That TicketMaster has a monopoly on the sale of event tickets in North America is not in dispute. Now that they have achieved that monopoly, however, how should they behave? Case in point, my own attempts to buy tickets for Leonard Cohen’s Ottawa show on May 25 / 26. After advertising all last week that the tickets would go on sale at 10:00 AM today, not a ticket was available by 10:03. It’s inconceivable that all 4,800 seats sold out in 3 minutes. Inconceivable.
No, two things happened:
- Ticketmaster’s partnership with American Express – the Front of the Line program which allows AMEX card holders to purchase tickets 7 days in advance of the general public – is being abused by scalpers who snap up tickets in advance of the show and sell them on eBay.
- Ticketmaster themselves have effectively become ticket scalpers with their sister site TicketsNow which sells tickets for prices dramatically higher than their face value.
As of 10:03, eBay sellers had the tickets. I could buy from a gentleman in Norwalk Connecticut. However, no tickets were available locally in Ottawa, where the show was taking place.
The venue for the show is Canada’s National Arts Center – a tax payer subsidized facility constructed in the 1960’s to showcase Canadian art. A Canadian artist is coming to play the venue. No tickets are available to Canadian fans, except via US scalpers. It’s offensive.
It’s clear there’s no competition in the ticketing business any more. Perhaps it’s time trustbusters on both sides of the border looked into TicketMaster’s business practices. Imposing limits on pre-sales, and requiring TicketMaster to halt it’s own scalping business would be a good place to start.
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