Everyone Hops on Concert Ticketing Fee Bandwagon – By Creating an Oligopoly

Slightly Unhinged Twitter Thread from Camper Van Beethoven Frontman Reveals Pending Legislation Proposals Written by…You Guessed It, StubHub

Lately a ton has been written and said regarding the exorbitant ticket prices for major tours like Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift. All this hullabaloo (great word) got started with headlines about $5,000+ tickets for shows by such big name artists.

Obviously the typical working man who loves Bruce Springsteen may find it a little hard scrounging through his truck’s ashtrays to piece together $5,000 for a ticket, so that got a lot of people wondering why these prices are so damn high.

The reason: fees. Or something like that. Major ticketing services like Ticketmaster, Stubhub, and the like make their money off of transaction fees when you buy tickets through them. They also tend to price their tickets based on a “dynamic” pricing model which can lead to crazy volatility of concert ticket prices especially when tours for big name artists initially go on sale.

However, that can be a double edged sword. Just days ahead of the start of Springsteen’s new tour, tickets (albeit shitty nosebleed seats in an arena) are going for $6.

So if you want to see your favorite band on tour, expect to mortgage your house for the third time, or wait for a resale opportunity a day before the show. Third party ticket exchanges exist, and often for smaller more indie shows fans will sell directly to each other at face value through social media or in the local community.

But all this talk has now tickled the likes of the DOJ and legislatures around the country to put together investigations and proposed laws that would limit the ability for ticket brokers on the primary market to charge outrageous fees based on outrageous ticket prices. Nothing like a short period of widespread outrage to turn on any politician looking for an easy bi-partisan win to make people think they are still doing their job.

In walks David Lowery, the frontman of alt rockers Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, who currently still tours, but also works as a music professor at the University of Georgia and regularly rants on twitter, typically about things relating to his specialty of music copyright law. However, this time he’s uncovering to the music world the truth behind many of the recently proposed regulation around ticketing, and it’s not as big a win for the little guy as you may think.

I’ll allow his twitter thread to do most of the talking (David please don’t sue me, let’s agree this is just fair use)

IMPORTANT: Heads up. Georgia Legislature is considering a law to limit ticketing fees (Yay!) But its written by StubHub and would also make it illegal for anyone but ticket brokers to resell tickets (Boo). It’s basically the StubHub perpetual monopoly act.

Further it’s written so broadly it might make artist fan club sales also illegal. Never mind that there are thousands of artist-venue contracts out there that dictate the transferability of tickets, that would retroactively be made invalid.

The hilarious thing is it’s being sold as a pro-market intervention, when it is literally writing into law stub hubs position in the market. Look we all hate Ticketmaster ticketing fees, but StubHub is literally the worst company in the music business. There is no value add.

The reason it’s so hard to buy in demand tickets is because StubHub has incentivized the use of bots and boiler rooms to scoop up all the ticket. They are actually the root of the problem. Further StubHub lobbyists are simultaneously doing this in at least 5 states.

This is a kind of corporate law fare, with the worst company in the music business (Stub Hub) using state legislatures to exact revenge on a competitor. Do not fall for this bill. It doesn’t do what it says and it will make everything worse.

If StubHub wants to make more money or acquire more customers, they should do what the rest of us do. Provide a good product, innovate, add value. Not demand state legislatures write into law that consumers must use their service. GET A FUCKING JOB STUB HUB.

Also When indy clubs/artists create consumer friendly tickets, i.e. non-transferable but refundable ticket sales, they take the ticket back from the buyer refund the money and resell it at face value. This law makes that explicitly illegal.

the club would have to stiff the ticket holder, that is, not refund the ticket, or the club would have to violate private contract with artist and make ticket transferable and force consumer to sell it to a broker like stubhub.

Originally tweeted by David C Lowery (@davidclowery) on February 23, 2023.

Me after reading this:

So if I understand this all correctly, basically the ticket brokers like Stubhub (quick aside – probably not really a monopoly since there are other ticket brokers like Stubhub in existence, more like an oligopoly, but who’s counting?) who operate in a secondary market of ticket transfers would be legislating in a more restrictive way than what already exists (I feel like ticket scalping is already illegal if not at least against 99% of venue rules) the ability for any parties (aside from themselves of course) to resell tickets on the secondary market. Which to me sounds like it only creates a more restrictive, less efficient overall ticket market, even if the idea of these types of laws is to create effective price ceilings.

And as a University-educated economist (chuckles to self while writing), isn’t the market already dictating fair prices here? Just because some VIP tickets to shows of A-list artists are really expensive doesn’t imply anything nefarious. Secondary markets help drive those prices down, but why would we need to protect those brokers from the evils of people doing things themselves or selling something to a friend? It’s just an easy political win in the short term if it seems like politicians are actually trying to do something to help their constituents, but as we know this will probably bring more harm than good, even if well intended.

And neither will I. Because why would anyone want to actually live in Georgia?

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