In September 2018, a Toronto Star investigation at a ticket seller’s conference in Las Vegas exposed a serious breach in ethics with Ticketmaster, a company responsible for selling tickets for music and sporting events.
Ticketmaster had been recruiting so-called scalpers, or ticket resellers, to cheat its own software to expand revenues for itself.
Scalpers have long been a problem for music fans. Scalpers would often buy tickets early for low prices, then resell the tickets at higher prices later, costing concertgoers much more money to get good seats to see their favourite bands.
In a session closed to the media, Ticketmaster revealed that they had developed a program with resellers, linking into TradeDesk, their own ticket selling software.
The software allowed resellers to buy Ticketmaster tickets, then list them almost immediately for resale on Ticketmaster’s website.
In addition, resellers could create hundreds of accounts in TradeDesk and allow them to buy and list tickets automatically through so-called “bot” accounts.
Ticketmaster also collects a fee based on tickets sold through their website, allowing them to collect on both the ticket sold and the resale. Because the resold ticket was often listed for a higher price, Ticketmaster collected even higher fees from them.
Scalpers have been so problematic in ticket resales that some governments, like Ontario, have put caps on the prices of tickets to be resold, but this law has been stalled by the Doug Ford government.
While Ticketmaster did issue a statement saying they did not allow ticket resellers to buy up large amounts of tickets, the practice was seen to be widespread in the Star investigation.
The investigation has resulted in a class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster over violations of the Competition Act.
Ticketmaster has been part of controversy in the past as well. Pearl Jam famously sued Ticketmaster in the mid ’90s over a perceived monopoly over ticket sales and high service fees.
Pearl Jam attempted to launch a tour without Ticketmaster involvement, but found it difficult due to Ticketmaster’s domination of the ticket selling market.
The lawsuit was closed by the U.S. government in 1995.
Jam rock band The String Cheese Incident also sued Ticketmaster over anti-trust issues in 2003, with the suit settled in 2004.
Bruce Springsteen is another artist who took on Ticketmaster, accusing them of diverting ticket buyers to their website TicketsNow, which offered their own tickets at premium prices.
Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.