Ticketmaster Accused of Working With Scalpers to Double the Fees

By Mandy Huang
Mandy Huang
Mandy Huang
September 21, 2018Updated: September 21, 2018

Some fans of touring artists and other performing arts concerts have often wondered why popular concert tickets sell out so quickly on Ticketmaster.com, then seem to appear on reseller platforms almost immediately afterwards.

A recent report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) from Sept. 19 makes a bold claim: The ticketing company is “recruiting professional scalpers who cheat its own system to expand its resale business and squeeze more money out of fans.”

Ticketmaster Reseller Program Investigated

Undercover CBC reporters approached company representatives at the 2018 Ticket Summit, a networking event for the live entertainment and ticket industry, held in Las Vegas from July 16 to July 18.

The reporters used hidden cameras, pretended they were scalpers, and asked about Ticketmaster’s new professional reseller program, “TradeDesk,” which was launched in 2017.

The representatives seemed to indicate that the ticketing company is willing to work with ticket resellers who create a large quantity of fake accounts or use ticket-buying bots to acquire popular tickets on a mass scale, bypassing the company’s ticket-buying limits.

“I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred accounts,” a sales representative told the reporters. “It’s not something that we look at or report.”

The scalpers are then able to resell the tickets at high prices, while Ticketmaster charges additional fees for the second transaction.

Casey Klein, director of Ticketmaster’s resale division, held a closed session at the Cesear’s Palace Hotel called, “We appreciate your partnership: More brokers are listing with Ticketmaster than ever before.”

Attendees learned about TradeDesk, the web-based inventory management system, which was called the “most powerful ticket sales tool ever.”

TradeDesk easily allows registered users to upload large numbers of tickets they buy on Ticketmaster, and then list them again right away for resale with different price tags depending on demand.

A representative in Las Vegas stated that the company spent millions of dollars on this reseller program. There is even a reward system that reduces fees for brokers who reach certain milestones, such as $500,000 or $1 million in yearly sales.

Ticketmaster Accused of Doubling Their Fees

During a video conference demonstration of TradeDesk in March, according to an earlier CBC investigation, an employee from Ticketmaster said there were 100 resellers in North America using the TradeDesk system to sell a few thousand to several million tickets per year.

CBC used a recent Bruno Mars 4500-seat concert in Canada as an example of how the company can increase its fees.

“For example, Ticketmaster collected $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the initial sale. When the owner posted it for resale for $400 on Ticketmaster, the company stood to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket,” reported CBC.

“If Ticketmaster sells every seat in the arena for Saturday’s show, it would collect an initial $350,000 in service fees, plus $308,000 in fees on scalped tickets, for a double-dipped total of $658,000.”

Ticketmaster sells event tickets in countries like U.S., Canada, and Mexico, from sports games, concerts, to theater shows and more.

The Company Responds

Ticketmaster issued a statement to CBC in response on Sept. 20.

“It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers,” replied Ticketmaster.

“Ticketmaster’s seller code of conduct specifically prohibits resellers from purchasing tickets that exceed the posted ticket limit for an event.”

The company’s Professional Reseller Handbook states that if resellers fail to adhere to listing policies, they could be removed from Ticketmaster resale sites.

TradeDesk is not the only program that Ticketmaster supports. “Fan-to-Fan Resale,” which was introduced in March, only sells Ticketmaster-validated tickets. Critics say such “Partner Sites” appear to strengthen the company’s control over the market.

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