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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Dynamic ticketing is a barrier to enjoying live music

DTH Photo Illustration. Ticketmaster uses "dynamic" ticketing to change prices to match demand for tickets.

Ticketmaster is, in fact, the “master” of all things ticket buying.

“How much is too much to spend on a ticket to see your favorite artist?” was a question I repeatedly asked myself this past May, as I waited 30+ minutes to get through a presale queue and sifted through the insanely priced tickets for Harry Styles’ Love on Tour show. My heart told me the price didn’t matter – I was desperate to see him live again. Realistically, my bank account could not handle the cost of $600 upper-bowl seats. 

I was baffled by such steep prices; I knew Harry was famous, but the prices to see his show seemed too high. Through my disappointment, I was looking for someone to blame for being ticketless — and thus began my personal vendetta against Ticketmaster. 

Ticketmaster is ruining live music. 

If you’ve ever bought tickets to any concert, odds are that you bought them through Ticketmaster. The platform responsible for providing live music experiences for fans is also why many have become frustrated and disillusioned with concert-going, all thanks to aggressive pricing models and near control over the ticket-buying market. 

In 2010, Ticketmaster merged with venue operator Live Nation. Before their merger, Ticketmaster was the dominant distributor of tickets in the U.S., controlling more than half of the market, while Live Nation was the largest concert promoter. The merger only strengthened their already tight grip on the live music industry. In 2011, Ticketmaster-Live Nation, the industry’s monopolistic distributor of tickets, announced that it would be introducing dynamic pricing — a tactic that adjusts ticket prices based on consumer demand. 

At its core, dynamic pricing increases the price of tickets as consumer demand for the tickets increases. Theoretically, dynamic pricing helps Ticketmaster curb some of the value of tickets that are selling too fast. It can also be used to identify if a certain seating section or price point sells better. 

But over time, Ticketmaster has become more aggressive with its dynamic pricing by introducing this practice into the presale, where the “official platinum ticket seats” were born. Instead of designating a section for platinum tickets, Ticketmaster began pulling down face-value tickets and converting them to platinum tickets, ultimately inflating the price. This practice often happens simultaneously while tickets are in a customer’s shopping cart. 

Ticketmaster’s reasoning – or, their defense – for this practice comes down to one thing: protecting both the buyers and the artists from scalpers. Ultimately, the decision to use dynamic pricing falls onto the artist themselves. And because dynamic pricing prices tickets at their “true value,”  it supposedly helps artists retain the revenue for top seats that would typically go to resellers. Third-party platforms for ticket buying are often sketchy — and Ticketmaster’s platinum pricing is also an incentive for fans to obtain a “verified ticket” and not have to worry about being scammed. 

Ticketmaster paints their strategy of dynamic pricing and platinum ticketing as a practice that supports fans and artists and protects them from villainous third-party sellers. But in actuality, it prioritizes revenue above all else — revenue that goes directly into the pockets of artists and Ticketmaster executives. Of course, it’s natural for the prices of tickets for popular artists to be higher due to the basic concept of supply and demand. However, inflating ticket prices to three times more than face value is unequivocally unnatural and outright greedy — especially when fans have no alternative to turn to. 

Without any competition in the market, Ticketmaster and its dynamic pricing model are virtually unavoidable — making it an effective monopoly in the live music industry that has long gone unchecked. 

Ultimately, the battle against the Ticketmaster-Live Nation empire lies in the hands of the Biden administration. When Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged over a decade ago, they skirted past antitrust laws with a consent decree to safeguard against potential anti-competitive behavior. But it’s clear that over the past twelve years, Ticketmaster has broken the terms of that consent decree. 

Now, it’s up to the Department of Justice to hold Ticketmaster accountable for its obvious violations of antitrust laws and protect consumers’ access to live events. 


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