×

Ticketmaster Accused of Colluding With Scalpers

CBC/Toronto Star claims the company uses its TradeDesk platform to enable the kind of "buyer abuse" it outwardly criticizes.

Ticketmaster is essentially accused of colluding with scalpers — and collecting double fees in the process — in a bruising weeks-long investigation published by CBC and the Toronto Star Tuesday and today. The outlets sent two undercover reporters to a live-entertainment conference in July, where representatives for Ticketmaster pitched them on TradeDesk, the company’s invite-only proprietary platform for reselling tickets.

The platform enables resellers to purchase tickets in bulk from Ticketmaster’s site, and then resell them for higher prices — with Ticketmaster taking a percentage of both sales — raising or dropping prices with the click of a button based on their assessment of fan demand. While Ticketmaster has taken highly publicized legal action against bots and flagrant profiteers in the secondary market — including its own Verified Fan program, used recently by Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift and others — the report captures a rep on camera saying that Ticketmaster’s “buyer abuse” team will look the other way when such practices take place on its own platforms. The rep, whose identity is blurred in the video, says “I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred accounts,” for buying tickets in bulk on TradeDesk. “It’s not something that we look at or report.”

Asked whether Ticketmaster will ban scalpers who thwart ticket-buying limits — a violation of the company’s terms of use — a different company employee told one of the reporters, “We’ve spent millions of dollars on this tool. The last thing we’d want to do is get brokers caught up to where they can’t sell inventory with us. We’re not trying to build a better mousetrap.”

In a video demonstration at a conference in March from which media was barred (but was attended by the undercover reporters), a Ticketmaster employee said 100 scalpers in North America are using TradeDesk to sell between a few thousand and several million tickets per year. “I think our biggest broker right now has probably grabbed around 5 million,” he said.

The report also accuses the ticketing giant of timing the release of tickets to make it appear that demand is higher than it actually is in an effort to drive fans to the higher-priced options — and then releasing less-expensive tickets later.

In a statement included in the story, Ticketmaster’s SVP of communications said: “Ticketmaster is a technology platform that helps artists and teams connect with their fans,” the company said. “We do not own the tickets sold on our platform nor do we have any control over ticket pricing — either in the initial sale or the resale. In both cases, prices are set by the seller. We also do not determine when tickets are available for purchase or how they are allocated — those decisions are communicated to us by our client, the venue, after consultation with the event presenter.

“As long as there is an imbalance between supply and demand in live event tickets, there will inevitably be a secondary market,” the statement continues. “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 ticket sin both the primary and secondary markets.”

A Ticketmaster rep did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for further comment.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Queen and Adam Lambert Live

    How the Queen + Adam Lambert Tour Brought the Opera to Arenas

    Just as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, wowed moviegoers last year, stage design firm Stufish Entertainment Architects has helped Queen + Adam Lambert’s current U.S. tour deliver a screen spectacular of its own. The tour, which plays New Orleans on Aug. 20 and Atlanta on Aug. 22, touched down at [...]

  • Mass Appeal and Universal Launch Hip-Hop

    Nas, Mass Appeal and Universal Music Launch Hip-Hop Label in India, Sign Divine

    Mass Appeal and Universal Music Group today announced the launch of Mass Appeal India – a new label dedicated to amplifying India’s burgeoning hip-hop culture on a global scale. The new label’s operations will be based Universal Music India’s headquarters in Mumbai and will function as a multi-channel partnership between the two companies. According to the announcement, Mass Appeal India will sign and [...]

  • Trey Anastasio of Phish performs at

    Phish Concert Camp Out Canceled Due to Plague-Infected Prairie Dogs

    The plague, or Black Death, decimated the European population in medieval times and has returned to ruin Phish concert-goers’ camping plans. The band announced Tuesday that camping and vending will be canceled for their Labor Day weekend performance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colo. due to concerns of plague-infected colonies of prairie dogs. [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: 'American Horror Story' Makes 'Suddenly Last Summer' Sizzle Again

    FX Network’s “American Horror Story” returns for a ninth season next month, and promos for the next chapter of the anticipated series, dubbed ‘AHS 1984,’ have been airing frequently across cable television throughout August. In the short yet effective spot (see below), the Motels’ melancholic, moody “Suddenly Last Summer” plays as aerial footage of an [...]

  • AtmosphereThe Current State of Play in

    New York’s PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York’s PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue located in Times Square and operated by Bowery Presents, will close at the end of 2019, a source close to the situation tells Variety. The venue will close with a New Year’s series of shows from the Disco Biscuits. The theater, which is located two stories beneath the [...]

  • Jonas Leijonhufvud and Sven Carlsson

    Yellow Bird U.K. Developing 'Spotify Untold' Limited Series

    Yellow Bird U.K. has optioned the screen rights to tell-all book “Spotify Untold” with plans to develop it into a limited series for television. Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud’s novel details the story behind the Swedish start-up which became one of the world’s leading music services and its attempts to take on U.S. giants including [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content