New Jersey Congressman says fans should know ticket prices in advance
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. of New Jersey has called on Ticketmaster to adjust its policies to be more fan friendly after fans experienced wildly surprising ticket prices to attend concerts for Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming 2023 North American tour. The Congressman calls the controversy “the latest scandal from the greedy ticket monopoly” after ticket prices were not revealed before going on sale last week.
“When Yogi Berra said it’s déjà vu all over again, he could have easily been talking about Ticketmaster and another unwelcome surprise for Springsteen fans,” Rep. Pascrell says. “After the long hiatus, we are all excited that Bruce is going back in tour. But Americans have the right to enjoy some live entertainment without getting ripped off. Ticketmaster sees popular events as an opportunity to soak regular Americans. My colleagues and I are hearing from irate customers who are fed up, and the New Jersey and New York dates aren’t even on sale yet. Fans should know exactly what they are getting into before getting involved with an always high stress concert ticket sale. And I hope that these policies and prices are reconsidered, or at least better publicized to fans, before the bulk of the concert dates go on sale next week.
“The fact is that multi-billion dollar live events ticket marketplace cries out for reform. The BOSS ACT legislation I have previously introduced would bring much needed transparency to sale, pricing and distribution of live event tickets. I have been working closely with my colleagues and stakeholders on revising our legislation and expect to reintroduce the improved bill shortly. I was first alerted to Ticketmaster’s shenanigans over a decade ago when Ticketmaster surreptitiously directed Springsteen fans to buy tickets for jacked up prices on their ticket reselling site. And the countless issues since they continue to remind us that the unholy Ticketmaster-Live Nation union should be broken up by the DOJ and FTC once and for all.”
Pascrell issued the statement on July 21st after fans shared their frustration with the ticketing company’s dynamic pricing system. Dates for seven U.S. shows went on sale last week with many fans complaining about the cost of tickets. Ticketmaster offers “platinum tickets” with “dynamic pricing” to curve supply and demand. The Live Nation-owned company says the process is “similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold.”
Due to overwhelming demand, first-sold tickets, which initially ranged from $60-$399 each, were fetching $4,000-5,000 each during the on sale. Springsteen doesn’t offer VIP options, so those prices reflect single tickets with no perks. While many of the prices have since dropped, fans were still left feeling like they were being priced gouged.
According to Variety, Ticketmaster has shared a rare statement regarding their platinum ticket offering. They state that 88.2% of the tickets sold so far have sold at fixed prices between $59.50 and $399 before taxes and fees. They also share that the average ticket price is $262 and 56% are being sold for less than $200 each.
The company doesn’t dispute that tickets were sold as high as $5,000. They claim only 11.2% of overall tickets on the first day of on-sales reached that high. Furthermore, they claim only 1.3% of total ticket sales so far have surpassed $1,000 each.
“Prices and formats are consistent with industry standards for top performers,” the company shared on Sunday (July 24th).
Springsteen has not commented on controversy, but the remainder of the 2023 U.S. run go on sale this week. Industry insiders tell us that major artists like Springsteen have control over the price of their tickets and receive a cut of each ticket sold, in addition to the “service fees” charged per ticket.
Ticketmaster’s practices have been under fire in the past resulting in class action suits over scalping and refunds of postponed shows, among others. In November, Harry Styles fans lashed out at Ticketmaster over high ticket prices, long queue times, and constant system errors.
On March 22nd, Rep. Pascrell wrote to the heads of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division urging them to overhaul federal guidelines to make it easier to overturn bad mergers. As part of the agencies’ joint inquiry into modernizing merger regulations, Pascrell flagged the Live Nation-Ticketmaster as a “posterchild of consolidation gone bad” and urged its dissolution.
Pascrell has been a leader in Congress calling for regulation of the opaque live events ticket market. Pascrell was an early critic of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, and repeatedly urged the Obama administration to reject it, warning that the union would crush competition and harm consumers. In May 2018, Pascrell wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on his attempts to impose greater positive regulation on the broken live events ticket market.
Two months later, Reps. Pascrell and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. wrote a letter to Federal Trade Commission chairman Joseph Simons highlighting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study which found a myriad of consumer protection and competition issues in the primary and secondary live event ticket markets. The GAO report was commissioned in response to Pallone and Pascrell’s work, and the members urged Simons to do more to protect consumers in the marketplace. In response, the FTC organized a workshop on event tickets held in June 2019 to review many of the challenges faced by ticket-buying fans. Pascrell attended a House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight hearing in early 2020 on the lack of transparency in the ticket marketplace.
Pascrell has been the principal sponsor of the BOSS Act, overarching legislation that would impose a basic level of transparency upon the ticket industry so fans have a fair chance to purchase tickets on the primary market and also seeks to protect consumers who choose to use the secondary market to purchase tickets. Pascrell is working to reintroduce the legislation this year.