Fans are getting screwed.
Standard practice for artists used to be touring to boost album sales, because album sales were where they made most of their money. With album sales plummeting due to streaming services, today’s artists look to touring to make up for the lost revenue. That means putting the financial burden on fans through higher ticket prices.
In 1990, fans spent between $10 and $20 to buy an artist’s CD. Now they’re much more likely to spend $9.99 a month on a Spotify or Apple Music membership that gives them access to virtually every artists’ discography — and the artists only see a fraction of that money.
In order to milk fans for all they’re worth, the pricing model has shifted to what’s known as slow ticketing. A show that sells out in a day is no longer a sign of success but rather a sign of poor pricing. By raising ticket prices, more tickets are available longer, but as they continue to sell in the time leading up to the show, the overall revenue for the artist is higher.
Unexplained fees tacked on at the end of the transaction were always fans’ biggest gripe about the ticket-buying process. Now, fans are devastated to learn that tickets for some of their favorite artists have gone up five to 15 times since the last tour.
Due to the slow ticketing method, Taylor Swift and Jay-Z both made headlines for poor sales based on the number of unsold tickets remaining after the first week. For Swift’s 2018 Reputation Tour, 10 United States stadiums reported first-week sales of only around 35,000 tickets, about half a typical stadium’s capacity.
With prices reaching $1,500 for VIP packages, in reality Swift already broke her own record for highest-grossing tour.
Putting together VIP packages has become the primary method for selling these four-figure tickets. Fans with deep pockets not only get to sit in the best seats in the house, they also get early entrance, access to line-free merchandise booths and bathrooms, and a goodie bag to take home.
However, a seat in the first 15 rows may be the closest the ticket-buyers get to the artist despite the staggering price tag. On the list of perks fans receive for purchasing $525 VIP packages for Harry Styles’ 2018 tour, Ticketmaster makes it clear: “Harry Styles will not be involved in any VIP package elements.”
The idea behind these new ticket prices is to get fans to pay the “actual value” — or, what they would end up paying on the secondary ticketing market. The combination of high initial prices and slower demand means secondary sellers like StubHub and Vivid Seats can’t resell them at an ever higher price. There’s no profit left to be made.
But using this slow ticketing method to push scalpers out of the market means forcing fans to shoulder the cost. Making up for declining album sales by increasing ticket prices five to 15 times is unfair to fans, and bolstering the experience with “VIP” perks does not make up for it.
With inflated ticket prices, the ability to see an artist on tour becomes a privilege for wealthy fans. The “actual value” of tickets should not be determined by what scalpers can get for them. The prices fans pay to scalpers is a testament to what fans are willing to sacrifice to see their favorite artists live, and slow ticketing takes unfair advantage of their dedication.
In addition to slow ticketing, Ticketmaster also employs a method called dynamic pricing. Similar to how airlines sell seats on their planes, Ticketmaster raises and lowers the price of its Platinum seats (generally its best seats) based on demand.
When viewing Platinum Tickets for 5 Seconds of Summer’s 2018 Meet You There There Tour, a disclaimer message pops up: “Platinum Tickets are tickets that are dynamically priced up and down based on demand. Platinum Tickets are not part of VIP packages — they are tickets only.”
Similarly to slow ticketing, dynamic pricing utilizes high price tags to get that big sale ahead of the likes of StubHub, again by forcing fans to pay up. Again taking advantage of their dedication.
Eliminating the secondary ticket market should be a noble cause. It spurred the creation of the fan-to-fan marketplace Twickets, where tickets can be sold only for face below or less — a much more ethical way to combat scalpers than raising ticket prices. Most fans know the pain of a seeing a show sell out within minutes and then those same tickets appearing on Stubhub for twice the face value only moments later. No matter how fast you can enter your credit card information and type your address, you can’t beat the speed of scalper bots.
Ticketmaster created their Verified Fan process to block out bots by asking fans to pre-register to buy tickets and then distributing access codes to them the day of the sale. Artists like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Harry Styles have all utilized the process. In an open letter, Ticketmaster promised that, thanks to Verified Fan, 95 percent of tickets to Harry Styles’ 2017 tour went to real fans.
Verified Fan sounds like a step forward, until it’s used to play into the slow ticketing process. For the 2018 Reputation Tour, Taylor Swift fans could buy her music and merchandise to move up in the Verified Fan virtual line, increasing their chance at buying her best seats — at her highest prices. The more money they spent, the more expensive the ticket they could have the privilege of buying.
While the online ticket scalping industry needs to be stopped, allowing it to set the retail price for tickets is only making the average fan suffer more. Seeing your favorite artist live should feel like a priceless experience, not a rent payment.
Featured Image Source: Flicker | Magnus D