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Artists are calling out the gross corporate greed of Ticketmaster

The Cure’s Robert Smith recently convinced Ticketmaster to refund ‘unduly high’ fees to their fans – could this be the start of artists holding the ticket-selling giant to account?

At present, you’d be hard-pressed to find a music fan with any positive thoughts about Ticketmaster. While from two very different musical camps, The Cure’s Robert Smith and his goth army seem ready to join the Swifties in a battle against the ticketing giant as another fan base burned by pricing.

As tickets went on sale for the band’s US tour, prices were nearly doubled thanks to hefty service fees, facility charges and a processing fee. Despite purposefully setting their prices at an accessible limit with tickets as low as $20 and opting out of dynamic prices during apparent conversations with the platform, Cure fans still got shafted. In a series of tweets to fans, Smith has said he is “as sickened as you all are” and has actually convinced Ticketmaster to refund fans their fees. But the fact this happened at all when The Cure supposedly did everything ‘right’, following recent horror stories from Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s ticket sales, begs the question: what can be done about the Ticketmaster problem?

The carnage of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour pre-sale is still in the news, where Ticketmaster claimed bots hacked the verified fan presale, causing ticket prices to hike into the tens of thousands from the original price range of $49 to $499 for tickets. Despite the insane prices, the platform somehow managed to sell every ticket to the tour, causing the general pre-sale to be cancelled after 2.4 million tickets were sold. This was all a result of ‘dynamic pricing’, but what does that even mean?

Not too dissimilar from the way hotels or airlines work, dynamic pricing puts the cost of a gig ticket in line with the amount of demand, meaning that the more people in the queue to grab a Beyoncé ticket, the more expensive that ticket is going to get. Case in point: Beyoncé’s ‘Golden Circle’ tickets were originally priced at £140, but have now surged to over £400.

To Ticketmaster, this is all part of a protective policy, apparently designed to protect tickets from falling into the hands of scalpers, or being snapped up for cheap during pre-sale hacks and sold on for heavily inflated prices. But it’s ironic that their solution is to essentially do that price hiking themselves and punish the fans. Surely all of this only comes down to one thing – greed. Laid out clearly in The Cure’s situation, as Robert Smith pushed for answers as to how these added fees were justified, it felt malicious, like the ticketing giant couldn’t resist getting their slice while musicians make active steps to keep their shows accessible.

A key piece to the puzzle as to why and how Ticketmaster keep getting away with this is the fact that Ticketmaster is owned by Live Nation. The company behind the Astroworld tragedy, Live Nation dominate the live music industry – they put on shows, own venues, and even manage some artists. As a result, a lot of venues owned by the company work exclusively with Ticketmaster, with their current list of properties in the UK including 51 per cent of the Academy Music Group. Beating their competitors in every way from higher employee numbers to billions in yearly profit, the result is that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are impossible to beat and near impossible for artists to avoid. As they continue to dominate the industry, they create tighter ticket verifying systems to avoid fakes and grow their operating size to run huge projects like global stadium tours that other platforms like Eventbrite or Dice just couldn’t handle. At present, there really is no viable ticket-selling alternative for major artists to turn to.

This is not a surprise. Even back in 2009 when Live Nation and Ticketmaster first merged, major artists like Bruce Springsteen condemned the deal saying, “the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing.” Initially, the UK’s Competition Commission even ruled against the merger as the body that protects against a single body monopolising an industry, stating the move would harm competitors and “limit the development of competition in the market for live music ticket retailing”.

For as long as we live under a capitalist system, we need competition. It keeps prices down and holds companies accountable, as we consumers can just go off and shop elsewhere if we feel we’re being treated unfairly. At present, with no other ticketing site to really rival them in any legitimate way when it comes down to big concerts, Ticketmaster can and will do what they want. Sure, Robert Smith can kick off and they might pay back $10 to each customer this time, but they’ll do it all again the next time round. Similarly, Taylor Swift fans can attempt to take down the giant with a lawsuit, but it’ll just go on the pile with the 15 other lawsuits that have been filed in the last five years – and besides, the conglomerate can usually shake these off by claiming fans “repeatedly agreed” to arbitrate any disputes with the site. In other words, as they technically don’t force fans to buy expensive tickets, they can wash their hands of responsibility.

But maybe there’s hope for change. It’s undoubtedly welcome news to hear that The Cure are standing up to the giant, and there’s been no word on The Eras Tour coming to the UK or any whisper of tickets for the global legs. The last we heard from Taylor was: “I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward.” Previously taking on Spotify and Apple Music, if any artist can stand her ground, perhaps it’s Taylor – many fans are wondering if the star might launch her own ticketing platform and bring the process in-house. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any other escape from the nightmare, unless major stars like Smith and Swift step up to help save us.

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