What’s Going On In Ticketing? (Pollstar Live! Panel Recap)


Keith Sheldon, Hard Rock International & Seminole Gaming


Michele Bernstein, Michi B, Inc.
David Marcus, Ticketmaster
Nick Nuciforo, UTA
Jed Weitzman, Logitix

Earlier in the day, in a different panel about ticketing, country megastar Garth Brooks asked “If we make scalping illegal, doesn’t it solve all of this?”

It’s a fine thought and one that, perhaps, has some merit.

But Michele Bernstein did throw a little cold water on the notion in the “What’s Going On In Ticketing?” discussion follow-up.

“There will always be a secondary market as long as we live in a demand economy. It’s something that we all have to live with,” she said.

Not every artist or venue has the ability to do what Garth and others in the tip-top of the industry can do to fight back against scalpers. Not everyone can just add show after show after show night after night until supply meets demand. And there is a place the secondary market can answer questions.

“There’s a lot to learn from the secondary market that can help in primary and help everyone to understand what to do with it. That market isn’t going anywhere and understanding how to make it work for you is going to help the artist.” Logitix’s Jed Weitzman said.

In general, there’s more data than ever that can help agents and artists set ticket prices and help the former maintain the expectations of the latter. Weitzman said, his company can do massive amounts of research to provide a pricing plan, but if the artist’s team doesn’t buy it, they’ll call him crazy and double the recommended price.

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(L to R) Keith Sheldon, Michele Bernstein, David Marcus, Nick Nuciforo, Jed Weitzman

Ultimately, this business comes back to the artists and that’s a group increasingly plugged into the decision-making on tickets — and the group who hears complaints about them most directly.

“We can predict sales before the queue even opens and adjust the prices to price up to meet demand and to come down if the demand isn’t there or to even price below market. Our job is to provide tools to artists to allow them to choose,” Ticketmaster’s David Marcus said. “We give them tools to make their decisions. There are very few artists who ignore that.”

Often, as comedy agent Nick Nuciforo of UTA pointed out, the focus from all sides — artist and fan both — is on price, which he said is just one “lever” to maximizing gross. There’s also a way to simply sell more tickets. That’s an easier ask in his segment of the industry, because comics are used to working multiple sets in one night and because vocal fatigue is less of a factor, a comedian can do far more shows in a short period of time than can a rock band, for example, but fundamentally the mechanics are the same.

The discussion around ticketing has now made it to the halls of Congress and is unlikely to abate any time soon, particularly as more and more artists hit the road for more and bigger tours in a largely post-pandemic world.

And now, Marcus said, the loudest voices (read: those on Twitter and those elected to office) get the most attention and there’s no unified industry group who can advocate. Oftentimes, due to a combination of visibility and level of market share, the burden of being the face and voice of the live industry falls on Live Nation and Ticketmaster, but Marcus rightly pointed out they can’t act as an industry advocate because they must act in their own self-interest.

The panel — and many in the room — agreed such a lobbying force would be welcome, though whether that momentum results in action remains to be seen.