‘It’s called capitalism’: Ticketmaster’s ex-CEO defends the company’s business model | TSTIME radio


As it happens10:40‘It’s called capitalism’: Ticketmaster’s ex-CEO defends the company’s business model

People who are frustrated with Ticketmaster are just lying in the bed they made themselves, the former CEO of the controversial company emphasizes.

Fred Rosen, a lawyer who ran the ticketing company from 1982 to 1998, has watched the U.S. Senate hearings on Ticketmaster with frustration.

US lawmakers are looking at competition and consumer protection in the live entertainment industry. At the center of the hearings is Taylor Swift’s pre-sale fiasco, when more than 3.5 million people signed up for a Ticketmaster pre-sale for the pop star’s concert tour, and the system collapsed under the pressure.

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Fans and artists alike have lashed out at the company. Several US senators are calling for more regulation and oversight, accusing Ticketmaster of having a virtual monopoly.

But Rosen says Ticketmaster is just an easy target. Here’s part of his conversation with As it happens host Nil Koksal.

Is Ticketmaster the problem? Are fans directing their frustration in the right place?

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There were [3.5 million] attempts to get into the Ticketmaster system. No system on Earth can do that.

It’s easy to blame Ticketmaster and say it’s their fault. But here’s the truth. I’m pretty sure the act’s reps were told not to put all the shows up for sale at once. And they chose to do it anyway.

In the normal course of business, if there are enough tickets and enough events and enough times and enough nights for the act to play, you would handle that.

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So what you’re saying is that Taylor Swift’s team, or Taylor Swift herself, has put out too many shows at once?

I wouldn’t have put all the shows on sale if you knew demand would be so outrageous.

Joe Berchtold, left, the CFO of Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation Entertainment, and other witnesses are sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The problems fans have with Ticketmaster predate Taylor Swift problems. Ticketmaster was ordered to pay a $4.5 million fine and $500,000 in costs incurred by the Competition Bureau here in Canada after it investigated allegedly misleading prize claims in online ticket sales. In 2018, TSTIME News investigated Ticketmaster for allegedly recruiting scalpers at a scalpers conference. So I …

You asked me to talk about Ticketmaster, not what happened after I left. I wasn’t there for that.

I didn’t ask if you were directly involved. I’m just saying that fans have a history of mistrust because of those issues in addition to the Taylor Swift incident…. You told the Los Angeles Times, sir, that you believe that fans are largely responsible for what happens to the prizes. So explain why you think they are to blame.

It’s very simple. They stole all the music. So 90 percent of an artist’s revenue comes from live ticket sales.

Do you know what I like? This is what I really like. I find it really fascinating. You get on the phone or you want to do these interviews, and everyone wants to take a chance at Ticketmaster. And a lot of it is written because it is disinformation.

Ticketmaster does not set prices. Ticketmaster does not determine which shows go on sale. Ticketmaster does not determine how many tickets will go on sale.

When I was in the business before, it was about the same time that the Internet started. About 50 to 60 percent of an artist’s income came from recorded music. When Napster came on the market and… all the artists’ revenues went away, except for the superstars, they have to go somewhere. It’s physics.

A University of Chicago professor is quoted in the LA Times, Eric Budish, who says “Ticketmaster basically gets paid to be a punching bag.” But why do you think people focus on Ticketmaster and not the artists?

l [made] it was like Ticketmaster would take the hit for everyone, but Ticketmaster never got all the money. Don’t you understand this is a business?

Everyone gets mad at Ticketmaster. OK, so let’s bankrupt Ticketmaster, and now it’s your ticket company. Do you think they like you more?

With all due respect, whoever does it, every venue operator knows one thing: it’s a thankless job. Why are you doing it? Because it’s economically viable and because someone has to do it. So you do.

You said you built it that way for Ticketmaster to take the heat. But you sound really angry about it all these years later.

I’m not mad about it. I just think it’s absurd that people aren’t smart enough to understand that this is the game.

Is it Ticketmaster’s fault that demand is 10 times greater than the number of seats to be sold?

But does Ticketmaster help fuel that demand, sir, if they have people…

We don’t refuel anything!

If prices in the sport go up, that’s a badge of honor. At concerts the prices go up, it’s the end of the world as you know it.– Fred Rosen, ex-CEO of Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster has the option to remove the dynamic pricing or quote-unquote verified buyers, which to many ticket buyers don’t appear to be verified buyers. It seems as if they are scalpers who are no longer on a corner, but … sitting at their computer, scooping up so many tickets that the next day will be so many multiples higher than the artist’s original price. So Ticketmaster does have control over that, right?

They do not. You give the artists options. You enter a store to buy a blouse. You say, “I want the red instead of the blue.”

That is for the artist to decide, not Ticketmaster. You are completely wrong.

Well, I’m asking you to look to find the answer.

I just gave you the answer.

The artist and the promoter determine which tickets go on sale, what the prices are, whether they use dynamic prices or not.

People stand outside with banners calling for the breakup of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
Protesters demonstrate outside the Capitol against the entertainment ticket industry on Tuesday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

So should we as fans then demand from the artists… not the smaller acts, but the big, big acts, that they say no to dynamic pricing and verified resale?

I would say the anger is ultimately misplaced. Because let me ask you this question. Who is the recipient of all the money? Follow the money. Who is the recipient? The receiver is the action.

If Ticketmaster is doing everything as it should, what do you think is the harm in having more competition and oversight?

First, it’s called capitalism.

Second, this is the big mistake everyone makes. More ticket companies will not change prices. What determines the price is the question. You can have 400 ticket companies and the same number of tickets and the prices wouldn’t change.

Do you get frustrated when you try to buy tickets?

I don’t go to very many events. I didn’t go to many events when I ran Ticketmaster.

If you had tried the experience from the user’s point of view, maybe you would have made some changes?

I have to tell you something. And, I mean, you’re a very nice woman. Because people [have] must grow up. People need to recognize that it’s a business.

The truth is – and this is what no one wants to deal with – is that no one pays more for a ticket than they want because you don’t have to go. And that’s not it nobly oblige. The fact is that it is entertainment.

When the Philadelphia Phillies were there [the World Series] … the people of Philadelphia prided themselves on the fact that all tickets to the Phillies games cost over $1,000 per ticket.

If prices in the sport go up, that’s a badge of honor. Concerts are going up in prices, it’s the end of the world as you know it, and the ticket company is being blamed for everything except the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.


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