MOORHEAD – I had a chance to buy tickets to Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS world tour on Friday, Sept. 22. I entered the queue hopeful I could secure two tickets, any tickets, and left the queue enraged after the lowest pricings I saw were over $700 for two. And that’s before fees. And, as a college student who wants to save money where I can, I’ve got to voice my very popular opinion: ticket prices are way too expensive.
In fact, for just about every major show nowadays, fans are forced to pay ridiculous prices. Olivia, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, U2. Most of the time, the culprit is a little thing called “dynamic pricing”.
Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing (also known as “platinum pricing”) system uses supply and demand to determine ticket prices for a show.
The more popular a show, the higher the ticket prices will be. There are a few reasons for this. One, under this system, most of the money goes to the artists themselves. Two, this is supposed to deter resellers from buying tickets and then jacking up the price (more on that later).
However, it also has negative effects on the fans. Say a ticket that would normally be $200 gets marked up to be $500 after dynamic pricing. Sure, resellers probably won’t snatch that up, but the average fan who just wants to go to the concert won’t want it either. For fans on a budget, this is often a deterrent in going to the concert at all.
Not to mention that it’s unfair for people who get into the sale later on. For example, one Post Malone fan on Reddit showed the prices for two nearly identical lower bowl seats to a Canadian show of his Twelve Carat Tour last year. One seat cost $192 Canadian dollars, while the other, one row forward, cost $223, 20 minutes later. Fans who are lucky enough to leave the queue faster are going to get seats for much cheaper than those who don’t. Considering everyone’s spot in the queue is randomized, that just puts fans at a huge disadvantage for no fault of their own.
Artists can opt out of dynamic pricing — Swift and Ed Sheeran have for their recent tours. However, most artists do not.
In August 2022, Bruce Springsteen fans were irritated at the ticket prices to his Springsteen and E Street Band 2023 Tour, which soared to nearly $5,000 a seat at some shows due to dynamic pricing.
Springsteen defended the system in a Rolling Stone interview, saying that he didn’t want “the ticket broker or someone (to take) that money” away from “the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it”. And while I get his logic from an artist’s perspective, I don’t think allowing what’s essentially price gouging is the way to fix that problem.
A negotiation with Ticketmaster is one way to do it, or perhaps disallowing third-party sales so you can get some of that hard-earned cash. It’s not about making the fans pay extraordinary prices that no one wants to pay for.
Speaking of third-party sales, remember that whole “preventing reselling” excuse Ticketmaster had for the dynamic pricing system? Yeah, it’s not working. For just about every major concert these days, regardless of whether or not dynamic pricing was used, there’s ridiculous mark-ups being posted on sites like StubHub, aiming to scam fans out of thousands of dollars.
Using the Eras Tour as an example—which, need I remind you, did not use dynamic pricing—dozens of nosebleed seats behind the stage that were $49 in the regular sale were listed as being $1,037 for one of the Philadelphia dates, according to one TikTok.
Only 6 tickets were allowed to be bought at once during the Eras Tour sale, so that must either be several people committing an illegal price gouging scheme, or it’s a bot that Ticketmaster somehow allowed.
For an example of a tour that did use dynamic pricing, Harry Styles’ Love on Tour saw pit tickets have a rough range of $150-$300 during the official sale, with resale prices frequently soaring over $1,000 on StubHub. One fan on TikTok even saw a ticket listing for the hilariously awful number of $69,420. Clearly, this system does not stop resellers from getting their hands on tickets. As long as they mark up their prices, they’ll get their money back, so what does it matter if they spend a lot on tickets?
And, lastly, the fees. Ticketmaster is known for charging atrocious and suspiciously vague fees on their tickets. Here’s a personal example: for my two Eras Tour tickets (lower bowl, bought during the sale), I paid $418 total before fees. After fees, I paid $550. That’s a $132 markup! A small portion of that was taxes, but there were also service fees, facility charge fees, and order processing fees. Sometimes, these fees cost almost as much as the tickets themselves, like in one tweet where someone paid $92.10 in fees and $80 for tickets.
In a U.S. Senate hearing on Ticketmaster’s potential status as a monopoly over the ticket industry, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke out against these fees. “With Ticketmaster’s market power…why haven’t (they) done more to reduce fees?” she said. Klobuchar is right: if Ticketmaster has so much money already, why do they require these fees? And why are they so high? If my fees had been around $20-$30, I could kind of understand, but $132?! I think I can speak for everyone when I say those prices are too high.
I don’t know if this issue of overpriced tickets is going away anytime soon. After all, Ticketmaster is the dominant force in the ticket-buying space. As long as they don’t face repercussions, nothing’s going to change. Luckily, it seems like slowly but surely, those repercussions might be coming. The IRS just announced that resellers who mark up their tickets by $600 will have to pay taxes on them, which might help the reselling issue. There have also been several lawsuits filed against Ticketmaster’s monopolistic ways. Whether or not this changes anything, it at least exposes Ticketmaster’s shadiness.
For now, just don’t spend all your money on a concert ticket. Save those $700 for a rainy day. Or, perhaps, the next tour, hopefully with better prices.