Amid outcry over enabling scalpers, Ticketmaster revises its messaging | Public Relation
After reporters went undercover to reveal the underbelly of the
ticket-reselling ecosystem, Ticketmaster was in a PR pickle.
Reporters from the Toronto Star and CBC News attended a
ticket-selling conference in Las Vegas where representatives from
Ticketmaster seemed ready to help would-be scalpers circumvent the
company’s marketplace safeguards. The ticketing platform is a subsidiary of
Live Nation and controls much of the live event ticket trade in North
The controversy centers around a product called TradeDesk that helps
scalpers resell tickets.
In footage obtained by the journalists, a man purported to be a TradeDesk
sales representative told them that the scalpers he works with have
“literally a couple of hundred” Ticketmaster.com accounts apiece — a
huge swaths of tickets for resale, and that Ticketmaster’s “buyer abuse”
division does not investigate at least some TradeDesk users.
During the March video presentation, the CBC reports, a Ticketmaster
employee said that 100 scalpers across North America were using TradeDesk
to each sell somewhere between a few thousand and several million tickets
per year — “I think our biggest broker right now has probably grabbed
around five million,” the representative is reported to have said.
Scalpers make money by using bots to buy large numbers of tickets and then
resell them at higher prices—and Ticketmaster gets a cut both times the
ticket is sold.
CBC crunched the numbers for Bruno Mars concert held Saturday in Toronto.
Ticketmaster charged $350,000 in service fees for the Bruno Mars concert —
and then nearly doubled that revenue with resales.
[…] For example, Ticketmaster collected $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the
initial sale. When the owner posted it for resale for $400 on Ticketmaster,
the company stood to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket.
CBC counted more than 4,500 Bruno Mars resale tickets on Ticketmaster,
meaning that if Ticketmaster sells every seat in the arena for Saturday’s
show, it would collect an initial $350,000 in service fees, plus $308,000
in fees on scalped tickets, for a double-dipped total of $658,000.
Ticketmaster’s statement to CBC News didn’t address questions about its
After refraining from commenting on initial reporting, Ticketmaster now
denies it is working with scalpers—but acknowledges the existence of the
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Variety published its statement:
“It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to
enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of
consumers. Ticketmaster’s Seller Code of Conduct specifically prohibits
resellers from purchasing tickets that exceed the posted ticket limit for
an event. In addition, our policy also prohibits the creation of fictitious
user accounts for the purpose of circumventing ticket limit detection in
order to amass tickets.
“A recent CBC story found that an employee of Ticketmaster’s resale
division acknowledged being aware of some resellers having as many as 200
TradeDesk accounts for this purpose (TradeDesk is Ticketmaster’s
professional reseller product that allows resellers to validate and
distribute tickets to multiple marketplaces). We do not condone the
statements made by the employee as the conduct described clearly violates
our terms of service.
“The company had already begun an internal review of our professional
reseller accounts and employee practices to ensure that our policies are
being upheld by all stakeholders. Moving forward we will be putting
additional measures in place to proactively monitor for this type of
The response is much stronger than the original statement from
Ticketmaster, which implied scalping was an inescapable fact of the
In an earlier statement to CBC, Ticketmaster did say that as long as there
is an imbalance between supply and demand for live events, “there will
inevitably be a secondary market.”
“As the world’s leading ticketing platform, representing thousands of
teams, artists and venues, we believe it is our job to offer a marketplace
that provides a safe and fair place for fans to shop, buy and sell tickets
in both the primary and secondary markets,” wrote Catherine Martin, senior
vice-president of communications, based in Los Angeles.
Music industry insiders see this as a PR fiasco for Ticketmaster.
CBC shared its findings with Alan Cross, a veteran music journalist and
host of the radio program The Ongoing History of New Music, who
suspects the ticket-buying public will be far from impressed: “This is
going to be a public relations nightmare.”
He said there have been “whispers of this in the ticket-selling community,
but it’s never been outlined quite like this before.”
“It does seem a bit stinky, doesn’t it?”
Ticketmaster hasn’t made it easy to learn about the TradeDesk offering.
Neither TradeDesk nor the professional reseller program are mentioned
anywhere on Ticketmaster’s website or in its corporate reports. To access
the company’s TradeDesk website, a
person must first send in a registration request.
Angry social media users propose finding an alternative ticket source.
Ticketmaster is a scam start to finish. Artists and performers: let’s build a ticket infrastructure that gives this horseshit system some legitimacy and transparency.
— Kathleen Edwards (@kittythefool) September 19, 2018
Ticketmaster cares more about scalpers and $$ than fans.
This is shameful and hurts bands & concert goers.
They must be stopped.
Is there a band with enough capital that could start their own ticketing service?
That maximizes benefits to artists and fans?
We’ll call it Revolution https://t.co/CHPUkQ7ei8
— Lauren O’Neil (@laurenoneil) September 19, 2018
Shame on you, @Ticketmaster. https://t.co/7uIUDIwlYg
— Norm Kelly (@norm) September 19, 2018
— The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton) September 20, 2018
Others weren’t surprised by the reporting, perhaps indicating that Ticketmaster already had a reputation problem:
This @TorontoStar piece about Ticketmaster’s shadiness was pretty great and not the least bit shocking.https://t.co/rO2krJvNKA
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) September 20, 2018
I’m pretty sure Ticketmaster is so hated they can’t have a public relations nightmare. They could skin and eat Gordon Lightfoot, and I’d still have to use them to get tix.
— BA Johnston (@BAJohnston) September 19, 2018
Social media users clearly aren’t impressed with Ticketmaster’s statement, either:
@Ticketmaster your statement didn’t address the actual concerns the public has about your practices and those of your subsidiary TicketDesk. You’re still disgusting.https://t.co/j0Uuh78pzt
— Mitch Drew (@MDrew42) September 20, 2018
NPR notes that the statement fails to address the main allegation of the
CBC/Toronto Star report.
In a follow-up statement provided to NPR the morning of Sep. 20,
Ticketmaster denies having a program that allows customers to buy large
tranches of tickets, which was not at issue in the CBC/Star
What do you think of Ticketmaster’s response(s), PR Daily readers?