Featured Image for Ticketmaster under the spotlight for running their own scalping scheme

Ticketmaster under the spotlight for running their own scalping scheme

Have you ever wondered why some gigs sell out in just seconds on Ticketmaster? Or why at this point concert prices have become almost prohibitive?

An investigation by journalists Marco Chown from the Toronto Star and Robert Cribb from CBC News has uncovered an intricate scheme devised by the ticketing company to rip off fans and boost their revenue.

In public, Ticketmaster has repeatedly shown a hard-line stance against flippers and scalpers, calling them “pirates,” and even urging governments to roll out legislation to thwart the activity.

But what the Chown/Cribb investigation reveals is that, in reality, Ticketmaster encourages and enables scalping in a parallel business.

It all works like this: A given artist sets up a show. Ticketmaster sells all the seats for that show and gets a commission for each ticket they sell.

In their own terms of use, Ticketmaster prohibits fans from buying “a number of tickets for an event that exceeds the stated limit for that event.” That limit is usually six to eight tickets per customer.

Aside from implementing a purchasing limit, the company has also stated repeatedly that they have taken all the proper security measures to prevent bots from buying large quantities of tickets to put in the resale market.

So far, it all sounds neat and clean. But this is the point where the dark reality of it all kicks in.

The company has developed a web-based software called Trade Desk, which allows scalpers to sync their Ticketmaster accounts to reselling sites like Vivid Seats, StubHub, and Ticketmaster’s own “verified resale tickets.”

Scalpers make dozens or even hundreds of accounts to circumvent the ticket limits and streamline their reselling operation with the aid of Ticketmaster. And according to a Trade Desk sales executive, the company doesn’t even police scalpers anyway.

“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,” said a Trade Desk agent, “There’s total separation between Ticketmaster and our division. It’s church and state … We don’t monitor that at all.”

This unethical operation allows Ticketmaster to double their commission – the first commission on the original purchase of a ticket and a second after the resale on ticketmaster.com.

The Chown/Cribb team found this out by going undercover to a Ticketmaster Las Vegas Summit last July. The journalists attended posing as small time scalpers from Canada because the press were not allowed into the sessions where this shady relationship between Ticketmaster and scalpers was discussed.

According to the reporters, Ticketmaster has shrugged off interview requests about these allegations for months. After the Vegas summit, the investigative team gave the company the opportunity to review their findings and have a say on the matter. But again, they declined.

Their only response to an explicit list of questions was a general statement by company spokesperson Catherine Martin:

“As long as there is an imbalance between supply and demand in live event tickets, there will inevitably be a secondary market,” Martin wrote, “As the world’s leading ticketing platform … 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.”

Richard Powers, associate professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, slammed Ticketmaster’s practices as unethical.

“Helping to create a secondary market where purchasers are duped into paying higher prices, and securing themselves a second commission, should be illegal,” he said.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros