The following is a transcript of Irving Azoff’s opening remarks from the “Ticketing Real Talk: Reforms, Resolutions and Risks” Pollstar Live! panel which featured artist Garth Brooks, Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan and former attorney general for the United States Department of Justice’s antitrust division Makan Delrahim. (A video of the entire panel can also be viewed here.)
There has been a lot of talk recently about what’s wrong with ticketing, but there is a substantial disconnect between the complaints and the proposed solutions. There is a DOJ investigation, Congressional hearings, and proposed legislation in several states, including here in California. All from people outside the industry who don’t really understand how it works.
No one cares more about fans than the artist and the artist’s team. The reality is that we have all grown the live entertainment business tremendously over the past two decades. More fans are seeing more shows. In 2022, the live music business in the U.S. was $12 billion dollars. That is quadruple what it was in the early 2000s. That comes from investment by artists, buildings and promotors to provide a great fan experience.
However, even with that growth, the biggest issue now is that demand exceeds supply for many artists. Simple economics. More people want to see Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Adele, than there are tickets for sale. Unfortunately, that means they satisfy every fan that wants to see them.
For instance, when Adele played Madison Square Garden, 4 million Adele fans logged on to buy 100,000 or so tickets. With some pretty simple math there, you arrive at over 3 million disappointed people. There’s not a congressional hearing in the world that fixes that reality. Demand exceeds supply. There is nothing that Ticketmaster, the building or the promoter can do to fix that.
Whenever demand exceeds supply in any industry, there will always be bad actors looking to turn desperation into profit. Enter the scalpers and today’s massive secondary ticketing market. The biggest factors driving exorbitantly priced tickets and lack of face value ticket availability to the general public are scalpers and the secondary ticketing companies that provide a platform to scalp tickets on a large scale as a business model.
Scalping has always been a problem for the concert industry, but it only got to be a critical problem for the industry when the tech companies got involved and created these huge scale platforms like Vivid, StubHub and SeatGeek that profit from every scalper sale. These companies and the scalpers for whom they create a safe harbor have turned the secondary market into a $5B per year (going to $10B by 2027). And none of that profit makes its way back to the artist or any facet of our industry that has actually invested in the artist and the artform. These companies have no skin in the game, have invested nothing, risked nothing, created nothing, yet they reap the lion’s share of the profit. How does that make sense?
What these companies have invested in is technology and lobbyists:
- Their technology allows them to create bots that pretend like they are fans and “steal” massive amounts of the tickets that the artist so desperately wanted to go to their fans at a reasonable price. Then, of course, they resell these tickets for a huge mark-up and keep all the profit for themselves, hurting the fan and the artist.
- Then their lobbyists are allowing them to turn the attention of Congress away from their greedy, predatory business models, to demonize Ticketmaster and actually make laws to support and protect scalpers instead of artists or fans.
Maybe that is why, once again, many legislators don’t understand the issue and are focusing on the wrong thing. All of a sudden, the conversation about ticket prices has devolved into a conversation that seems to primarily be about ticketing fees. If we could all agree to have the transparency of an “all-in” ticketing price, that whole controversy would go away immediately.
No artist wants their fans to have to pay for a ticket that is exponentially higher than face value. All artists want a limit on ticket scalping and more protections for their fans.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Washington isn’t focused on the real issue and is screwing artists and their fans. Our government has a long history of screwing artists – we don’t pay artists when songs are played on the radio (Iran, North Korea, and China are our partners in that) and we allow huge tech companies like YouTube and Facebook to use safe harbor protections and build massive businesses on artist’s backs without properly paying them. Legislators may be jumping up and down about Tik Tok now, but they allowed Tik Tok to grow into the behemoth it is today through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
So, after having thoroughly undercut artist rights in the areas of radio and the internet, now they are going to “fix” ticketing? Great track record.
A common refrain in this discussion of ticketing is the Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger and how it is somehow making tickets harder to purchase. What horseshit! Let’s look at a progress report on the merger. 13 years later:
- Ticketmaster’s market share has actually gone down, not increased.
- The ticketing market has never been more competitive than it is right now.
- The biggest trend in the industry is the emergence of the massive secondary market, of which Ticketmaster holds only a modest share among many strong competitors.
So, the monopolistic, anti-competitive horror stories that were trotted out in opposition to the merger weren’t true 13 years ago and they aren’t true now, but you wouldn’t know that if you were listening to Congressional hearing sound bites or reading clickbait headlines.
Need I remind everyone that, at the time of the merger, Ticketmaster was required to license their technology to Comcast (who purchased Paciolan) and Phil Anschutz. Neither of them were interested.
I’m sure, we’re going to get into this a little further with our panel, but one of the ill-informed legislative “solutions” to ticketing issues, is to create laws providing for completely unregulated ticket transferability. In reality, that helps no one but the scalpers.
If you really want fix ticketing:
- Let artists control how tickets can be sold, transferred, and resold,
- Enhance enforcement and laws against scalpers using bots to illegally get tickets,
- Make deceptive practices like speculative ticket listings illegal,
- And, Institute a federal mandate requiring all-in upfront pricing so fans see face value and all fees from the beginning.
To talk about these issues, we have brought together an incredible panel to give their perspective on the current state of ticketing, potential reform and what that means for artists, buildings and fans:
To provide us with his perspective as an artist, we are lucky to have the best-selling American solo artist of all time, an absolute record-shattering legend of live entertainment and a man that has consistently proven time and time again that the fans come first for him: Garth Brooks.
We are also fortunate to have Makan Delrahim here with us. Makan is former US Assistant Attorney General for the Antritrust Division of the Department of Justice and partner at Latham & Watkins. I first met Makan when he was Senator Orrin Hatch’s Chief of Staff. Senator Hatch was, himself, a songwriter and one of those rare Congressional figures who actually understood and cared about issues affecting artists. Makan carried that sprit with him as well and has been a faithful, knowledgeable and effective ally to artists and the music industry. And, finally, a man who is uniquely suited to weigh in on these issues as he is both a musical artist and a venue owner and operator, my friend, the visionary behind the Las Vegas Spheres and the CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Jim Dolan.