Explain the Taylor Swift concert ticket brouhaha to me please

I took my daughters to see Taylor Swift a few years ago and you HAD to prove you were real and you could not resell your tickets. I do not understand why they couldn’t do it this time as well. I get that people may not be able to make a show for one reason or another, and being able to get rid of their tickets should be possible, but there is zero reason for tickets that were sold in the morning were already available a few hours later for a huge markup.

I don’t see why they can’t say, you can buy tickets, but they can’t be resold any time soon after you buy them, and there can be no markup above a certain percent. The Wacken metal fest says you can not resell your ticket at all, it has your name attached to it, but if you can’t make it you can get your money back and they will resell it for the same original price.

It’s my understanding that the artist does have a lot to do with the ticket price. They don’t want the face value to be so high it angers fans. If floor seats “should” be $600, the face value may be $80. Then the $80 tickets go for $600 on the secondary market. One of the secrets is that the artist often has a block of tickets that they release to the secondary market at an inflated price.

As others have said, this lets Ticketmaster, StubHub, scalpers, etc. be the bad guy, while the artist can make sympathetic noises about capitalism and unfair systems, yet still earn some of the profits of the tickets’ actual value.

I think a company dealing with the logistics of selling tickets is reasonable. The venue and artists might not want to handle that directly, so pay somebody to take care of it. The same way that many venues will have concession contracts where somebody else takes care of the food.

The problem is the complete failure of anti-trust regulations. This is a bipartisan issue. Modern anti-trust (lack) of enforcement goes back to Robert Bork and Ronald Reagan, but it was Obama that rubber stamped the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger.

So, if a ticket sells for more than the face value, are you saying that the artist gets a cut of that?

Yes, I believe that he is saying that sites like StubHub are shell companies for the artist and venues.

I guess I have two questions about that.

One, is it really all that profitable for the artist? How many tickets are they selling at this inflated price?

Two, is this something that all artists do? Or specific to the thread, is this something that Swift does?

Now, personally, I don’t really care about all this all that much. Luxuries like concert tickets are one place that I have no problem with profiteering and price gouging. People are not going to be harmed by not going to a concert, and no matter what the price is, there will not be enough seats for everyone who wants to go anyway.

The fans may feel differently if they know that the artist is profiting off of it, but that’s between the artist and their fans.

My experience:

I signed up for the presale for either Cincinnati or Nashville. They ended up adding a second Cincy show, and I got a code for the added date. (Of note, I have never spent a dime on T-Swift merch at her web site.)

I went to TM at 9:30AM and put in my code, and at 10:00AM I was added to the queue, which said I had “2000+” people in front of me. As we learned, that “+” was doing a lot of work. The progress bar for the queue crept along, often stopping for long stretches.

It was 2:50PM when the bar finally got near the end and the “2000+” started dropping, which it did over about two minutes. I was then taken to a page where I could choose my seats, and I was surprised at how many were left. I chose two in the stands, in the end opposite the stage and about 10 rows up, for $200 each (plus exorbitant fees). (Expensive, yes, but what can I say? I adore her. And tickets to see a Bengals game from the same section start at $225.) Checkout was painless.

The silly part of all this was the decision to sell all the shows on the same day. (It wasn’t exactly the same time, BTW; presales started at 10AM in the venue’s time zone. Still.) There’s no reason to do that except to build hype, and hype is the last thing this tour needed more of.

TM says that about 40% of people who get codes usually show up to buy tickets, and they just didn’t expect such a high percentage to show up this time. Because apparently everyone at Ticketmaster lives in a cave, on Mars, with their fingers in their ears. Everyone else knew this would be a shitshow. People in remote, unconnected tribes were talking about how this was a bad idea. Helen Keller saw this coming. And she’s dead.

But I did get tickets, so players gonna play, and all that.

Also, between this, FTX, and Elon Musk at Twitter, I think we can all stop having imposter syndrome now. As it turns out, nobody knows what they’re doing.

We don’t care. We don’t have to.

I agree about Ticketmaster, but Taylor Swift seems to be going out of her way to blame them rather than take responsibility for her own actions.

First, making people buy merch from her website for a chance at a ticket preorder seems kind of skeevy, plus it cuts the venue out of its percentage of merch sales if they were sold at the venue.

Second, her people should have ensured that they didn’t give out more pre-auth codes than tickets available. But that would have meant fewer merch sales for her.

Third, she could have added concert dates, or announced a second tour with priority for tickets going to those who had pre-auths for the first concert but couldn’t get tickets.

Instead, she dumped the blame for everything on Ticketmaster.

Ticketmaster isn’t responsible for the high costs of tickets. Their fees aren’t THAT high. And even concerts with tickets for sale at the box office are becoming ridiculously priced, as are sporting events. I used to get tickets for the Oilers in the ‘blues’ about 10 rows up from the ice, for about $55 ticket. Nosebleed tickets were $28. This was in the 90’s. I just looked up the price for my old seat location, and it was over $1,000 per ticket. Nosebleeds were over $200. Skybox seats, $1900.

Taking a couple of kids to a hockey game with reasonable seats costs more than entire vacation for many families.

What has actually happened is that there are a lot of very wealthy professionals out there who are willing to pay crazy prices for concert and sports events. Concerts that used to be populated by working class people are now filled with rich boomers and their kids. The prices just reflect the customer’s willingness to pay.

If that works, $600 was the market price anyway. If not more.

My point is that if $600 is the market price, it does not matter how much goes to the artist. If Taylor Swift literally played for free, Ticketmaster is still going to find a way to get $600 out of you. I don’t know if Swift specifically is also playing the online ticket shell game (she has certainly exhibited impressive business acumen in other areas so it wouldn’t surprise me) but it wouldn’t matter if she didn’t. Ticketmaster, Stubhub et al. would just play the same game, or in conjunction with the promoters.

The Pearl Jam situation is living proof of that. If they accept less, the ticket seller has absolutely no sane reason at all to drop the price.

I paid $200 each for two baseball playoff tickets this year. Baseball players are not paid more salary for playing playoff games - they get some degree of profit sharing, but their salaried work ends with the regular season and the playoff shares are a percentage. Yet the price of a playoff ticket is WAY higher than a regular season ticket even though the primary expense is actually lower - because demand sets ticket prices, or would in a truly open market.

Certainly this is very true though.

Taylor Swift tix aren’t going to be reasonable no matter how they’re sold in anything approximating a free market.

Fifty years ago, a good ticket to see Led Zeppelin - a huge, huge draw then, likely the biggest live draw on the planet - would have run you between eight and twelve dollars, or about $50-$60 today. It is in the realm of fantasy now to see a Grade A music act for $50.

The average ticket price to see Super Bowl XX (Niners 20, Bengals 16) was about $80, equal to approximately $210 today… and that price was twice what tickets to SB X would cost you (accoutning for inflation.) Today, Super Bowl tickets are not measured in “hundreds” though I am led to believe some nosebleeds had a face value of $900 last time.

Out of curiosity I looked up tickets to see Bill Burr, an extremely popular comedian but not exactly at Taylor Swift levels of fandom. There really aren’t any good seats left for his show in San Antonio, but the best of the second rate seats will set you back $80 to $100, plus Ticketmaster will hit you for $29 in fees (Sorry, Sam, but that’s a lot.) The good seats cost many times more.

I’m not sure why this has happened. Why is it live entertainment has gotten insanely more expensive?

How much larger is a concert venue in, say Los Angeles, in 2022 than it was in 2002 or 1982 or 1962? How many more people live in LA now versus then? Most non-stadium venues are about the same size as ever. Cities and their related suburbs have 20x the population they did.

Even with stadium venues, they’re actually building them smaller now than was common in the e.g. late 1960s through 1970s.

Corrected for ordinary CPI inflation, how much larger is GDP (or gross national payroll) versus then? 2x, 4x, 6x? I don’t know exactly, but it’s a big multiplier. Even talking GDP or payroll per capita the people who aren’t the bottom 20% of earners are a lot better off than long ago. To be sure there’s been a lot of wage stagnation in the last 20(?) years.

But what that all means taken together is that today there are more than enough people with multiple 6- and 7-figure incomes to consume every seat for every concert by every major act. When 2 grand for a special night out for a couple sounds like fun to you, and you can afford to do it several times per year, that doesn’t leave much space for the mythical working class family of 4 to sit nearby.

Note I’m not applauding this situation. Merely explaining it.

Hmm… this is a good question. And have other forms of entertainment gone up as much?

It’s obviously a demand-driven thing, because there doesn’t appear to be a supply shortage. Unless maybe all of the demand is targeted at a smaller group of acts? I’m not in the live music scene like I was in High School, but back then there were bands to see at literally dozens of joints in my medium-size city and amphitheater concerts every weekend. Maybe now it’s T-Swift or nothing?

And as @LSLGuy points out we do have population growth on the demand side, while supply probably hasn’t really grown by much (and perhaps has decreased).

There is also the possibility (probability?) that tickets 20-30 years ago were simply under-priced, but the technology to enable that to be apparent (online resale marketplaces) didn’t exist yet so primary sellers were loathe to charge too much. Also bands/teams didn’t want to take the blame for high prices, where now Ticketmaster conveniently takes the PR hit while everybody rakes in the cash.

She did precisely that. She added second shows in several cities that had high numbers of Verified Fan requests. I got tickets for the added show in Cincinnati.

Because it can. There are more people that want to go to these events than there is room, and there are enough people willing to pay exorbitant prices that they can charge them.

She did something like that for the Reputation tour back in 2017, but not this time.

Here’s something I just thought of: Decades ago, it was hard to learn about events taking place outside your immediate area. You might have heard about a concert happening in the next town over, but probably not happening across the country.

Nowadays, with the Internet etc., anyone can learn about events going on all over the world. And some people are willing to travel. I know that for the BTS concerts in Los Angeles last year, many people flew in from as far as Asia and Europe.

So demand for top tier acts is now worldwide, not just local. That’s bound to make it more expensive.

You’re just restating my question. Yes, I get how market prices work, but what social changes have happened that the price of premium live entertainment has soared way out of proportion to inflation (or the rise in population)?

Surely, as with airline and rideshare fares, there are now available far more efficient tools for aggregators to determine surge pricing “to what the market will bear” in real time, as opposed to some local hall owner figuring out on paper what covers his costs and then what profit he considers reasonable based on experience and knowledge of the act and audience and haggling it with Marty the Agent over the phone.

That too has got to be another factor.

The pandemic. Pent-up demand after two years of doing nothing has brought us here. People had entertainment expectations and budget they hadn’t been able to satisfy or use. This didn’t start with Taylor Swift. It’s been happening for a while.

When you already have a fixed supply that is less than the current demand, the price doesn’t need to go up linearly with an increase in demand. An increase in demand of 10% could well mean a tripling of prices or more.

I’d say that the advent of bots scraping up tickets to sell on the second market has a substantial effect as well.