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nbayer

"Plenty of good seats still available..." (Misc. ramblings on prices, scalping, and the economy of live shows)

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The market for concert tickets has always fascinated me as a microcosm of the supply and demand economy.  Plus, as an avid music and sports fan, I wanted to understand how this economy worked, in order to optimize the opportunity to get the best seats possible without paying too high a premium. Given all the hand wringing over the E+I tour tickets, I thought I would share a few misc. ramblings on the topic here...

For many decades, many top artists undervalued tickets to their own shows. Whether you think the price set is "fair" or not, in the abstract, doesn't change the fact that that artists were leaving money on the table. If they sold a $30 seat, and it got resold for $150, then the true value of that ticket was paid to someone other than the artist. Someone else profited off their "art."  Whenever there was an disparity in the "face" ticket value and its true value, a market would spring up to profit of off the difference. Back in the old days, when was young, "scalpers" used to pay people to drive to different, out of the way Ticketmaster locations far from the venue where the show was to be played, and buy as many tickets as they could.  

Now, there is two ways to look at this. Some artists make a conscious decision to leave value on the table because they believe many of their core fans can't afford to pay the "true value," or shouldn't have to stretch and pay the "true value" from a scalper. This is the Pearl Jam approach.  Verified fan club members pick up their tickets on site at the venue, and there is no resale on the best seats, which go to the fan club members.  Just as important, the band handles tours itself, rather than signing with an outside vendor like Live Nation.  

The other way to look at it, is to funnel the actual "true value" of the ticket to the artist.  The basic principle is to beat the "scalpers" at their own game.  In other words, price the tickets from the outset at their "true value."  This is essentially what Live Nation (I specifically say "Live Nation" and not the band. Discussed below further...) has attempted to do here.  The tour management companies for other big acts, like the Rolling Stones, have done this unapologetically for years.  The risk in such an approach is attempting to guess what the actual "true value" is, before the tickets have actually gone on sale.  In the free market, with "scalped" tickets freely available, that equilibrium occurs naturally.  But here Live Nation had to guess. It ultimately decided that the ticket prices we have all seen for the E+I tour represent what the market will readily bear.  I think it is learning that their estimation may have been... a tad off....

Take a quick look at tickets in various markets, and especially in markets where a second show was added. I'll take Chicago, since that is one I bought tickets for. Make sure you eliminate the "certified resale" tickets, and limit it to "regular" tickets.  Plenty of good seats still available for night one.  I'm almost embarrassed for the band on night two.  It looks like half the venue is still for sale, and NOT through the second hand market.  Something has got to give there, and I doubt it will be a cancelled show. I predict it will  be reduced tickets to increase attendance.  To save face, Ticketmaster may switch them over to the "verified resale" section so it looks like someone else already paid face value and took the loss, but one way or another, U2 can't afford to play to a half full venue.  If you are going to Chicago 2, there is no incentive to buy a ticket right now.  Wait until they go down, and snag it later. It won't sell out either way.   

My next point relates to how little control the band likely has over ticket prices. I'm going to make some assumptions here, because I obviously don't have the Live Nation/U2 contract available to me, but I think I am right...  My understanding is that before U2 360 the band signed a 10+ year contract with Live Nation. My belief is that Live Nation guarantees a set amount of money to the band per show. In exchange, Live Nation handles logistics, booking venues, and setting ticket prices.  Any profit above the guaranteed amount plus expenses goes to Live Nation.  And as you all know, putting on a U2 show isn't cheap. One thing I've always admired about the band is that it tries to reach the top row in the back of the arena just as much as the front row.  (I wrote a review here of the U2 360 show titled "No One Else Tries This Hard.") But of course, U2's set pieces cost an exorbitant amount of money.  And the contract requires the band to perform a certain number of shows over the lifetime of the contract, be it in arenas or stadiums. (I'm convinced contractual obligations had at least something to do with the Joshua Tree tour, as Songs of Experience was delayed so long, but that is another topic for another day.) There obviously is pressure for the band to deliver on Live Nation's behalf. I believe that has translated into certain songs (i.e. "hits") in the U2 catalog never leaving the setlist, but again, that is a topic for another time and place... But the point is, I don't believe the band has any control over ticket prices.

Here are a few things to consider about the secondary market... First, I hear people complain all the time about "tickets being on sale on 'X' web site before even the pre-sales." Here is the truth: they don't actually have those tickets yet. There are people that essentially sell ticket "futures." Once the get an order for a ticket, they then attempt to go on the secondary market themselves and buy a comparable ticket to the one they sold to fulfill the order. They make money off the difference. I bet there are some here you have bought tickets on such sites only to get the "we cannot fulfill your order" email.  

Another thing to keep in mind is that because a ticket is advertised on a secondary market for a set price, does not mean in any way that it will sell for that amount. There also needs to be a distinction between a professional resale site, and the guy who puts $2,500 worth of tickets on his credit card and thinks he is going to get rich. When the credit card bill comes due 30 days later, and he can't pay the bill, dumping the tickets fast becomes a bigger incentive than paying 18% interest on a credit card.  (Check Craigslist about 30 days after the general on sale date. Deals to be had...)  Professional resale sites, on the other hand, make money by dealing in volume.  And to sights such as Stub Hub, the actual price that the ticket changes hand for is somewhat irrelevant to them. The reason is that they make money off the transaction itself.  Much of the transaction fees are the same regardless of the ticket price.  

I hope that helps put into perspective what I think we are witnessing: U2 fans being used as guinea pigs in Live Nation's experiment to try to beat the scalpers at their own game and sell, from the start, tickets at their full market value. But music is like sports; much emotion and feeling, less practical sense. Spending $300 or $1000 on concert or sporting event is a decision made with the heart, not the head or wallet. But ultimately, music is art, is it not? And I would argue that taking the Pearl Jam approach and leaving money on the table, handling their own tours, and hitting the road with a low key set, which allows keeping the focus on the music and varying wildly the set lists, has created a fiercely loyal fan base that has compensated the band very very well.  Further, that fan base will continue to do so for many years to come.  I hope U2's deal with LIve Nation hasn't damaged its relationship with its own base...  At some point, the market will only bear what it will bear...  

All the best.  

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Thanks for writing this out. It gives me a different (and less cynical) perspective on the high ticket prices.  

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Great write up.

17 hours ago, hicksong said:

Nice post, thoroughly enjoyed it. All I can say is.... someone fucked up big time..... big time ! 

As far as the prices go, maybe not. 

If they can sell say 50% of the seats at these crazy high prices, then lower the price some over the next five months before the show (maybe even have a couple price reductions throughout the five months),  they may make out better than if they just started out at the lower end prices.  I am guessing once there is a price drop, people will go back and buy the tickets (and I am sure it will piss off some fans that already paid the higher price).  

I can't imagine a U2 show not selling out.  As the price drops, I think they will all sell out.

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1 hour ago, U2FanInVT said:

I am guessing once there is a price drop, people will go back and buy the tickets (and I am sure it will piss off some fans that already paid the higher price).  

Yes, there would definitely be an uproar, I would think that would be messy to sort out . I can't imagine U2 not selling out indoors as well.

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36 minutes ago, hicksong said:

Yes, there would definitely be an uproar, I would think that would be messy to sort out . I can't imagine U2 not selling out indoors as well.

Agreed. The ones who suffer the most are the fans, especially the ones who live modestly, like myself. The "scalpers" are a lot of things, but they are not dumb. Over the years, the band/mgmt./ticket vendors have tried different things to outsmart them and each time the "scalpers" adjusted to the new measures that were put in place.

I waited in line--overnight--for Zoo TV tickets way back in late '91/early '92 and knew for a fact that there were guys in the line who were hired by scalpers to buy the maximum amount of tickets they could. They all carried cash and one of them was stupid enough to admit why he was there. And I remember distinctly him and his buddies with stacks of tickets. It bothers me (a little) to this day. This may be capitalism at its most basic form, but its seems unfair. The one with most money/personnel/resources is the one most likely to--in this case--buy tickets.

Fast forward 25 years and technology has made it so much easier for this same type of thing to happen. LV/TM tried do outsmart the scalpers and where it failed is in the execution. The strategy might have been good, but by the time it came to put plan into action, the outcome was far below expectations. They cannot admit this because their Verified Fan system doesn't apply only to U2. And they can probably say that they have also thwarted the scalpers to a certain degree, but how that can be measured is for someone smarter than me.

In regards to U2 tickets dropping in price, hopefully they will so that those who are pinching their pennies can afford to go. And yes, I also agree that I have not seen the band not sell out. The last time I saw them playing to anything less than a full house was PopMart '97. I remember during the Great Recession, I saw both shows of their 360 Tour in Anaheim, and even the nosebleeds seats were occupied.

@nbayer that was a great piece. I know that business-side of a U2 tour is more complex than my simplistic understanding of it. Thanks again.

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NBayer - I think a lot of your observations about the mechanics of ticket sales are correct.

Where I disagree, and this may be more of an opinion disagreement than a factual dispute, is in this section:

On 12/5/2017 at 4:18 PM, nbayer said:

My next point relates to how little control the band likely has over ticket prices. I'm going to make some assumptions here, because I obviously don't have the Live Nation/U2 contract available to me, but I think I am right...  My understanding is that before U2 360 the band signed a 10+ year contract with Live Nation.

Now, on the whole, that may be true.  But no one put a gun to U2's head and said "sign this deal" - they took a deal that offered them an obscene amount of money, as is their right.  But I also think that they are responsible for what is done in their name.  The prices are outrageous.  Perhaps they didn't set them on their own, but they sold their business to a company that did.

I just don't think it's reasonable to say that U2 are basically innocent bystanders in this, and that poor Live Nation just needs to do anything it can to earn back its investment.  I don't mean to put words in your mouth and I don't mean to suggest that you're cool with all of this.  But I think ultimately U2 are responsible for the deals they sign, and what they allow people to do in their name.

If they had never, ever made statements about respecting their audience, if they hadn't talked in the past about wanting to keep prices low, if they hadn't made fun of other bands who charged high prices, etc., etc., it wouldn't bother me in the same way.  There are performers I like, Sting for instance, who has never made a secret of the fact that he wants to be paid a lot of money for what he does.  He never talks about wanting any kind of fairness for fans or reasonable prices or anything.  So when he charges his high prices, it doesn't feel like hypocrisy.

Even on this tour, information on pricing before the tickets went onsale wasn't easy to come by and was often inaccurate.  There's a seating chart from Atlanta that's been making the rounds, on the Atlanta venue's official website, and it lists which sections are what prices.  The problem is, it's comically inaccurate.  It insists, for instance, that the top price on the upper level is $175.  However, when tickets actually went on sale, it became apparent that the majority of sections marked as $175 were actually $330.  Who benefits from this misrepresentation?  Not the fans.  We're denied the opportunity to make informed decisions about what tickets we're willing to buy and how to spend our money.

 

On 12/5/2017 at 4:18 PM, nbayer said:

And I would argue that taking the Pearl Jam approach and leaving money on the table, handling their own tours, and hitting the road with a low key set, which allows keeping the focus on the music and varying wildly the set lists, has created a fiercely loyal fan base that has compensated the band very very well.  Further, that fan base will continue to do so for many years to come.  I hope U2's deal with LIve Nation hasn't damaged its relationship with its own base...  At some point, the market will only bear what it will bear...  

I think this deal, and specifically how this tour has been handled (after the questionable handling of the 2015 tour) has left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.  I am not seeing every single show I could possibly see on this tour, and that's the first time in twenty years that I can say that.  The tickets were too expensive, and the value being offered wasn't there.

On the 2015 tour, with the same setup, there were plenty of tickets in the $100 price range that offered a full view of both the stage and the screen.  On this tour, there are no tickets at that price level that offer that view.  My $100 upper level seats from 2015 have been reclassified as $175 tickets on this tour.  My $100 lower level side stage/behind the stage seat from last tour has been reclassified to a $330 ticket on this tour.  Just think about that.  In the past, when U2 added technology to their shows, even as recently as the 2015 tour, the point of the technology seemed to be to bring the show to all seats, even seats which traditionally weren't considered good.  That upper level $100 ticket I had in 2015, it seemed overpriced before the show, but I was pleasantly surprised that with the screen and the double stages, it was a far better ticket than an upper level ticket normally would be.  So what happened between then and now to justify charging $75 extra?  It seems that the approach has flipped from "Let's use technology to make the seats in the back better for fans" to "Let's use technology so we can charge more."  After an entire career of approaching things from the former point of view, it's a bit shocking to see this reversal.

I think it's one thing to charge a super high price for what are obviously and undeniably incredible seats.  People paying $330 a ticket should have every confidence that they're getting some of the very best seating in the house, but that's not what's happening here.  Make the seats that are closest to the stage and with the best view of the screen, the best 5% or 10% of tickets, charge $330 for those and no one will complain.  But $330 for a high row of the upper level far away from the main stage?  How is that remotely close to being worth the same as a lower level ticket near the main stage and with a full view of the screen?

I'm kinda relieved that those high priced, far away tickets aren't selling.  The sales are way off on this tour compared to what they should be, and I hope that everyone involved in planning and pricing this tour looks at what's going on and adjusts for next time.  If prices are going to continue to consistently rise, with no relation to inflation and no recognition of the relative crappiness of some of what they're charging these prices for, there are many of us who won't be able to afford to attend next time.

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I can't argue with the statements made in the original post other than the comment about the setlist.  I'm sure the band has retained full artistic control over their shows, such that they're the ones deciding what songs they're playing.  Other than that, I'd say your general discussion about pricing is pretty spot on.

Biggest mistake they're making in the whole scenario, though, is that they continue to price GA tickets well BELOW what the market is willing to pay.  I'm pretty sure that this is a band decision, not a Live Nation decision. That forces some of the tickets for seats into the higher price ranges where the market is saying that they shouldn't be, as they're not selling.  To have tickets on the floor priced at $76-$80 while everything comparable around them (basically the whole lower level, except for limited view areas where the ticket holders can't see the screens) is priced at $330 or more clearly indicates that these tickets are priced way too low.  Those tickets, then, become the ones the resellers most want, as they present the greatest opportunity for good profit margins for their original "investments."  Thus the immediate situation where demand (both by real fans and by resellers) outstrips the available supply straight out of the gate at the onsale.  If GA's were priced at face values of $200-$250 initially, this problem wouldn't occur and probably all of at least the upper level seats could have been priced more reasonably.  Would there have been bitching and moaning from the diehard fans that are used to getting floor tickets at prices below Fair Market Value?  Sure.  But we wouldn't have been seeing what's going on now ---- overpriced uppers going unsold and diehard fans bitching and moaning because the only way they can get GA tickets is on the resale market at prices that are roughly 200-400% above "face" (where they should have been priced to begin with).  The end result is a scenario where the band is "trying to have it's cake and eat it too," because their shows are now overpriced in a lot of areas (making sure that the artist is not "leaving money on the table," as the original post describes) and yet still under priced for the tickets (GA floor tix) that get attendees closest to the stage and band (with the exception of the Red Zone tickets).

What we're seeing is proof that you can't do both.  Either you price your tickets such that the resale market has some opportunity for re-sellers to potentially make a profit, or you price everything high enough that re-sellers are really taking a risk when they speculate on their ticket "investments" by buying ticket inventory that is pretty much priced at market to begin with.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out by the time the shows occur.  At the outset there clearly were some pricing mistakes made.  In my opinion the biggest is the continued "under market value" pricing of GA tickets and that can't be corrected, as those tickets are all sold.  As for the rest of the unsold inventory, yes, there will definitely be price adjustments taking place - whether "disguised" or obvious - or there will be empty seats at many of these shows.  I doubt the latter will be allowed to happen.

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Just for kicks I looked at Ticketmaster and the first 2 shows on the tour. I like it when you can see the available seats on the map represented by blue dots. Lots of Blue dots.... 

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cmooreNC makes a compelling argument and I agree. As nbayer has stated, the business side of this issue will be the driving force behind ticket prices—everyone has to make money otherwise there is little reason to do it. The band has always set the bar for a great show and I’m sure we all are grateful. They have a huge following and consquently, created a huge demand for their tickets. The result is skyrocketing prices, which for some of us are now out of reach.

 

So how do they keep prices at a level that most of us could afford and out of the hands of scalpers and still make money? I like the idea of U2 subscribers being able to pre-pay for their tickets, thus locking them up and whatever is left is available to the general public. I’d like to add that pre-paid tickets would be sold through U2’s site and verified by Technical Support—and yes, these folks would have to be trained much better—and sufficient time be given before tickets go on sale the the general public. I’d give two months to Subscriber Sales to allow enough time to resolve any issues—including scalping—and that would still leave four months time for the General Sale.  In addition, these tickets would be coded in a particular way so that they could not be scalped.  Trading tickets would be allowed.  Obviously, the TS staff and infrastrure would need to be improved so that any type of anomalies could identified. For example, the staff should be able to “see” large amounts of tickets going to a small pool locations, which would trigger an alert.

 

I can’t be sure if this will result in significant price reductions, but for the time being let’s just say that allowing fans the first true crack at tickets is the impetus, which is why the majority of us became Subscribers in the first place. If the band needed to raise membership fees by a small amount ($5 - $10), I’d be okay with it. But that increase would assure me access to the pre-sale and would be outside of Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s control.  No lottery, no selection process. Membership should have its privileges. I’ve got two months to decide on whether or not to buy tickets, after that I join the horde.

 

To address the disparity between “under valued seats” versus over-valued ones, the price of the GA tickets would probably have to rise. This would hopefully reduce the demand in the resale market (it wouldn’t eliminate it). In addition, the “nosebleeds” and any partial view seats would fall. The leveling in price might make it bit more palatable for ticket-buyers.

 

Finally, this would probably take some money off of the table from LN/TM. But I believe the band has the clout to negotitate better terms. Ideally, this would give more control to the band/mgmt and perhaps this might have been a responsibility they chose to relinquish. But if I were on the management team, I’d strongly suggest taking over (at least the pre-sale part) given the lackluster performance by TM. It wasn’t great during I+E 2015 or 360. So continue to partner with an organization that doesn’t have to improve hurts everyone. Sure, tickets will still sell if they don’t. But something better should be done for the fans who have “paid for the privilege”.

 

Granted, I am spit-balling here and I’m sure there are holes to be poked through my ideas. Yet I am willing to pay a little more to get more.

Edited by 504jumper
typo

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Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal. 

No one can scalp an airline tickets.  Airline tickets can only be used by the people that buy them.  If you can't use an airline ticket, you can return it or exchange it (usually for a fee), but you can't give it away or sell it.  All they need to do is move to a system that treats concert tickets the same as airline tickets.

This is essentially what Credit Card Entry is designed to do.  The problem with CCE generally comes to inconsistent enforcement of the previously published rules, which creates wiggle room for scalpers to operate.  Remove the loopholes by following the rules, and the system works.  Add some of the good ideas from Ed Sheeran's Verified Fan presale and that'll help too.  Here's how you'd eliminate scalping completely:
1. All customers must use a credit card to purchase tickets.  The credit card must be a permanent card that has the buyer's name on it. 
2. When the buyer arrives at the concert, he/she must present the credit card used to purchase the ticket, along with a matching photo ID.  If the buyer does not have both of those items, they cannot enter.
3. All customers must agree during the check-out process that they will not attempt to resell the tickets or violate the posted rules about purchasing in any way, and that they agree that their purchase will be forfeited if they break this agreement.
4. In the event of an extenuating circumstance that prevents the buyer from being able to attend the show, they may return the tickets to Ticketmaster for a refund minus the ticketing fees.  (Or, Ticketmaster could agree to list the ticket at face value, and offer a refund only if Ticketmaster is able to resell the ticket at face value.)  This should be a one-time option that would then lock the buyer out of purchasing tickets to that show again.  The point is, this should be for fans who genuinely can't make the show and not an opportunity to make every purchase easily exchangeable. 

Steps 1 & 2 are already how credit card entry works.  The problems come when the rules aren't enforced.  The rules clearly state that you may not use a disposable credit card (because those don't have names on them).  Some scalpers do this anyway.  Some merchants already have the ability to detect whether the card payment they're receiving is from a prepaid card or a real card, so it shouldn't be an issue for Ticketmaster to cancel any purchases made with those kinds of cards.  The problem is that they don't.  Since the credit card doesn't have a name on it, the credit card literally cannot match any photo ID.  Venues should turn those people away.  The problem is that sometimes they don't.  Step up to 100% enforcement of both of those things and it's a game-changer.

Step 3 is what Ed Sheeran's Verified Fan sale required buyers to do.  By agreeing to those terms, that makes it very easy for Ticketmaster to enforce their rules, because in purchasing the ticket, you've clearly and explicitly agreed to those terms.  Sheeran's management recently canceled 10,000 tickets purchased by scalpers to a London concert in violation of those terms.  U2's management would need to start doing the same.

There's nothing in existence like Step 4 today, and it's not strictly required, but I do think it would be the decent thing to do.

In the State Of New York, Credit Card Entry is illegal, which means that they can't do this.  But CCE is legal in the other 49 states, and there's no reason why these things couldn't be implemented today.  Indeed, U2 used CCE for parts of their 2015 and 2017 tours.  The problem is that it was implemented poorly, with loopholes that punished fans who had emergencies that prevented them from attending, but rewarded scalpers by not enforcing the rules that credit cards must be permanent and not disposable and that photo IDs must match.

If you're a scalper and those rules go into effect, your business is done.  Even if you were able to buy tickets to shows, no one other than you could use them.  Scalpers make their money by buying and selling tickets that they have no intention of using, often for venues far away from their physical location.  How is a scalper going to make money with a ticket that's in his name only, that only he can redeem, and that can't be transferred or given away?

There is absolutely no reason that this system could not used now, if the goal was to eliminate scalping.

I am starting to question whether that is the goal.  Scalping does help the promoter by ensuring that tickets sell out regardless of actual demand, and pushes up demand by artificially limiting the ticket supply.

Additionally, there are laws in most states that limit how much tickets may be resold for.  These are almost never enforced.  In a lot of places, the limit is anywhere from as little as $5 over face value to 20% over face value.  The law that applies isn't the law of the state you live in, but the state where the event takes place.  People are free to do what they want because they know that the laws aren't going to be enforced.  But imagine if. for example, Stubhub was forced into compliance with these laws.  It would be pretty simple for a company like Stubhub to have the different resale restrictions programmed in.  For instance, if the show is in a state that only allows tickets to be sold for $10 over face value, Stubhub could use software that didn't allow a ticket to be listed for more than $10 over the face value.  Of course, Stubhub makes its money on commission so they won't do that unless they're forced to.  But if Stubhub is facilitating illegal resale transactions, which in many cases they are, why shouldn't law enforcement go after them and force them to stop?  Why should Stubhub be allowed to build a business where their primary source of revenue comes from encouraging people to do things that are against the law?

U2 - as band members - may have interest in reducing or eliminating scalping, but they don't run their touring business.  Live Nation does.  Live Nation has a very strong incentive not to discourage scalping.  Live Nation paid an above market rate for U2's touring business that in reality is probably above and beyond what a reasonable rate was.  As a result, they have had to increase tickets by unprecedented margins to recover this money.  Every ticket purchased by a scalper at full price helps them get to that goal. 

I also do not accept the premise that the band must get every possible dollar that they could get for a ticket.  I do not accept the idea that all things in life must be priced at "what the market will bear".  There are already plenty of things in life where this principle doesn't apply.  Why should the worst actors in this - the scalpers who violate local resale laws, who contribute nothing to society by standing between the artist and the fan but offering nothing in return of value - be the ones who set the prices?

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Ed Sheeran seems to have the method to keep tickets in the hands of the fans. I noticed there are no “resale tickets” on the Ticketmaster site for his upcoming tour. Pretty impressive. 

EDIT : upon further looking..... Ed Sheeran tickets ARE available via secondary scalper sites, the fact that there are no tickets via the "Official Ticketmaster Resale" avenue is a healthy nod to an artist's attempt to curb the availability of tickets from secondary scalpers....... still the scalpers are keen to adapt and prevail.    

Edited by hicksong

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You said, in the beginning of your post, that the artist wanted the money the scalpers were getting, or something of the sort. That is exactly what a good friend who manages a box office in Milwaukee says to me.  He started in ticketing 35 years ago and watched it all happen.  He pretty much called it. "You watch; sooner or later the performers are gonna want what the scalpers get and why shouldn't they?  It's their intellectual property and talent that precipitates the revenue. Why should some opportunistic jerk on the street get it?".   I hated hearing that, but knew he was right.

I am a rabid Pearl Jam fan.  I get high off Pearl Jam too.  It is a completely different experience, as you said.  They keep the price lower and it's all about the setlist and playing it live.  There are no bells and whistles. 

I love both approaches because I love the music.  If Pearl Jam was really expensive...I'd still try to go no matter.  It's a question of how much something is worth to the person buying the ticket.  You said this too.

Thank you.  I only know what I've heard from ticket people.  You added a lot between the lines.  It sucks what's happened, but it makes sense.  Few people now buy the albums/cds.  Sadly, most of us are the few that buy the cds and albums and we get stuck paying for the difference in that as well.

One good thing in all of this is that everyone makes union wages and has insurance and  is able to live a decent life.  That costs a huge amount of money that a lot of people forget.  I'd have less respect for any band if I found out its employees were only making fifteen bucks an hour.  It's expensive to put on any type of show.

Yours is one of the best posts I've ever read in these forums.  Thanks for sharing all this with us.

Edited by Manohlive

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On 12/9/2017 at 4:50 PM, vertigojds said:

Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal. 

No one can scalp an airline tickets.  Airline tickets can only be used by the people that buy them.  If you can't use an airline ticket, you can return it or exchange it (usually for a fee), but you can't give it away or sell it.  All they need to do is move to a system that treats concert tickets the same as airline tickets.

This is essentially what Credit Card Entry is designed to do. 

I think that too.  I just read that the problem with CC only is people who do not have plastic get shut out of the show.  Many people do not have plastic, even if it's a debit card.  They have a set income and plastic causes too many problems.  No matter how it gets approached, it sucks because people are greedy and don't even care about the music.  It's easy $$$.  That is why I love watching their asking price go way way down the days before a show.  I love it when they take a hit and lose money.

Edited by Manohlive

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On 12/8/2017 at 6:48 PM, 504jumper said:

I like the idea of U2 subscribers being able to pre-pay for their tickets, thus locking them up and whatever is left is available to the general public. I’d like to add that pre-paid tickets would be sold through U2’s site and verified by Technical Support—and yes, these folks would have to be trained much better—and sufficient time be given before tickets go on sale the the general public. I’d give two months to Subscriber Sales to allow enough time to resolve any issues—including scalping—and that would still leave four months time for the General Sale. 

Wouldn't that be problematic as well?  How can a band announce a tour these days and not have a public onsale for four months?  I'm not sure that would work.  I love the idea, but I don't think people will wait four months or even two to buy tickets.  For many people it's about being at the hip thing and the show doesn't really matter that much to them.  My theory is they are the annoying ones always talking!!!  We would wait, but would the majority of the concert goers who want a selfie at U2 or to hear the old hits just once wait? 

Also, wouldn't that give the scalpers months to figure out their strategy for each show individually?  How would we know if more shows are going to be announced?  There would be a tour and tickets would take four to eight months to go on sale for two shows in the same market.  Am I understanding you correctly?  I love the idea of going back to Propaganda mail service or whatever it would be.  I think there might only be new problems.  People are greedy.  That will never change.  They always find a way to pursue the $$$.

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What I was thinking was, say the tour begins on June 1st. Pre-sale tickets go on sale December 1st six months prior. From December 1st to January 31st, only U2 Subscribers will be allowed to buy tickets. The idea being letting Subscribers more than just a few days to try and get tickets. They would still get codes and pay with a credit card.

 

Then on February 1st, tickets go on sale to the general public. I believe that the people that are not Subscribers, will wait two months for the General Sale. The last U2 show that I attended, that wasn’t sold out, was PopMart ’97. I think the demand for them is high, even for the folks “who want a selfie at U2 or hear the old hits”. I sat next to a group of folks who were probably the kind who just wanted to be at the “hip thing” for JT ’17. They talked—even shouted—during the beginning of the show (about work stuff), then finally shut up. I had Club Level seats, which weren’t cheap ($335 each), and wondered if these tech guys were going talk all night. If they were, I was going to say something—politely. Fortunately, they remembered they were at an awesome rock show and I didn’t. 

 

And yes, maybe 2 months would give the scalpers more time to strategize on how to get as many tickets as they could, and this would screw the people who buy during the General Sale. But the Subscribers would already have their tickets. So, if one truly wanted to beat the scalpers and the bots and whoever else, they should become a Subscriber. Yes, they would have to pay the membership fee, but they would definitely get to the buy tickets during the Pre-Sale if they wanted.

 

I always thought the band added shows after seeing how quickly the first group of shows sold out. Here in the SF Bay Area, I know that a second show is usually added. They did that for i+e ‘15, Vertigo ‘05 and Elevation ‘01. It could be that they arenas sold out quickly—consequently giving good reason to add a second show—and the stadiums shows did not (only 1 show for JT ’17 & 360 ’11). So I’d say, why not just announce two shows at the outset? The fanbase is pretty big here and they would sell out both shows easily.

 

Again, I know that there are flaws in my ideas and there must be a wisdom in announcing a tour, and then adding shows as time progresses. Yet, I believe the band will sell out their shows no matter what, so why not take better care of the folks who have paid for the opportunity?

 

I would totally be willing to go back to the Propaganda days and agree that it probably isn’t tenable. Greed is always the monkey-wrench that screws up the works.

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17 hours ago, Manohlive said:

I think that too.  I just read that the problem with CC only is people who do not have plastic get shut out of the show.  Many people do not have plastic, even if it's a debit card.  They have a set income and plastic causes too many problems.  No matter how it gets approached, it sucks because people are greedy and don't even care about the music.  It's easy $$$.  That is why I love watching their asking price go way way down the days before a show.  I love it when they take a hit and lose money.

I like this idea, too. What I noticed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Ca. was that the devices the staff were using took several seconds for each CC holder. They worked as quickly as they could, but swiping the card and waiting to the tickets to print, took time. This caused a bottleneck that got much worse as time went on. We were near the front of the line (about 50 ahead of us) at around 3:00 pm. By 5:00 pm there were several hundred people behind us and this was just one line.

We watched the lines from the Club Level and it was bad. There were ticket holders who didn't get in until after the band took the stage. This sucked if they had GAs.

But, I'm all for doing everything humanly possible to thwart the scalpers.

Edited by 504jumper
typo

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On 12/9/2017 at 5:50 PM, vertigojds said:

 

Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal.

 

I get the impression that the “intent” was there but I am not sure if that was the “goal”, too many loopholes for scalpers to sneak through. I like everything you said in your post, seems reasonable to me, things could have played out very differently if that was the “goal”. For me I think it’s more a pricing issue, too expensive a ticket to go and watch tv at a live show. Nice post ! 

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On 12/11/2017 at 1:45 AM, Manohlive said:

Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal

Also, I was lucky to get 2 GA for Philly, these are physical tickets in my hands, so at this point there is nothing in place to stop me from selling these, I wouldn’t do such a thing because I am a fan and want to see the show. Just saying I could, know what I mean ? 

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On 12/8/2017 at 11:06 AM, cmooreNC said:

I can't argue with the statements made in the original post other than the comment about the setlist.  I'm sure the band has retained full artistic control over their shows, such that they're the ones deciding what songs they're playing.  Other than that, I'd say your general discussion about pricing is pretty spot on.

Biggest mistake they're making in the whole scenario, though, is that they continue to price GA tickets well BELOW what the market is willing to pay.  I'm pretty sure that this is a band decision, not a Live Nation decision. That forces some of the tickets for seats into the higher price ranges where the market is saying that they shouldn't be, as they're not selling.  To have tickets on the floor priced at $76-$80 while everything comparable around them (basically the whole lower level, except for limited view areas where the ticket holders can't see the screens) is priced at $330 or more clearly indicates that these tickets are priced way too low.  Those tickets, then, become the ones the resellers most want, as they present the greatest opportunity for good profit margins for their original "investments."  Thus the immediate situation where demand (both by real fans and by resellers) outstrips the available supply straight out of the gate at the onsale.  If GA's were priced at face values of $200-$250 initially, this problem wouldn't occur and probably all of at least the upper level seats could have been priced more reasonably.  Would there have been bitching and moaning from the diehard fans that are used to getting floor tickets at prices below Fair Market Value?  Sure.  But we wouldn't have been seeing what's going on now ---- overpriced uppers going unsold and diehard fans bitching and moaning because the only way they can get GA tickets is on the resale market at prices that are roughly 200-400% above "face" (where they should have been priced to begin with).  The end result is a scenario where the band is "trying to have it's cake and eat it too," because their shows are now overpriced in a lot of areas (making sure that the artist is not "leaving money on the table," as the original post describes) and yet still under priced for the tickets (GA floor tix) that get attendees closest to the stage and band (with the exception of the Red Zone tickets).

What we're seeing is proof that you can't do both.  Either you price your tickets such that the resale market has some opportunity for re-sellers to potentially make a profit, or you price everything high enough that re-sellers are really taking a risk when they speculate on their ticket "investments" by buying ticket inventory that is pretty much priced at market to begin with.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out by the time the shows occur.  At the outset there clearly were some pricing mistakes made.  In my opinion the biggest is the continued "under market value" pricing of GA tickets and that can't be corrected, as those tickets are all sold.  As for the rest of the unsold inventory, yes, there will definitely be price adjustments taking place - whether "disguised" or obvious - or there will be empty seats at many of these shows.  I doubt the latter will be allowed to happen.

 

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On 12/11/2017 at 1:45 AM, Manohlive said:

I think that too.  I just read that the problem with CC only is people who do not have plastic get shut out of the show.

But, isn't that already happening now?

For example - every single major concert I've bought tickets to for the past years, including every arena and stadium show, has stated on the Ticketmaster page that tickets are not available for sale at the box office on the first day of the sale.  Most of these type of shows either sell out completely in the first day, or all of the best seats are gone the first day.  So if you're someone who needs to go down to the box office and pay with cash in the first place, you've probably been out of luck for some time.  Is that completely fair?  No, but I don't think CCE changes that equation significantly.

 

On 12/12/2017 at 9:19 AM, hicksong said:

I get the impression that the “intent” was there but I am not sure if that was the “goal”, too many loopholes for scalpers to sneak through.

It's really surprising to me how many more loopholes there are on this tour compared to the last tour.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 1:30 PM, 504jumper said:

like this idea, too. What I noticed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Ca. was that the devices the staff were using took several seconds for each CC holder. They worked as quickly as they could, but swiping the card and waiting to the tickets to print, took time.

Ultimately, though, I think this could be fixed and made more efficient.  I've been to two credit card entry venues before (I live in New York State, where it is illegal, so it's only when I travel for a show that I experience it).  I did CCE for the U2 shows in East Rutherford and Philadelphia in 2017.  It worked like a charm for me.  For the Philadelphia show, I had GA and had been in line all day, and the CCE process didn't appear to slow down that line.  They scanned our credit cards and checked IDs while we were in line, long before the doors actually opened.  For the East Rutherford show, I had seats, and I simply walked up to the gate, swiped my card, showed my ID, and was let in.  It was honestly the shortest line that I've ever had at that venue.

Undoubtedly, the people using the devices need both training and practice on them, and the venue probably needs to ensure that all available gates are being used which may mean hiring a few extra ticket takers than they normally would for a regular "rip the ticket" type event.  But, as ticket buyers, we're routinely charged ticketing fees of $20 or higher for each ticket, and at many venues, charged an additional $5 "venue management" or "facility" fee.  We're being charged through the nose on fees, and the money from those fees should be used for stuff like this.  If Ticketmaster wants to charge over $20 extra for fees, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue can handle redeeming the tickets that they've sold.  If each venue wants to charge $5 extra, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue is properly staffed and that the entry process is smooth.

I know I'm here complaining a bunch, and I worry I may give the impression that I hate everything, all the time, and that's really not true.  But it's just immensely frustrating to me how going to a live concert used to be my favorite activity in the world, but all of these different little things keep getting in the way of just being able to go and have a good time.  I don't think anybody is saying that the artist or the venue don't deserve to be paid for their performance or facility, but for how expensive the tickets are to begin with, and then all of the fees added, I feel like we as ticket buyers have done our part, and we're not getting the quality of experience that those dollars should buy.

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2 hours ago, vertigojds said:

But, isn't that already happening now?

For example - every single major concert I've bought tickets to for the past years, including every arena and stadium show, has stated on the Ticketmaster page that tickets are not available for sale at the box office on the first day of the sale.  Most of these type of shows either sell out completely in the first day, or all of the best seats are gone the first day.  So if you're someone who needs to go down to the box office and pay with cash in the first place, you've probably been out of luck for some time.  Is that completely fair?  No, but I don't think CCE changes that equation significantly.

 

It's really surprising to me how many more loopholes there are on this tour compared to the last tour.

 

Ultimately, though, I think this could be fixed and made more efficient.  I've been to two credit card entry venues before (I live in New York State, where it is illegal, so it's only when I travel for a show that I experience it).  I did CCE for the U2 shows in East Rutherford and Philadelphia in 2017.  It worked like a charm for me.  For the Philadelphia show, I had GA and had been in line all day, and the CCE process didn't appear to slow down that line.  They scanned our credit cards and checked IDs while we were in line, long before the doors actually opened.  For the East Rutherford show, I had seats, and I simply walked up to the gate, swiped my card, showed my ID, and was let in.  It was honestly the shortest line that I've ever had at that venue.

Undoubtedly, the people using the devices need both training and practice on them, and the venue probably needs to ensure that all available gates are being used which may mean hiring a few extra ticket takers than they normally would for a regular "rip the ticket" type event.  But, as ticket buyers, we're routinely charged ticketing fees of $20 or higher for each ticket, and at many venues, charged an additional $5 "venue management" or "facility" fee.  We're being charged through the nose on fees, and the money from those fees should be used for stuff like this.  If Ticketmaster wants to charge over $20 extra for fees, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue can handle redeeming the tickets that they've sold.  If each venue wants to charge $5 extra, they can use some of that money to ensure that the venue is properly staffed and that the entry process is smooth.

I know I'm here complaining a bunch, and I worry I may give the impression that I hate everything, all the time, and that's really not true.  But it's just immensely frustrating to me how going to a live concert used to be my favorite activity in the world, but all of these different little things keep getting in the way of just being able to go and have a good time.  I don't think anybody is saying that the artist or the venue don't deserve to be paid for their performance or facility, but for how expensive the tickets are to begin with, and then all of the fees added, I feel like we as ticket buyers have done our part, and we're not getting the quality of experience that those dollars should buy.

I agree. Most of these types of issues could be fixed with a better staff, or at the very least better training. The question is: who is responsible for that, TM or the venue? From what I've heard, TM is notoriously cheap in regards to staffing at the lower levels. I always thought that all of those fees paid for stuff like that. But my guess is, they are probably finding areas where that can cut costs and that is one of them. Some of the staff is okay, but I got the feeling many of them were new at it. I will also venture a guess and say that they probably have a lot of turnover, which again creates training issues.

And I'm right there with you in the fact that going to a live concert was one of the best things in the world. In my youth, I went to as many as I could afford. Now, I'm down to one band. They are my favorite and I've been a fan for a very long time. So it is a little sad to know that this awesome experience can be marred extraneous things like pre-sale fiascos, inadequate staffing and downright ineptitude. I've long accepted the rising costs of tickets (ZOO TV was $27.50 for me) and thankfully, I make more money now to afford it.

I personally think the fees charged should be enough to hire a better team to manage properly to prevent delays/bottlenecks/etc., but what do I know?

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9 hours ago, vertigojds said:

But, as ticket buyers, we're routinely charged ticketing fees of $20 or higher for each ticket, and at many venues, charged an additional $5 "venue management" or "facility" fee.

This is something that I find unjust. The mighty “Ticketmaster fee” , this is greed at its best, bastards....

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On 12/12/2017 at 9:37 AM, Ilovebono said:

I can't argue with the statements made in the original post other than the comment about the setlist.  I'm sure the band has retained full artistic control over their shows, such that they're the ones deciding what songs they're playing. 

One clarification about my set list comment...  

I agree that the band does retain artistic control over their set. However, as a practical matter, there is no way the contract with Live Nation doesn't influence the type of show they play. Why? Because Live Nation doesn't back the brinks truck up and dump gobs of money unless you sell out arenas and stadiums. Doing that requires that  you play your hits.  I would argue what we have seen since the Vertigo Tour is a pretty straightforward formula: 6-7 songs of the album being toured with, and then a staple of remaining hits that are constant, and only a few slots for something out of the ordinary. With JT, it was that album plus basically the same hits used over and over again.  And on the 360 tour, by the last leg, that was basically a greatest hits show with very little off of NLOTH.  Vertigo was the last tour with wildly varying openers and set lists.  Heck, they even routinely plucked guitar players out of the crowd to play impromptu covers.  My favorite recent tours have been Vertigo and Innnocene/Experience, but I digress...

Not that this has anything to do with the recent prices, or make them more affordable for any individual fan, remember that early in their career, the band spent a ton on elaborate touring sets while also making a conscious decision to eat much of that cost to keep ticket prices low.  Zoo TV had to cost a fortune. If i recall, my pretty decent tickets to both the indoor and outdoor legs was less than thirty bucks. Pop-Mart was equally expensive. I'm not suggesting that they are hurting financially, but I think that historical context should be understood as well.  

Finally, this is way off topic, but I'll throw it in anyway....  I finally received my free CD's from my concert tix purchases yesterday, and I am now more excited to see this show than I've been about any show for quite some time.  The Little Things That Give You Away blew my away when the closed with it in Dublin this summer.  Now after getting to hear the studio version, its as good as anything the band has ever done. And Get Out of Your Own way is an earworm I just can't stop humming.  This is brilliant stuff.  I'm hoping we get what we got on the Zoo TV tour, which opened with I think the first 8 songs of Achtung Baby. The band had the best album on the planet and knew it.  I hope we get that again...

Edited by nbayer

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