I can no longer use risk exposure to Covid19 as a reason for avoiding super spreader concerts. Unless the concert is broadcast on a premium channel or streamed, there is no way I would be able to afford in person any more. It should not have taken Taylor Swift to become the poster child for a ticket sales monopoly and legalized scalping to bring this problem to light.
Growing up in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, we basically had two local venues to see concerts before making the farther drive to Philadelphia. We had the Allentown Fairgrounds and Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena. Both provided great seats and a great concert (depending on who the band was). The poster pictured above, was a few years before I started going to concerts. Needless to say, I am sure this was a great concert. Two things stand out on this poster. The first, there are two prices for tickets, $6.50 if you bought them in advance, $7.50 if you bought them at the gate, or as the poster warns, “if available.”
The second, “Ticketron, in a font demonstrative of computer language, was the ticketing agency for this concert. Ticketron was a computerized ticket purchasing company started in 1960 until 1990, when it was taken over by… wait for it, Ticketmaster. However, you did not have to buy the tickets through Ticketron. There were several ticket windows outside of the Fairgrounds that you could walk up to, and slap a $10 bill on the counter for a ticket, and avoid all the other fees.
A few years later, I would purchase my first concert tickets. I saw Def Leppard at the Allentown Fairgrounds, and Chicago at Stabler Arena. Being a teenager, I did not have a credit card, so using Ticketron was not an option for me. I had to buy my tickets at the box offices for each venue. If memory serves me correctly, I paid less than $15 for each ticket. Also worthy of note, I only paid the price of the ticket and the state sales tax.
In 1984, a new standard had been set for concerts, courtesy of Bruce Springsteen, one of the first artists to institute a “ticket purchase limit,” due to the popular release of Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” album. Fans would line up overnight for chances to purchase the limit, if I remember, six tickets, or call Ticketron. While purchasing the tickets over the phone had its conveniences, there was also a major inconvenience. You had no way of knowing the quality of the seats your were purchasing unless you were familiar with the venue. But if you purchased your tickets from the ticket window, you had a map layout of the entire venue, to see what you had to choose from. Today, you get offered whatever tickets Ticketmaster presents to you. Don’t like those tickets, back out, and try again, and again, and again. Eventually you might get good tickets, or maybe none at all. Sold out, and then onto…
The limit on purchasing tickets did not have as much to do with limiting anyone from buying tickets, but rather to prevent ticket “scalping.” Scalping is the act of re-selling the tickets at an increased value above the face value. There are no federal laws to prevent making a profit off of re-selling tickets. Left up to the states, some states, like New York, New Jersey, even Florida have laws against making one penny above the face value of the ticket. Some states, like Texas and Ohio, have no laws preventing scalping. And Alabama? Well, they have a scalping law, but it includes having to prove that the person scalping, had a history or reputation of being a scalper.
In the 1990’s, Ticketmaster gobbled up Ticketron, which combined had 90% of the computerized ticketing business. And from there, Ticketmaster cleaned up any other smaller ticketing agencies, until it had its monopoly. Government regulations allowed this to happen. We allowed this to happen. And that is one reason ticket prices have skyrocketed, no competition. But there is another reason.
Remember scalping? In the old days, as you arrived at the concert, you would have two types of people outside, those looking to buy a ticket (unable to before hand), and those willing to conveniently “sell” their tickets, at a higher “lack of convenience for you” price. Scalping. Today, it has been modernized, and seemingly, still legal, even in the states with laws prohibiting it. Just Google the word “scalping,” and the first three sites listed are not for “what is scalping,” but rather, three “re-selling” agencies, including the most popular of them, Stub Hub.
For the most part, no one has really paid attention to the prices on Stub Hub whether for a concert or professional sports. But now thanks to the Swift fiasco, Stub Hub is front and center with Swift concert tickets selling well into the thousands of dollars. Scalping. But as I said, scalping is another reason for ticket prices increasing. Because now the artists see the profits being made from scalping off of their performance, and feel, why shouldn’t they get to benefit from it, leading to increased ticket costs. No one can blame the artist. But I have no problem saying either, no one is worth thousands to see perform. And I do wonder, of these people shelling out these prices, are they also the ones complaining about the economy and inflation? Because this is the shit that contributes to it.
I don’t recall how much I paid for my last concert tickets, though I know it was under $100. And that was in the 2000’s. But back in 1994, the band the Eagles reunited after they swore Hell would have to freeze over before they would perform together again, and just like that, Hell dropped to 32 degrees, and the dawn of $100 tickets was born. A 3-day ticket to the original Woodstock was $18 in 1969. In 1994, tickets to the 2-day Woodstock festival went for $120.
I have seen my share of concerts in my life. As a parent, I was prepared to have to attend concerts with my daughters and bands that I really could not stand such as One Direction, Justin Bieber, and BTS, and yes, Taylor Swift. But my daughters, having been exposed to all genres of music, are drawn more to the older acts, at this point, appearing to be nothing more than tribute bands, barely holding on to any remaining original members, most now in their 70’s. Don’t get me wrong, bands like Foreigner, Styx, and Journey still put on a great show. I would just say not worth all the fees that Ticketmaster adds onto the price of a ticket.
I am happy for those that have been fortunate enough to find the goose with the golden eggs. Have a good time. But for me, I must relegate to concert DVD’s, streaming, and rockumentaries. And I am okay with that.