When web services go bad: Ticketmaster's outrageous tax on culture - it harms society

When web services go bad: Ticketmaster's outrageous tax on culture - it harms society

Summary: Ticketmaster buys up exclusive rights to online ticket sales and charges a collection of fees that can nearly double the price of a ticket.What value does it provide?! . . .


My daughter Sarah asked me to buy a ticket for her for a music event at a San Francisco venue. The ticket was $13.50 but I ended up feeling I'd been mugged by Ticketmaster because by check out time I had paid more than $26.

I'm used to the outrageous fees that Ticketmaster levies but they snuck one up on me that was hidden. In addition to a facility charge of $1.50 and the convenience charge of $5.90, there was a hidden order processing fee of $5.40! Total cost was $26.30!

And it could easily have been more, I could have chosen to print out the ticket for a fee of $2 instead of the "free" will call option. I could also have chosen insurance for my ticket, and other options that would have taken the price closer to $30. That's for a $13.50 ticket!

What value has Ticketmaster provided?!

Did Ticketmaster rehearse in a garage for years so that they could play live at large San Francisco venue? Did Ticketmaster hire the venue staff and deal with the serious logisitcs of thousands of people and the safety requirements?

No, Ticketmaster's added value was to serve up a web page and process a payment. Visa and Mastercard do that all day long for a 4 percent cut. But Ticketmaster takes nearly 100 per cent of the sales price. For what?

This is an over-the-top tax on culture from a greedy corporation that has bought monopoly rights to tens of thousands of venues. Why isn't this a DOJ or FTC monopoly investigation?

It should be illegal to buy monopoly rights to tickets at events. If Ticketmaster believes it offers fair value then let's open up the access and see if it can compete on its own merits. It won't because it knows it can't.

This is a tax on culture, it cuts down on live performances and on people getting together. My daughter is 15 and she can afford a $13.50 ticket but when it gets inflated to $26.30, she can't and that means the artists lose out too.

Ticketmaster imposes an unfair tax on our culture by making it more expensive to attend cultural events. This is not good for our society.

If I can help it I will never buy from Ticketmaster again and I urge the FTC to block future and present acquisitions such as with Live Nation. And I urge others not to invest in Ticketmaster or any of the funds that invest in Ticketmaster [TKTM]. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/mh?s=TKTM

UPDATE: Thanks for everyone's comments. I've also received quite a few emails on this topic - you can read some of them here.

Topics: Government US, Banking, Government

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  • WOW, I had no idea it was that bad

    Your point by point is pretty damning.
    • Actually, worse ...

      They ahve agreements with some small venues that drive all ticket sales trough them, including box office via a retail interface to their system.

      It's blackmail ...
    • RE: When web services go bad: Ticketmaster's outrageous tax on culture - it harms society

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  • This is exactly why monopolies are bad.,,,

    If there was an alternative source of tickets for the same event, these ripoffs would cease.

    The government should ban "exclusive deals" like this. The only beneficiary is Ticketmaster.
    Basic Logic
  • Same here...

    We've looked at attending several events in the past year, but after seeing charge after charge pile up, we've canceled the order and stayed home or done something else. It is ridiculous!

    And... what's with the $2.00 charge to print out the tickets ON MY OWN PRINTER?????? When you see all the services out there that will convert anything to PDF at no charge, it is hard to imagine that it costs Ticketmaster 2.00 to serve a page up to me that lets me use my own printer, paper, and ink to print it out!

    With so many people complaining about funding for the arts being cut, etc., I think Congress could generate a great stimulus package for the arts simply by nailing Ticketmaster to the wall!
    • Charging to print your own tickets...

      Ticketnaster does this so that if you don't have a ticket you can't scalp it.
      That way it can use its own subsidiary to sell scalped tickets. Earlier this
      year it was trying to sell Bruce Springsteen tickets at up to $200 a piece
      through its TicketsNow subsidiary when regular priced tickets were still


      Exclusive ticket deals should be outlawed.
      • Even if regular priced ticket's aren't available

        How does it's own subsidiary get tickets to scalp in the first place??

        The only way is if Ticketmaster sold them to themselves!

        Wow they found another new way to rip us off!
    • Shipping

      Not to mention that the various shipping "options" are double or more the cost of the selected shipping method. I *know* it doesn't cost them more than the cost of a first class stamp to mail them via regular post. And I know how much FedEx and UPS charge for overnight, early-delivery service (less than half what TicketBastard charges you).

      And, unlike the article author's experience, they charged me for will-call at the last two events I went to.
  • Same ol'

    Ah, some good old-fashioned journalism: highlighting the iniquities of a greedy company. I've added my vote to the 'put Ticketmaster out of business' lobby.

    Once you've done that perhaps you would examine why VISA charge 4% of a transaction. It doesn't sound much does it? But every company has a computer and is already paying for their network. Every consumer has a computer and is already paying for their network. So if I spend $1000 why should VISA get as much as $40? Wouldn't an extra 4 cents of network and computing time be enough, regardless of the amount transacted?

    Before VISA though, there is another industry which richly deserves to be dissolved (richly deserves, get it?). Consider the cost breakdown of an iTunes song: the artist gets only 10 cents from the 99. And you were worried about a 100% mark-up from value to charge!

    I realise I don't understand the scale of the computing and network power to market, manage and distribute goods digitally on a global basis. No doubt a combination of Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, IBM, DELL and HP could do it though. What's that you say - there is a working prototype in Sweden developed for peanuts? What's that called then? ;-)

    There is another group to be taken to task here. Not sure what you call it in the US. Where is the watchdog organisation alledgedly protecting consumer's rights? Still asleep one suspects.

    See also http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=69904&messageID=1338439
    • Mastercard and Visa...

      Yes, you are right, 4 per cent is probably too much to charge but there
      is more than network costs involved, there is considerable security to
      consider too, and they are lending money and taking some risk there.
      Compared with Ticketmaster 4 per cent seems down right cheap and a

      Yes, the iTunes breakout doesn't seem fair, and partlky that's due to
      Visa and Mastercard costs, which are much higher than 4 per cent in
      this case and closer to 30 to 40 per cent because they don;t handle
      micropayments well.

      What about Amazon and their Kindle? It will charge newspapers as
      much as 80 per cent to distribute their content. Surely the technology
      is the commodity and the content is where the value lies? At least
      Amazon/Kindle doesn't try to claim exclusive rights but maybe it will
    • Liability

      The difference between TicketBastard and the various credit card companies is security and liability. For instance:

      if someone steals your credit card and runs up a bunch of charges prior to you having the card canceled, they on the hook for the bogus charges.

      If there's a data breach, either through VISA's (et. al.) or one of the credit processors, they're on the hook for any damage done.

      Overall, I don't hold the fees against them, especially since it doesn't come directly out of my pocket.
    • Best to leave Visa out of this discussion

      Visa/MC have Discover, American Express, Cash and
      Checks competing with them. You'll notice not
      every retailer accepts all forms of payment, they
      make choices that force Visa to compete with the

      Try to buy a ticket without TicketMaster...
      • Competion with Visa/MC

        With the exception of the Illinois DMV that only accepts Discover (I don't know anyone who has a discover card anymore), every place accepts at least Visa/MC. I wouldn't consider what they have a monopoly. What I would like to know is what is Live Nation's relationship to Ticketmaster. They kinda popped up all of a sudden a year or so ago and seem to dominate the Ticket market...at least here in Chicago. I would like to see it go to the individual groups selling thier own tickets on thier own web sites or the venue's website. I think Tickmaster and other ticket agents started out as a good idea to make getting tickets an easier task, rather than standing in lines and camping out at the venues like back in the 70's and 80's. Unfortunately, like pretty much everything else in Corporate America, greed took over and they just figured out more ways to grab more cash from it's customers. I took my daughter to see her favorite group earlier this year, along with 2 of her friends and the 4 tickets cost me about $125...I believe the tickets themselves were $15 each. $60 for the tickets and $65 for all the fees. My wife and I recently saw Disturbed and the ticket prices also nearly doubled the cost and that was through Live Nation. It is disgusting.
  • Not sure this is really news

    Ticketmaster has been mugging concert attendees in Colorado for over 30 years. In the 70's the prices were reasonable but then they started to climb and there doesn't seem to be any ceiling in site. Just one MORE greedy US corp that believes you are spending money that they are entitled to. When nose bleed tickets have reached $150 per seat and crowds are exceeding 30,000 (That translates to $4,500,000.00 per event) you have to start asking if the return on investment is actually worth it. It isn't to me anymore and Ticketmaster is the main reason.
    • ann another coloradian being ticketraped....

      As a Denverite, I feel your pain...
  • It may be a steep price - but it's not a tax.

    I'm beginning to hate how people are calling
    [b]ANY[/b] high price a tax. Especially since I'm
    taking some economics classes.

    A tax is something that the government gives, and
    generally affects both the seller and the buyer

    It may be a steep price, it may even be a monopolistic
    price - but it's not a tax. Can we stop with this
    "tax" language please?
    • You are right...

      ...it's not a tax in the sense of a government levied charge but I'm using
      the term in it's more general meaning, a charge that exists on every
      transaction (Ticketmaster transaction.) As such the meaning is clear,
      • It's more like emotionally charged language.

        It's more like emotionally charged language designed to rattle the anger of people. I've never heard the "general meaning" being used for anything except axe grinding.
        • Maybe, but it is accurate

          From dictionary.com:

          1. a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.
          2. a burdensome charge, obligation, duty, or demand.

          I think that #2 is appropriate in this case
        • I read "tax" as intended by the author...

          and the use of the word "tax" didn't rattle me anywhere near as much as the actual fees in the article, which are ridiculous compared to other online vendors. Anything that puts a strain on a system is a "tax". So yes, government taxes tax the economy. Anyway, "Outrageouse FEE on culture" wouldn't have the same ring or meaning; he meant it as a strain.

          As far as axe grinding, I say fire it up! When it was "scalping" this sort of practice was illegal. Now, somehow, it's okay? Definitely not.