Who Should Be the Ticket Master?

Photo by Pretty War-STL — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Is Ticketmaster really the enemy? A lot of Bruce Springsteen fans might think so. But, where would we be without it?

As posted this week in a Festival News story, Springsteen’s management responded in kind to Ticketmaster’s Barry Diller.

The tension between the two began last February. For upcoming Springsteen concerts, Ticketmaster directed online users to a secondary site, TicketsNow, that offered premium tickets even as tickets were still available at the regular price. Ticketmaster acknowledged the “glitch.”

More recently, Barry Diller, the chairman of Ticketmaster, told the New York Post that it seemed a bit unfair to attack Ticketmaster for “making a technical mistake” when Springsteen holds so many tickets from his own fans. The Newark Star Ledger had published an article that 2,300 tickets were held back by Springsteen’s management for New Jersey friends and V.I.P.s — most of the tickets closest to the stage.

The paper, though, did not report that 95% of the tickets closet to the stage were in fact always available directly to fans.

Of course Springsteen, like all bands, talent and producers, takes holds on tickets. That’s nothing new. It is also not new that Springsteen is at the top of any list that identifies a performer’s devotion to his fans. Springsteen events are not only fan friendly, they are fan fun. In fact, Springsteen changed the nature of live rock performance by playing sets that are longer, better, and a test of his band’s endurance. Springsteen clearly lives for live performance, as do his fans.

Ticketmaster also lives for live performance. It is easy to forget that Ticketmaster solved a significant problem. It was not too long ago that producers lamented the corruption epidemic in box offices: box office managers holding tickets for friends, selling tickets on the side for their own gain, and skimming money off the top. There was no accountability and no transparency. Ticketmaster provided a system that made accountability integral and transparency a key to the service.

The “glitch” or the greed, depending on your p.o.v., was solved and Ticketmaster promised more transparency about ticket availability.

Box office personnel at too many venues are still some of the worst representatives of customer service. (Go ahead and try to have a pleasant experience at the Hirschfeld Theatre — “What the Arts Need to Learn from a Shoe Salesman”).

The live arts need Ticketmaster. For the most part, they are the best middleman to handle the volume, create open access, and run a fair system. As in all enterprises, the more transparency the better.

Ticketmaster is not the enemy. More often than not for the arts, Ticketmaster is a solid friend.

- Bill Reichblum

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9 Responses to “Who Should Be the Ticket Master?”

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