Nearly a quarter-century ago, Pearl Jam—which had become the biggest band in the world around this time effectively by ignoring the music industry orthodoxy of the time—decided to take on live music’s biggest middleman.
It probably hurt their career to take aim at Ticketmaster, which had become known for charging expensive service fees on every ticket it sold. But the politically minded band did, going so far as to file a complaint with the Justice Department and speak in front of Congress about the problem, something rock bands don’t usually do. Eventually, the band and company called a truce—but not before Pearl Jam was eventually forced to use Ticketmaster to even mount a damn tour.
Pearl Jam has, of late, partnered more closely with Live Nation and Ticketmaster, in no small part because the calculus of the industry has changed a lot in the past two decades. With companies like StubHub often screwing consumers out of tickets in all-new ways, it’s almost a defense mechanism against absurdly high ticket prices.
But give them some credit: Their heart was in the right place.
Pearl Jam’s battles against Ticketmaster eventually drew blood, though it took a while—and appeared in the form of the 2003 class action lawsuit Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster, which effectively centered around the fees just to use the company’s service online. The suit took a long time to wend its way through the courts, but Ticketmaster was eventually ordered to offer consumers $386 million in discounts—whether in the form of lower prices on its service, or (more importantly) free tickets.
But Ticketmaster has stacked the deck against the consumer in this case, and announces these free concerts en masse, with little notice to consumers, in a way that makes it impossible for most of the 50-some million people that have received these ticket vouchers by the 2020 expiration date.
And so far this year, it hasn’t even announced any concerts at all.
(Update 07/17/2018: They just announced more tickets, halfway though through the summer concert season. While supplies last, of course.)
For Live Nation, which now owns Ticketmaster, this likely turns a $386 million settlement into one a tenth of the price.
As consumers, we should not put up with this. We should speak with our dollars, and decline to support any business controlled by Ticketmaster or Live Nation until they bother to hand out tickets in a way that actually gives the public a damn chance to actually use those tickets.
This may be the biggest scam ever pulled on consumers, and we need to make sure that Live Nation knows that the public hasn’t forgotten about it.