An undercover investigation by the Toronto Star and Canadian Broadcasting Company appear to show that, contrary to their vehement anti-scalping pubic posture, Ticketmaster is courting ticket brokers, profiting by providing special accounts and software and generally willing to turn a blind eye to violations of the company’s own contracts and ticketing policies.
In July, reporters from the Star and CBC, posing as Canadian ticket brokers, went undercover at Ticket Summit 2018 in Las Vegas and discussed the broker business with a number of Ticketmaster reps.
While Ticketmaster has long maintained that it works hard to detect and fight bots, and limits per person ticket sales to ensure that fans have access to tickets, you wouldn’t know it listening to their sales reps.
At the convention, Ticketmaster was touting a proprietary product, “Trade Desk” which allows ticket brokers to sync their primary and secondary accounts and manage secondary market ticket listing. While it seems like such software and its inventory controls would provide Ticketmaster with some insights into who was manipulating its service to obtain large amounts of tickets for resale at marked up prices, that does not appear to be the case.
“I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred Ticketmaster accounts.”
In a conversation with someone the reporters identify as a Ticketmaster sales rep, the rep assures the reporters that they shouldn’t be concerned about Ticketmaster using Ticketdesk to police broker services.
“I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred Ticketmaster accounts,” one Trade Desk sales exec told the reporters posing as brokers.
“We don’t spend any time looking at your Ticketmaster.com account. I don’t care what you buy. It doesn’t matter to me,” the Trade Desk sales executive added. “There’s total separation between Ticketmaster and our division. It’s church and state … We don’t monitor that at all.”
"you’re not going to make a living on eight tickets"
The sales rep also seemed to indicate that Ticketmaster is aware that brokers use multiple accounts to harvest large volumes of event tickets from Ticketmaster.
“They have to because if you want to get a good show and the ticket limit is six or eight (seats), you’re not going to make a living on eight tickets,” the rep told reporters.
Such secondary sales have long represented a significant conflict of interest for Ticketmaster. As the Toronto Star/CBC reporters noted, when Ticketmaster sells collects one set of fees for sales on the primary market, they can then collect a second, often larger fees when the same ticket is resold on the secondary market.
While the sales rep at Ticket Summit might be exaggerating to make a sale, his pitch wasn’t an isolated incident. According to the Toronto Star/CBC team, a sales exec for Trade Desk provided similar assurances during a video conference last spring.
“We’ve spent millions of dollars on this tool, so the last thing we’d want to do is, you know, get brokers caught up to where they can’t sell inventory with us,” the sales exec told the reporters. “We’re not trying to build a better mousetrap. I think the last thing we want to do is impair your ability to sell inventory. That’s our whole goal here on the resale side of the business.”
In response to a detailed set of questions from the CBC/Toronto Star, a rep for Ticketmaster said: “Our number one priority is to get tickets into the hands of fans so that they can go to the events they love,” Andrew Parsons, Ticketmaster U.K. managing director, said in a statement. “We know that fans are tired of seeing tickets being snapped up just to find them being resold for a profit on secondary websites, so we have taken action. Closing down our secondary sites and creating a ticket exchange on Ticketmaster has always been our long-term plan.”