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Adele’s Las Vegas shows have reminded so many people why they hate Ticketmaster

adele side profile

A little over a month from now, Adele will kick off a 24-date Las Vegas residency at Caesar’s Palace that will net the singer a multimillion-dollar payday. It’s absolutely certain, as much as a thing can be, that each of the shows — held in the intimate Colosseum theater at Caesar’s Palace, with a max seating capacity of around 4,100 — will be a sellout. From there, you can do some simple math and estimate that the singer’s tens of millions of fans in the US and around the world are competing for something like just over … a mere 98,000 tickets. Moreover, everyone is having to go through the same already-hated company to try and obtain them: Ticketmaster.

A company that, earlier this year, a group of Democrats called on the Biden administration to investigate. They cited the recurring allegations of the company’s “monopoly” stranglehold over the live-event ticket market. And that also follows other reports of similar behavior, as well as questions about the company’s relationship with resellers — to say nothing of the mounting anger from Adele fans. Specifically, from fans of the singer who’ve felt like the ticket sales company has given most people only two chances to nab a seat for one of these shows. The two chances being: Slim, and none.

Frenzy for Adele Las Vegas tickets

Because of what Ticketmaster has described as “overwhelming” demand for the Adele performances? Fans who wanted to buy a ticket were forced to endure the company’s “Verified Fan” arrangement.

The “Verified Fan” pre-sales were supposed to begin on Tuesday. But the Amazon Web Services outage that knocked several major internet companies temporarily offline today has pushed forward presales to tomorrow.

Before we get into more of the backstory about why Ticketmaster is one of the most-hated companies in America, let’s talk for a moment about the Verified Fan situation. This, for the uninitiated, is Ticketmaster’s brilliant way of flipping the script on exorbitant ticket prices. A kind of lottery-style system that’s akin to the company essentially trying to convince fans that — no, wait, you’re actually the lucky ones. We’re the ones doing you a favor here. Be glad you get to pay us a ton of money for tickets. I mean, if we pick you, of course.

Only Ticketmaster Verified Fans for Adele

Ostensibly, the Verified Fan process is a means whereby Ticketmaster makes it a lot more cumbersome to buy tickets. With the aim of preventing as many ticket bots from snatching them up as possible.

The reality is a bit less straightforward. It’s an allegedly “random” process governed by one of the biggest companies in the business. One that’s essentially picking and choosing who to grant the privilege of “maybe” buying one of these tickets to.

The way this process worked for the Adele shows: Ticketmaster users registered as Verified Fans. Ticketmaster then asked them to choose four Adele shows they’d like to attend. Then … you wait. For the vast majority of people, that was followed by a soul-crushing email announcing “You’re On The Waitlist.” Only a tiny minority got the good news … that they might get to buy tickets once the Verified Fans sales window opens.

This is part of the problem with Ticketmaster being as big as it is. And with its having as large a share of the market that it does. The letter to President Biden earlier this year pegged the combined Live Nation-Ticketmaster company as holding “more than 80 percent of the venue ticket sales market.” Which is to say, at that level? A company does not have as much of a competitive incentive, let’s say, to ensure a superlative fan experience.

In an op-ed The Hill published in September, economist and University of Michigan professor Mark J. Perry agreed this whole situation desperately needs an overhaul. “The reality is that there are many things broken when it comes to live event ticketing,” he wrote. “And it’s only going to get worse unless Washington lawmakers and regulators step in with a fix.”

Past investigation

All of this calls to mind reporting in 2018 from a pair of investigative journalists for Canada’s CBC. Both of whom attended a ticketing industry conference in Las Vegas that year. There, they discovered some pretty eyebrow-raising practices.

As we noted in a summary of those findings at the time, the journalists attended the conference by posing as small ticket scalpers. They reported that Ticketmaster actively (but privately) encourages reselling and supports resellers who use its site. Both by failing to investigate fake identities or bot accounts, as well as by creating ticket inventory and selling systems to make the process more efficient. “While Ticketmaster publicly rails against scalpers,” we noted, “its sales team privately courts the business, which has a huge and measurable benefit to Ticketmaster’s bottom line.”

Bottom line

All of which is to say: This company is way too big and its practices too opaque to continue like this. There’s something that just feels inherently gross about a company this massive and ubiquitous able to pick and choose who’s allowed to enjoy its services. If it sounds like I’m saying I’d prefer a straight-up, first-come-first-served scenario — yes, absolutely.

At least that way, it’s my fault if I come up short. Maybe I should have logged on earlier. Had a better or faster internet connection. Who knows. The point is, you could argue it’s largely my fault in that scenario. Ticketmaster, however, has proven itself shady enough to me that it’s hard to feel like something like the Verified Fans process is less random than the company professes.

No wonder those congressmen wrote the following earlier this year in their letter to President Biden. “The evidence is overwhelming that the 2010 merger between the world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation, and the biggest ticket provider, Ticketmaster, has strangled competition in live entertainment ticketing and harmed consumers and must be revisited.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.




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