Un-Scaping A Goat
We’ll get to that chat in a moment, but first I want to explain how I got there.
Early this morning, I got wind of a story written by Helen Kennedy at New York Daily News about fans fuming over a pair of Leonard Cohen shows at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. (Who would have thought that a man who once lived as a Buddhist monk could ever get embroiled in so much controversy?)
Kennedy reported that tickets sold out in a matter of seconds and people were directed to a couple of our old friends.
From the New York Daily News:
Would-be buyers were told they could visit a Ticketmaster affiliate called TicketExchange, where ducats were going for nearly $1000 apiece – roughly four times the face value of the best seats in the house.
Meanwhile, TicketsNow, a controversial subsidiary of Ticketmaster, was selling tickets for up to $1844 each.
Sound familiar? Apparently Kennedy was way more worked up about this issue than I ever got though, because she brought the government into it.
“This seems to be the kind of sleight of hand we have come to expect from Ticketmaster and it cannot be allowed to continue,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“Time and time again, Ticketmaster appears to be going out of its way to prevent concertgoers from paying face value for tickets.”
Both of my Ticketmaster posts have drawn plenty of heated comments from frustrated fans. But Kennedy managed to find some who went for the jugular.
“Ticketmaster? Their heads should be on pikes in the town square,” said Bryan Brown, 53, an editor at Scholastic.
Yikes! (By the way, doesn’t Scholastic publish children’s books?)
Kennedy contacted Ticketmaster, which explained – via a spokesman – the tickets that went on sale for Radio City Music Hall yesterday really did sell out in seconds.
“It happens with such blazing speed these days,” said Ticketmaster spokesman Albert Lopez. “There was a lot of demand. There was a huge profile piece [on Cohen] in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago, and he hasn’t toured in forever.”
And then Kennedy wrote something that jumped off the page at me and smacked me upside the head.
Lopez insisted the pricey ducats on TicketExchange are kosher because he said they were not originally offered for sale at a lower value.
He said what? After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this. Because if Lopez actually said that, it proves that some regular tickets never hit the primary market but are diverted to a secondary sales site instead, doesn’t it?
So I emailed Lopez, who called me within minutes to explain he never said any such thing. Here’s most of our conversation, word for word. Pay attention here, you’ll learn a couple of things. I certainly did.
Thanks for getting back to me. Is the statement attributed to you in the New York Daily News today about TicketExchange true?
“I’m quoted as saying something that’s incorrect in the Daily News today. I did not give that quote. I did not come close to giving that quote.”
What do you think you said that got misconstrued?
“Here’s the whole thing. She called up asking about Leonard Cohen tickets on sale. She said she had a number of ‘screaming fans’ and she was trying to link it to the same situation that happened with the Feb. 2 Bruce Springsteen onsale.
“I said, ‘It’s two totally different situations – two totally different scenarios.’
“I told her that I actually had the exact number of tickets that were made available for the onsale but because the venue and the promoter owned it, I couldn’t give her the exact number. But I said there was a substantially reduced number of tickets that were made available in that onsale – like substantially reduced.
“She said, ‘Okay, well what about TicketExchange? What’s the deal behind TicketExchange?’
“I had previously sent her the FAQ off of Ticketmaster.com that described what VIP tickets or platinum tickets were. I said, ‘The ticket inventory that’s available for Leonard Cohen are platinum tickets.’
“I showed her, over the phone, how to navigate through the Web site so that she could see that they were the exact same tickets. I said, ‘Those tickets are placed on sale in primary at the exact same time the general public onsale occurs. They are primary, not resale. And they’re tickets that the artist, the venue or the promoter have priced closer to true market value – because they’re great seats.’
“She said, ‘Well Sen. Schumer’s office is going to call and make a comment about this. I think that they’re going to say that it’s resale. And that it’s a TicketsNow situation.’
“I said, ‘It’s totally and completely different.’ And I reiterated the definition of what a platinum ticket is and how those platinum tickets come to be – and how they’re available at general onsale. And how they’re priced and who prices them.”
Why are those tickets placed in TicketExchange? There’s usually a place for VIP tickets or packages on the main event page.
“That’s exactly where they were placed.”
So they weren’t on a separate site. They were in two places. I saw VIP tickets on the page when I bought tickets yesterday.
“What happened was, there’s confusion over the name of the application and the type of ticket that it is. The application that is used is called TicketExchange. That’s a software application. The actual tickets that are listed on there are VIP tickets or platinum tickets.”
I think the confusion comes from the fact that many people – including me, I have to admit – are perceiving TicketExchange as a secondary ticketing site.
“And it absolutely isn’t. And that’s what I told her. I never, ever said that this ‘was kosher because they were not originally offered for sale.’ What I said was, ‘The platinum tickets that are available on TicketExchange or the marketplace tab – whichever way you want to go, you’ll get to the same platinum ticket – those are primary. They have not been resold. And the primary prices are set closer to true market value because they are awesome tickets.”
Let me go over that again, because it’s important. TicketExchange is not, repeat not, a secondary ticketing site. It’s just another way to get to VIP tickets. The tickets there were never regular priced tickets.
And the person selling those tickets at inflated prices isn’t a scalper/broker/disgruntled fan. It’s the artist, the venue or the show’s promoter. Everyone clear now? I know I am and I really appreciate Mr. Lopez for taking time out to pull back the curtain a little.
I still think the practice is unfair to fans who can’t afford to buy those tickets, but it explains why it can be so hard to get seats at regular prices. And even though it’s not technically reselling, it still kind of amounts to the same thing.
It just seems like there must be a way to make everyone happy, from the fan all the way up the chain. Ideas?
Read Helen Kennedy’s New York Daily News story here.