Wednesday, September 8, 2010
There aren't many silver linings to the economy these days, but one of them is the dramatic drop in ticket sales for 2010, leaving bullies like Ticketmaster and Live Nation with plummeting stock and the choice between filling massive amphitheaters for pennies on the dollar or cancelling tours altogether. Slumping ticket sales are not genre-specific, with household names like Rihanna, The Jonas Brothers, The Eagles and Christina Aguilera forced to cancel or postpone their 2010 tours. While the artists themselves certainly share part of the blame for this phenomenon, I get a Cheshire Cat grin when I envision Ticketmaster executives sweating it out a bit.
If you've ever purchased a concert ticket in the last 15 years, the word Ticketmaster should conjure images much like the one at the top of this page, or that of a blood-sucking leech. I have been nickeled and dimed and bled nearly dry by their absurd "Convenience Charges" and "Venue Charges" and "Service Charges" and "Processing Charges" and "Shipping Charges" to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Often times, these charges eclipse the face value of the ticket itself, turning a spontaneous bit of fun into a wallet stretching night out. With upstarts like brown paper tickets and more and more venues able to process ticket sales on their respective websites, one can only hope that this speed bump is the beginning of the end.
With 2010 adding a financial element to Ticketmaster's simmering PR problem, Live Nation entertainment has started a blog titled "Ticketology", wherein they promise to help us laymen "understand their business" through "transparency". Not sure why they needed research and focus groups to tell them that people hate service fees and aren't interested in buying tickets when they whole process feels like an auction you have no control over. At the NEW Ticketmaster, they "wake up every day obsessing over the fan experience", mostly because it doesn't take them as long to count their money as it used to. It all sounds like a 40 year old dad trying to negotiate with his teenage son to clean his room. It's all delicate phrasing and ego-massaging until you get them to think it was their idea all along.
The actual improvements in transparency and personalization do nothing to bring down ticket prices, which Ticketmaster acknowledges as the true problem. Telling me up front that my $20 tickets will actually cost $45 out the door, does nothing but save me time when I X out the tab. Letting me pick my own seat or return the tickets within 3 days is not titillating to outweigh the outrageous service charges. It's been two weeks since their first post, and the blog has yet to make a peep. However, if you listen really closely, you can just make out the sound of Ticketmaster executives getting fired. That's one show I'd pay top dollar for.