For the international contemporary live music industry

Conference delegates are told ticketing is ‘a complex business’

World News
May 15, 2018

Above: Jared Smith talks to Alan Cross    © Grant W Martin

While StubHub confirms insider trading

The words on everybody’s lips were “secondary ticketing” during the 36th edition of Canadian Music Week (CMW), held this month.

This was due in part to the event being held in Toronto, with a 50 per cent above face-value resale cap due to be introduced across the province of Ontario on 1 July.

But also an indication of the widely felt malaise over ticket prices, booking fees, along with industrial-scale and insider ticket touting.

“Ticketing is the most confusing and complex part of the music business,” said North America president of Ticketmaster (TM) Jared Smith during an interview with journalist Alan Cross.

“We don’t want to sell tickets to people in the middle [touts]. We are not in the wholesale business, we are in the consumer business.”

“I can’t name any names, but it is people everyone in this room would know”

StubHub’s Jeff Poirer

Smith, whose company operates a number of resale platforms, including TicketsNow and primary/secondary website TM+ in North America, admitted that due to inflated mark-ups on secondary sites, ticket buying was often a “terrible experience”.

But he said he had no issue with professional resellers, which the company regards as brokers.

“They play a legitimate purpose in the ecosystem,” he said. “It is the bad guys that use bots and are cheaters that we don’t work with. That’s why we have Verified Fan, which gets real fans to the front of the line and puts bots to the back.”

As part of the Ticket Sales Act, the Ontario Government has banned bots and placed a 50 per cent above face value limit on resale prices, although Smith has reservations about the legislation.

“It is unenforceable for a lot of sites and will drive the secondary market underground,” he told delegates.

Speaking during the Who’s Got Tickets? (And How Did They Get Them?) panel, general manager of Music, Theater & Performing Arts for resale platform StubHub Jeff Poirer said he felt the act was a “futile effort”, and revealed many promoters, managers and artistes placed tickets directly with brokers on resale sites.

“There is lots of leakage,” said Poirer. “I can’t name any names, but it is people everyone in this room would know.”

Also wading into the ticketing debate was president of AEG Presents in the US, Rick Mueller, who said he believed any show that sold-out on the first day of on-sale was “under-priced”.

Mueller also touched on the success of AEG-owned festival Coachella (cap. 125,000), which this year featured Beyoncé, The Weeknd and Eminem.

“We are getting close to peak festival,” he said. “If you are a festival promoter, you need to have a very clear idea of who you are servicing.

“Brand identify is very important and we are lucky at Coachella, we can go on sale 11 months before the event, with no acts announced, and still do well.”

Elsewhere, Alice in Chains and The Cult tour manager Chuck Randall spoke of the pressures placed on touring bands.

“It might look like a big party, but its 18-hour days, shows every night and sleeping on a metal tray on a bus,” he told delegates. “It is mentally and physically draining and this is the major income stream for artistes now.”

CMW founder and president Neill Dixon said more than 2,700 delegates had attended this year’s event, held from 7-13 May.

“We try and morph with the times,” he tells Audience. “The subject matter is not just current events, but current everything. We look at where the business is and over the horizon predicting where it is going. It’s ever changing.”

Acts performing during the music festival element of the event included 2 Chainz and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

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