There’s no doubt that Harry Styles is one of the biggest pop stars on Earth—maybe even, as his Don’t Worry Darling co-star Florence Pugh called him earlier this week, “the most famous man in the world.” It tracks, then, that the moment Styles announced he would be bringing his “Love on Tour” shows back to the United States following international dates, tickets were tough to get. Styles confirmed his return to the stage following the May album release. Harry’s House,With residencies available in five cities. But the frustration over the inaccessibility of tickets didn’t just stem from rabid fans who spent an arm and a leg to get the whole experience. It had also to do with Ticketmaster.
This March Last Week Tonight: John OliverA segment of 20 minutes was dedicated to explaining why it is so hard to find tickets these days. The crux of the episode’s argument is that Ticketmaster—the largest ticket broker—and its parent company Live Nation are to blame for the price gouging, astronomical fees, and withholding of tickets.
Although Styles has already played two nights in Toronto and has 40 more shows lined up—15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, five in Texas, five in Chicago, and a closing set of shows at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles—tickets are either incredibly expensive or just unavailable. As more videos of the first two performances in Toronto circulate online, tensions are rising as fans scramble to grab tickets for the first New York show on Aug. 20—and much of the ire is being directed at Ticketmaster.
In keeping with One Direction fans—known to be some of the most overzealous internet users—Harry Styles fans have a similar intensity. Many concert-goers have shared TikToks showing themselves making their costumes for the show. A subset also features concert-goers complaining about tickets that are too expensive (the hashtag #HarryStylesTickets is over 8.2million views).
The price-gouging was highlighted in a TikTok of a fan who made a spreadsheet comparing the prices for a class of tickets Ticketmaster dubs “Official Platinum” for Styles’ Madison Square Garden residency. This user’s data showed that the average ticket price is over $600, and one seat goes for more than $3,000. One fan also pointed out that there are inexplicable differences in the ticket prices. Twitter.
Why tickets from Ticketmaster are so costly
In simple terms, Ticketmaster and Live Nation. You can find the Last Week Tonight Segment reported on three main reasons people pay significantly more for tickets today. The first is that average ticket prices have more than tripled since the mid-‘90s, even before they hit the resale market, in part due to increasingly elaborate productions for major arena tours. The fees added to tickets can reach 78% of their price. These fees are split among venues, promoters and artists as well as Ticketmaster.
Finally, the biggest reason why it’s increasingly difficult to score tickets is because Ticketmaster holds back as many as 90% of the tickets for the secondary market—credit card companies, promoters, radio stations, or artists’ fan clubs. Some are sold at a premium by resellers using bots. They “usually [go] to professional brokers charging outlandish markups, which a 2018 government report said can range from an average of nearly 50% to an astonishing 7,000%,” according to Variety.
Criticism of Ticketmaster is far from new—and bands like Pearl Jam and the Pixies have experimented over the years with attempting to cut them out of the process. But their dominance in the industry has made them largely unassailable, and the fervor of fandoms like Styles’ continues to shed light on artists’ and fans’ ongoing frustrations.
How to Score Cheaper Tickets
The high demand for tickets means that they are expensive. It will not be easy to find affordable seats, however, there are options. Seat Geek, Gametime, and Seat Geek offer reliable resale options for tickets. The prices may be less than those offered by Ticketmaster. Stubhub is a good resource, however customers need to be cautious as there have been issues with high fees and markups.
The issue will not improve despite the existence of these websites and apps. Costs have soared due to inflation, and venues have experienced staff shortages because of jobs created by the pandemic effects from live music concerts. A number of federal lawmakers are also involved in the investigation, proposing legislation to overhaul Ticketmaster’s business model. They argued that Live Nation has too much control over the industry and urged President Joe Biden and his administration to launch an investigation into the ticket broker’s “monopoly” more than a decade after the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. For now, fans’ ability to enjoy their favorite artists live remains a challenge.
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