Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing is infuriating music fans. Who’s to blame?

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You may have heard about it Big Bruce Springsteen ticket debacle. After a six-year drought on the Boss tour, tickets went on sale and fans were suddenly staring at $4,000 price tags. Born to sob!

What was to blame? In two words: dynamic pricing, the same algorithm-driven supply-and-demand phenomenon that powers your Uber ride across the city or plane ticket to see grandma suddenly costs more. (It’s not the same as Adele’s $40,000 ticketsresulting from resellers getting top spots.)

Well, keep your wallets open, music fans. With the fall concert season upon us and crowds still hungry for a live experience, expect dynamic pricing to impact the best seats. But there are still ways to make good business and even advocate for change.

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What is dynamic ticket pricing?

Back in 2011, Ticketmaster, the industry’s dominant – many would say monopolistic – event ticketing provider, announced its launch Adjustment of prices to consumer demand.

The goal was to prevent tickets from being diverted to aftermarket platforms like StubHub to provide more of that revenue to the artists, venues and ticket providers.

“Fans need to be aware of the fact that sometimes the best seats are worth it,” says Bob Lefsetz, music industry analyst at The Lefsetz letter. “The only way around this is to try and tie each ticket to a specific fan with no transfers allowed.”

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Who is to blame for dynamic pricing: Ticketmaster or your favorite artist?

Taylor Swift is among a number of top artists who have chosen dynamic pricing to keep a portion of the revenue for top spots that typically go to resellers.

When it comes to dynamic pricing, “it’s important to remember that it’s the artist who tells Ticketmaster what they want to do, and not the other way around,” says Lefsetz.

And many have done just that. Over the years, Top acts like Taylor Swift, Drake, Paul McCartney, Ye and Harry Styles have embraced dynamic pricing. Artists like The Weeknd, Alicia Keys and Carrie Underwood are also currently offering their best seats – often dubbed Platinum Tickets – through this variable price system.

“This is the moment when artists want to go out and support themselves, their crews and the people who work for them, so they want market prices for these great seats,” says Dean Budnick, co-author of Ticket Masters: The Rise”. the concert industry and how the audience was scalped.”

Decades ago, many states had strict, if rarely enforced, anti-scalping laws, Budnick says. But these disappeared in part due to lobbying by resellers. Premium pricing is “an answer to that and an attempt to generate more revenue for the artist”.

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How much were those Bruce Springsteen tickets?

Bruce Springsteen's shows have been high-energy affairs lasting more than three hours for decades.  The announcement of a new tour after a multi-year hiatus prompted fans to buy his tickets, which in turn drove up prices.

Although Springsteen fans were outraged that their working-class hero allowed this to happen, sales figures released by Ticketmaster show that around 12% of tickets were so-called platinum tickets and are therefore subject to dynamic pricing.

Of the tickets sold at face value, 88% ranged in price from $59.50 to $399, with an average price of $202, Ticketmaster told USA TODAY. Only 1.3% of tickets across all shows sold for more than $1,000, and more than half (56%) of tickets sold for less than $200; 18% were under $99, 27% between $100 and $150, and 11% between $150 and $200.

“The promoters and artist representatives set the specific prices for their shows,” Ticketmaster said in a statement. “The biggest factor affecting pricing is supply and demand. If far more people want to attend an event than tickets are available, prices go up.”

Do all fans hate premium prices?

The Eagles (seen here in 2013) started the trend towards more expensive tickets with their 1994 comeback tour, Hell Freezes Over.  The band cost tickets for $100, which seems like a bargain today.

They don’t, says Lefsetz.

“The irony is that people who pay the most for tickets to see their favorite artists are often the happiest, as you can see from the popularity of VIP experiences,” he says, where artists get more than just a seat at offer the show.

Concert tickets have been undervalued for decades, says Lefsetz. A big change happened when The Eagles In 1994 he returned to the streets and their Hell Freezes Over tickets cost a whopping $100 at the time. Fans jumped at it. He adds that while it’s easy to argue that the best seats “go only to fat cats on Wall Street, that’s really not true; die-hard, hard-working fans often save up for this special experience.”

His advice for those who still want good shows on the cheap: “If you want to see a band for a low price, go to your local bar. It’s all about raw economics here.”

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Will ticket prices ever hit the earth?

Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder has fought against Ticketmaster for the past several years, eventually deciding not to play venues where the company controls ticket sales.

Some artists have tried to resist high prices. In 1995, Pearl Jam challenged Ticketmaster by refusing to perform at venues where the company controlled ticket sales. More recently The band came under fire from fans saying OK to premium prices.

But real change is only possible if lawmakers limit Ticketmaster’s power, says Ron Knox, a senior researcher at the advocacy Institute for Local Self Reliance.

“Artists work in a broken system,” he says. “The Justice Department might reconsider the merger of Ticketmaster and (promoter) Live Nation reduces competition, rips off concert-goers and bullies artists.”

Knox argues that a more competitive landscape for event tickets, from concerts to sports, would inherently depress prices across the board, as fans have limited discretionary income, especially in our inflationary times.

“Congress and regulators could apply pressure,” says Knox.

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How do you avoid dynamic pricing?

Bruce Springsteen, seen here with Paul McCartney, was revered by fans not only for his long shows but also for his dedication to the working class.  When some of the boss's tickets went into the four figures, many fans felt cheated.

The best tactic: patience. Much like the price of an Uber ride increases when a concert begins, concert ticket prices are likely to surge in the excitement of the presale release date. But if you wait, prices for these once expensive seats may well come down.

in one recent study on resale market tickets According to FinanceBuzz, concert-goers spent 33% less than the average ticket price when purchasing on the day of the concert and 27% less than the average when purchasing on the day before the show.

“Don’t rule out your local fan club or radio station promotions,” Budnick says. “Check with your credit card company; sometimes they provide access to tickets. And don’t forget that once they’ve determined how many tickets to hold for the artist, production is suspended, that is, management’s release of tickets just before the show. Prepare for more than a bite of the apple.”

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