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Ticket prices: Something we can all agree on

By Hannah Selinger | RAW STORY COLUMNIST

If I had magical powers, the first thing I would do is make Ticketmaster disappear.

Seriously. Enough talk of abortions, Terri Schiavo, the Papal death, the broken economy, the filibuster, the war in Iraq, the Christian Coalition, and the Bush Administration. I want to talk about tickets.


It was one thing when I failed to get World Series tickets to see my beloved Yankees crush the Mets in 2000. Back then, in what now seems like a prehistoric era, technology was not as advanced, and dedicated fans had to use the telephone to get tickets, which meant listening to the busy signal for an hour before an operator got on the line and announced that the games had been sold out.

Okay, I could accept that. It was the World Series. Everyone wanted to go see New York’s finest play New York’s… second finest. Sure, I knew scalpers were making the most of the situation, buying the tickets in bulk and then selling bleacher seats for $500 a pop. But when your team is playing for the ring, you can almost overlook that kind of thievery.

Almost. One year later, I found myself fighting the phone lines again, this time to get tickets to see my team get slaughtered by the Arizona’s dynamic duo, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. In return, I got a busy signal and a prime place on a friend’s couch when, to my chagrin, I was unable to get tickets.

Sometimes baseball is best enjoyed from the privacy of one’s home, so not going to those games wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ll concede defeat on those two hard-fought battles because I still had access to the games, which were, after all, nationally televised. This morning, however, marked a very different milestone in my history with Ticketmaster.

All I wanted to do was see the Boss in Boston. Bruce Springsteen is playing an acoustic tour with a one-night stop at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre. I came to work a half hour early; I logged on to Ticketmaster before the tickets went on sale; I made a pact with myself to incur credit card debt on the Boss’ behalf.

The precaution turned out to be a waste of time. At 9:02, exactly two minutes after the tickets had gone on sale, the concert was sold out. At 9:03, and eBay and other scalper havens were selling my tickets for over three times face value, despite the Ticketmaster promise: “In the spirit of fair access and to ensure Bruce’s fans obtain premium seating, this event is a “WILL CALL ONLY” event. UPS, ticketFast, and regular mail will not be available as delivery choices.”

Now, hold on. Fair Access? Premium Seating? For whom? Paying a scalper $300 for $75 tickets is not ‘fair access’ and reading about the concert’s set list the day after on is not really ‘premium seating.’ Sure, I’m bitter about the tickets, but I’m more incensed about the inability of normal people to go to normal concerts for normal prices. Springsteen may be a legend, and he may have a legendary following, but this should not preclude non-legendary Americans from seeing him play.

In an age of corporate dominance, what room is there for ordinary people and ordinary concerns? The tickets were overpriced in the first place, fetching between $75 and $85 per seat before the absurd Ticketmaster processing fee. Now, opportunist scalpers are selling the seats for even more ridiculous prices—one Craig’s List poster offered balcony seats for $900 apiece.

If they were serious about ‘fair access,’ Ticketmaster would have established a more equitable process years ago. But the truth is, the company needs to sell tickets, and it is not their concern how those tickets get sold. If a scalper hacks into the system and buys each and every seat in Boston’s Orpheum, Ticketmaster still makes money. If Bruce Springsteen plays a sold-out concert to an empty theater, Ticketmaster walks away unscathed.

Some years ago, Eddie Vedder, lead singer for the Seattle-based band Pearl Jam, engaged in a year-long legal debate with Ticketmaster, refusing to allow Pearl Jam tickets to be sold through them. Vedder’s point was valid and promptly overlooked: Ticketmaster is a monopoly, owning access to almost every ticket at every venue for every concert nationwide. They can charge whatever processing fees they want and they can conveniently ignore the rampant scalping problem because their business is never in jeopardy.

Not getting tickets to a concert may seem like a small issue and, really, it is a small issue, unless you see it as emblematic of the growing conflict between business and people. Big business is, in truth, never concerned with the every day struggles of every day Americans, and Ticketmaster’s behavior makes that strikingly clear. Consider it just another notch on the belt of a country that has turned its back on Americans in favor of corporate interest.


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