On the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the main story was about the high price of concert tickets, from the actual price of the tickets, to the many service charges they tack on, to the very lucrative secondary market. Unsurprisingly, much of piece focuses on Ticketmaster. “They [say they] strive to put fans first, and that the people we care most about are the fans,” Oliver said. “And yet, as anyone who has ever bought from them knows, that’s generally not the feeling you get when you’re dealing with them.”
Oliver also discusses why shows "sell out" so quickly: for many shows, a majority of tickets never go on sale to the general public as they're held for partnership deals with credit card companies, fanclubs, and other promotions.
For further thought on why concert tickets are so expensive, especially ones to see superstars, it comes down to supply and demand. “An economist will tell you it’s worth whatever people will pay,” Oliver says. “So if someone is willing to spend over $2,000 including fees for an Adele ticket” – which is what Adele's Vegas residency tickets go for – “that is what it’s worth, as gross as that sounds. But if Adele doesn’t want to charge that, there is going to be a gap between the face value of the ticket and what someone can get for it, and a whole industry is going to scramble in to exploit it. When you take all of this together, the reason tickets are so hard to get when they’re on sale is that they’re often not on sale, and the reason they cost so much on the secondary market is that you’re paying exorbitant fees to the platform and might be buying from a broker or in rare cases, even from the artist themselves.”
At the center of it, Oliver concludes, is "Ticketmater, that turbocharged so many of these shitty practices that have now become industry standard." What can be done? Congress could pass legislation to make Ticketmaster and other ticket companies more transparent, but he notes that it may come down to the artists themselves, like Pearl Jam, who created a fan resale site for their postponed 2020 tour where tickets went for face value with no resale fees. “But if regulators don’t act and artists don’t have the clout or the inclination to require companies to put those guardrails in place, I’m afraid you as a fan are going to remain vulnerable to the worst parts of this system.”
Watch the whole segment below.