In 2018, Ticketmaster came under significant fire over reports detailing the company’s deep relationships with large-scale ticket resale operators. Its so-called “secret scalper program” brought scrutiny from public officials, condemnation from members of the public, and a number of lawsuits alleging that the largest ticketing operation in the world was rigging the game against consumers and playing both sides of the fence.
It doesn’t appear that the feedback has led to any changes in behavior from the Live Nation Entertainment-owned ticketing behemoth, which is preparing to market its services to ticket resale operations at this week’s World Ticket Conference in Las Vegas.
“Join us as we detail how we are welcoming back fans, supporting content, and enabling buyers and sellers for an epic event season,” reads the event teaser for Ticketmaster Resale’s panel at WTC, which is put on by the National Association of Ticket Brokers.
“For over a year, we were missing live events. Today, we are experiencing an amazing resurgence. With accelerating fan demand, concerts and festivals are selling out in record time. Twice as many artists are lined up to tour. Sports teams are selling tickets for full capacity for events. The magic of live is returning and Ticketmaster Resale is ready.”
The panel features Ticketmaster Marketplace Executive VP and Global General Manager Larry Plawsky, along with VP and General Manager of Ticketmaster Resale Casey Klein, and VP of Product Management for Ticketmaster Resale Phil Volini. Ticketmaster Resale is also one of four “Diamond” sponsors of the conference as a whole.
Plawsky has been integral to the growth of the Ticketmaster Resale brand and its set of tools for professional ticket resellers including Trade Desk, which allows professional sellers to almost immediately post purchase tickets for resale across Ticketmaster platforms, while other company products such as SafeTix actively discourage the use of competing marketplaces for events held at Live Nation/Ticketmaster venues.
Ticketmaster has long been involved in the ticket resale business, despite its numerous actions taken to make it harder for consumers and professionals alike to sell tickets on platforms that they do not directly control or profit from. They have not kept that fact a secret, in fact, indicated by the notation that this will be Plawsky’s sixth time appearing at World Ticket Conference as a speaker.
However, the disclosure of the reporting from the Ticket Summit conference in 2018 shed a far harsher light on how the company operates in the resale world, and the enormous conflicts of interest inherent to that fact.
“We don’t spend any time looking at your ticketmaster.com account. I don’t care what you buy. It doesn’t matter to me,” a Ticketmaster Resale sales agent told reporters posing as ticket resellers from Ontario considering the Trade Desk system for their own resale operations in 2018. “There’s a total separation between Ticketmaster and our division. It’s church and state… We don’t monitor that at all.”
What the sales agent was referring to was ticket purchase limits put in place by the company’s primary marketplace side – limits that purportedly help consumers get tickets over professional resellers. He was admitting that the company’s resale operation turned a blind eye to those who violated those limits, as long as they were using the company’s resale platform to move that inventory. Ticketmaster, of course, was quick to condemn the remarks and deny that any program to assist “scalping” existed, but the damage was largely done.
In the wake of the bombshell story, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) composed a letter to Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino demanding answers.
“CBC News reported that Ticketmaster . . . recruits and employs professional ticket scalpers to circumvent the ticket purchasing limits on its own primary ticket sales platform in an effort to expand its ticket resale division,” the senators wrote. “According to the article, Ticketmaster utilizes a professional reseller program called TradeDesk, which provides a web-based inventory for scalpers to effectively purchase large quantities of tickets from Ticketmaster’s primary ticket sales website and resell these tickets for higher prices on its own resale platform.”
“Citing examples of TradeDesk users moving up to several million tickets per year, the allegations of the harms to consumers made in this piece are serious and deserve immediate attention,” the senators continued.
Several lawsuits were filed alleging malfeasance on the part of Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment, while the Federal Trade Commission convened a workshop to examine the entire ticketing ecosystem, which was followed in short order by a renewed push for the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) legislation.
Despite all the noise, Ticketmaster largely escaped the hubbub from the reporting unscathed, though it did see its consent decree with the Department of Justice extended after numerous allegations of anti-competitive behavior from other ticketing entities. That said, it is somewhat surprising to see the company once again taking such a public role in a conference run by and for the benefit of the professional ticket resale community.
An email sent to Live Nation Entertainment’s media relation department regarding the company’s participating at World Ticket Conference has not received a response as of Thursday morning.