Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Open Letter To Live Nation Entertainment

What follows is a letter that I sent this past week to the corporate headquarters of Live Nation Entertainment, the newly merged company of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. It stems from an incident last weekend when my cousin and I attempted to get tickets for an Iron Maiden show in Chicago this summer.
Needless to say, in trying to get tickets we were dismayed at what took place.
It angered me enough to write a letter, directly to one of the company's corporate executives, in this case, Mr. Nathan Hubbard, the CEO of ticketing within the company.
Was I naive in this incident? Perhaps somewhat; I will confess that most of my major arena ticket purchases have been after the fact. By the time I've been aware of the show, enough time has passed that's it's always been possible that all of the best available seats have already been picked clean. Because of this, I've had to scrounge through EBay and the like for the tickets I wanted.
I'm old. I think I've afforded the right to buy decent seats.
For Iron Maiden, my cousin and I learned what most of you probably already knew: the deck is stacked firmly against fans before the tickets even go on sale. You'll read about the event below, but let me say this in my defense: I purchased tickets for AC/DC next month in a non-Live Nation venue and through a non Ticketmaster outlet and scored a pair of really good seats through the legitimate channels.
Shouldn't it be the same playing field all the way around?
It isn't, and it pissed me off. Enough to write a letter.
I emailed the Department of Justice a few months ago, asking that they rule against the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. It may have stalled the merger somewhat, and increased the dialogue of consumer concerns, but it obviously didn't have the impact that many of us desired. I may forward the letter to Mr. Hubbard to the D.O.J. just for shits and giggles, an feeble attempt to show them how these fuckers run ramshot over you and me.
Do I expect resolution with this? Nope. I needed to vent and I vent better with words. To spell out my complaint is therapeutic and these sorts of letter writing things are something I do occasionally if pushed. I've got another one going to Toyota, but that's irrelevant here.
Secretly, all I'd like back is an acknowledgement. A brief note saying that Live Nation got my letter and that they're sorry for my inconvenience. But I am sincere in the claim that this kind of thievery will ultimately dismantle their house of cards as consumers get to a point where they say "Enough!" and stop going to shows altogether.
Did I do just that with the Iron Maiden show? Fuck no! It's fucking Maiden dude! My cousin and I dug deep and shelled out way too much money for a pair of really good seats.
Here's the letter.

Live Nation Entertainment, Inc.
Attn: Nathan Hubbard
9348 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Dear Mr. Hubbard:

I want to relay an experience that I recently had when attempting to purchase tickets for the Iron Maiden show at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre scheduled for July 18 of this year. Before explaining the details of my experience, allow me to briefly share a little bit about myself and my family.

For the past several years, my cousin and I schedule times where we can visit each other and go to a concert together. It gives us an opportunity to catch up, share family stories, and bond with a mutual affection toward music. Music played a vital role in our lives growing up and it continues to provide us with enormous joy through building new memories.

Tickets for the Iron Maiden show went on sale to the general public at 10:00am on April, 20th. Prior to this, my cousin acquired pre-sale passwords to get tickets through both the Live Nation website and the Iron Maiden fan club website. Through both pre-sale outlets, the tickets offered were for second tier seats in the venue leaving a large selection of seats in the venue’s first tier that provided a much better view of the stage. The Iron Maiden website did offer standing room only seating in the “pit” section as part of their selection, but such tickets would not necessarily provide the same level of visibility as a reserved seating ticket.

Based on this, we determined that our best option would be to wait until tickets went on sale to the general public. From our perspective, the faster that we ordered tickets after they went on sale, the better opportunity that we would have for good seats in the preferred first section of the venue.

This was not the case.

Within the first minute and after multiple attempts from several computers working to try to reserve the best seats possible, we discovered that the seats offered mirrored the same seats that were offered in the pre-sale. This suggests that all of the first section seats were sold within the first 60 seconds of the public offering or that the seats were sold prior to general offering entirely.
While the first scenario seemed unlikely, the second one seemed to be morally troubling.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the second scenario did take place after we immediately logged into EBay. It did not take us long to locate several sellers that offered the exact sections we were hoping to obtain through legitimate means. I don’t need to tell you that these sellers were offering the tickets at an inflated cost and that several sellers also had tickets for Iron Maiden shows at various venues from across the country.

At the risk of sounding naïve, how does such a system seem fair? My cousin and I followed the rules and attempted to purchase tickets directly from the band, venue, and ticket outlet only to be afforded a selection of poor seating options. Meanwhile, a broker with no ties to the band or community is awarded blocks of seating to make a profit, while providing none of the aforementioned distribution points anything more.

What this business practice ultimately does is to ensure that long-time fans like my cousin and I are left without an affordable way to support the band. If we do decide to purchase inflated tickets through an off-site broker, we’re left with no additional funds to purchase merchandising or any offerings that the venue provides to concert-goers. Further, it prevents us from spending money on additional concerts throughout the year, thereby decreasing the potential of Live Nation additional revenue.

I hope all of this is being considered as Live Nation Entertainment are bypassing real fans of music in return for higher percentages of sold tickets and greater resentment towards your company.

Yours in music,

Todd Totale


Kiko Jones said...

You were diplomatic yet managed to be quite direct in your letter, Todd. I'm glad you wrote it. But, these assholes don't care; there's too much money to be made. (Silly me: I thought this corrupt bullshit was just a NY-Chicago-LA phenomenon.) How much honest, by-the-rules fans such as you and your cousin get screwed over is of no concern to them. Not even in a bad economy.

For me, the question is, how do we know this "broker with no ties to the band or community...awarded blocks of seating to make a profit" is not in fact a Live Nation entity? Remember when Trent Reznor bitched about this same situation and made clear how TicketMaster had an out-in-the-open stake in this raping of true fans?

We should've joined Pearl Jam's fight when we had the chance. Now...well, we're fucked, my friend.

Todd Totale said...

Fucked for now, maybe. But as GM, Columbia Records, Zenith, and dozens of other companies have demonstrated: being number one today doesn't mean you'll be there tomorrow. My hope is that-if they don't begin to do some moral overhauling soon-we'll all be around to piss on their grave when it all begins collapsing around them. I think that there will be a point where we begin seeing the internet being used as a real punk tool like college radio, xerox fanzines, etc. were in the 80's. Fucked Up is kind of doing this now (and being award like some kind of innovators, never mind the idea is straight out of black flag's playbook) and I'm convinced that there will be more to follow.
I will admit that my heart sank when you questioned if the broker that we ultimately bought tickets from isn't part of the Live Nation umbrella. Where I'm from, that's grounds for an ass-kicking.
I'm shouting like Gene Hackman in the Poseidon Adventure: "How many more lives!!"

Kiko Jones said...

As Reznor stated in the post I refer to above, "...they make a lot of money fueling the secondary market. TicketMaster even bought a re-seller site and often bounces you over to that site to buy tickets (TicketsNow.com)!"

I did not go to law school, but is that not the textbook definition of "conflict of interest"?

Don't be surprised if the Live Nation assholes are behind the scalping, um, broker situation. Hell, according to Trent, there are artists out there scalping their own tickets! Fuck...

Cousin J said...

The only reason I don't think that this Broker is working for Livenation/Ticketmaster is that I got an e-mail from him stating that he's in Washington DC and it usually takes 4 weeks before he get's the tickets mailed to him & then he'd mail them to me.

I did check his other auctions though and this could clearly be his only form of income because he had a shitload of tickets for auction and, with the markup he sells them at, he probably only has to sell a few pairs a week to pay rent & utilities. Maybe he knows someone who works at ticket booth. I had a friend who knew a booth worker and if they were interested, they always got to buy primo tix for themselves right when they went on sale @ 10am or whatever.

The whole experience was extremely frustrating & discouraging. I'll only begin to feel better when I'm holding the tickets in my hand & then when we finally take our seats. Then I'll probably jizz in my pants.

Todd Totale said...

I'm totally fucking stoked about this show, dude!
And that fuck Portnoy better deliver a stellar drum solo because Nicko is twenty years older than him and can still play great. He calls double bass drums "undrumlike" or something-I love that because I can't play double bass and I'm sure Portnoy is all about excessive kits and has a Neil Peart boner. Not that I give two shits about Dream Theater, but 1.) we deffo should milk as much as we can out of these tickets and 2.) what better way to see what this band is all about than in front of a bunch of Maiden fans.

Tanja said...

I'm a little disappointed in Iron Maiden for putting up with that shit. Seems to me they could do more to control prices, as they seem to be pretty appreciative of their fans.

Todd Totale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Totale said...

I don't blame Maiden as bands are kind of forced into this situation and don't know about it in many cases. It's only when fans bitch that they learn, so there's my part. Metallica just experienced that in Israel, where fans protested excessive pricing by the promoter, Metallica caught wind of it, and then asked the promoter to lower prices. That's probably the coolest thing they've done in years!
In Maiden's defense, they did offer those front of stage "pit" area tickets (an exclusive, I believe) but I'm old. I don't want to fight with someone half my age and I believe that the youngsters should have a go at it anyway. I missed the boat twenty years ago and would have had the stamina to stand the entire time, jockey for position, and endure the crush of sweaty dudes and pointy elbows. Nowdays, I would take a Laz-E-Boy seat if they offered it and I can't wait until I can go to shows in a Little Rascal.
That is, if I can afford them.
I remember that a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go see Maiden open up for the Scorpions-this would have been around the first tour with Dickinson-and I didn't go. Regrets, I've had a few.

Cousin J said...

Wow that would have been a Blackout/Number of the Beast tour on either July 7 '82 in Cedar Rapids or July 11 in Des Moines. Check this website for a detailed list of all Maiden tour dates & opening acts.


I also stupidly passed on the 84/85 World Slavery Tour with Accept in Peoria. On that tour, from Aug 9 '84 to July 5 '85, they played 191 shows. Like we were sayin', no one does that shit anymore. Up the Irons!

Todd Totale said...

It was the Cedar Rapids show-that's when it was a two lane road from K-Town all the way to I-City. It seemed like a million miles away back the, probably because of all the no passing zones. It wasn't a matter of "I Can't Drive 55" back then, it was "I Can't Go Over 55 because this fucking farmer ahead of me is doing 54!" And that Accept/Maiden show would have been awesome. There's a review of Balls To The Wall coming soon because I've been on an Accept kick too.