience charge, there is also a processing fee added which covers taking and maintaining the order and arranging for it’s shipping to the customer. For instance, if you were to buy a $35 ticket through Ticketmaster, there would be the convenience charge of $8.35 (per ticket), a $3.15 processing fee and $1.75 for an e-ticket. That adds to a whopping 38% premium over the face value of the ticket. The company claims that it’s merely the cost of doing business.

Back in 1994, the alternative rock band Pearl Jam attacked Ticketmaster’s monopolistic practices that result in unfair markups of their tickets. The band sued Ticketmaster for refusing to lower or eliminate their service charges. But because Ticketmaster has over 9,000 clients (arenas, stadiums and theaters), Pearl Jam was forced to cancel their 1994 Summer Tour. In an attempt to circumnavigate around the giant that is Ticketmaster, several online competitors, like Tickets.com, StubHub and Ticketvendor.com have popped up in recent years.

While we can all try to avoid the ridiculous fees that have become Ticketmaster, there is only so much we can do when one company owns everything. To date, I have not purchased any concert tickets (as much as I want to). Solidarity anyone?

-Curtis

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