I was in my car on a cool, fall day, rushing to cross-fit at 5-minutes to 10am. All of a sudden, I remembered that Massive Attack concert tickets would be going on sale at 10am! I called my husband as soon as I parked my car. He answered, and I pleaded with him to buy tickets right away before they sold out.
I came back home to find out that he wasn’t able to get the tickets even though he was online right at 10am.
So what happened?
Ticket bots and second-hand ticket sellers bought many of the tickets within mere minutes! Not a single seat out of the 3000~ in the Sony Centre was left. To think that such a large venue didn’t have any tickets left after being on sale for minutes… I was heart-broken, and so were many others.
As a music lover and consumer, I’m devastated. An artist that my husband and I have been listening to since high school was coming to Toronto and we, the fans, weren’t able to purchase tickets because bots had scooped up most of the tickets and were reselling them at obscene, unaffordable prices. Massive Attack will come to the Sony Center on March 12, 2019 and we won’t be there.
But this problem is not new. In 2016, Tragically Hip held their last music concert with Gord Downie, the beloved lead singer of the group who was dying from brain cancer. Unfortunately, many fans were unable to purchase tickets to attend Gord’s last show because they were “too slow” to compete with professional ticket buyers and computer robots who bought up about two-thirds of the tickets.
The Tragically Hip ticket controversy spurred a slew of actions over the next two years. In September, The Star disclosed that Ticketmaster was selling tickets to resellers and, in fact, in complete disregard for consumer transparency, helping to execute those reselling operations. I wasn’t surprised to hear this because getting concert tickets for popular artists had been difficult for years. But now, it’s becoming even harder. Given the exorbitant prices of resold tickets, many people would have to dip into their savings, their safety nets, to see one of their favourite artists.
Some band managers have started to address the concerns and complaints from fans, and are demanding to know who tickets are being sold to. In this CBC article, managers “were angry over the revelations the box-office giant is recruiting scalpers to help boost profits from the resale of large volumes of sports and concert tickets.” Ticketmaster was also investigated by Canada’s Competition Bureau, and the company is being sued for $250-million. But in the grand scheme of things, this seems like a slap on the wrist. Consumers are angry with the lack of trust, transparency and consumer-centricity. But with anger comes a need for disruption.
Ticketmaster has literally sold themselves out. For a company that claims to “put fans first” and connect fans with music, they instead seem to be keeping them apart. Every concert is exclusive—to be enjoyed only by the few with means or those with enough desperation to dip into their safety nets. And the rest, consumers who play by the rules, are left disappointed. Along the path to financial growth, Ticketmaster forgot their mission, their purpose, the reason for their customers to become long-term loyal and trusting customers.
So that’s the business side. Now, let’s talk about how the government isn’t really protecting consumers. Two years after the Gord Downie concert debacle, the government still has no major plans to intervene with bots and ticket brokers. They were going to implement a policy that only allows ticket resellers a mark-up of a maximum of 50%. But, they didn’t think they could enforce this so it wasn’t executed. Which is unfortunate because at least they would be doing something, and in the right direction.
One of the main ways to disrupt any industry is to introduce competition, other ticketing vendors to compete with Ticketmaster. But this won’t happen any time soon. Ticketmaster is too big and the Canadian government is too slow to break up monopolies. Our government is protecting a lot of monopolies, and not only in the music industry – electricity, our national railway, dairy, poultry, beer, telecom – creating fewer options for consumers.
The government could mend this deep wound by disrupting the industry with new laws that address selling through a secondary party. They could even implement policies for special events, such as those where artists won’t be performing again for a long time or, unfortunately as in the case with Gord Downie, ever again. Even if they expect the laws to be difficult to enforce, those laws would at least be a warning sign to ticket brokers and other second-hand companies that their business model must change.
So, putting all of this together, the Ticketmaster fiasco was bound to happen. Canadian corporations are becoming larger and more powerful, and the government is not working quickly enough to support a consumer-centric solution. When companies like Ticketmaster partner with companies like Stub Hub, they not only help each other out, they reduce the competition within their industry and benefit from the sales. And let’s face it, they’re not the ones suffering – the consumer is.
As you’ve probably guessed, as a consumer, I’ve lost all of my trust in Ticketmaster. Any marketer can tell you that consumer trust is an integral component for long-term success for any company. It’s one of the key components of brand health metrics. With our incredible communications technologies and social media, consumers now have more power than ever, and word of mouth spreads quicker than ever.
From what I’ve seen, I’d hate to be the person reporting on Ticketmaster’s brand health metrics this year. They have a lot of work to do to regain consumer trust. They need to re-evaluate their brand. They need to create a compelling brand purpose that will crystallize the difference they want to make in consumers’ lives and guide long-term business and brand decisions. It can be done. Trust can be regained.
But having said all of this—when a company is a monopoly, like Ticketmaster, does consumer trust even matter? Can consumers even vote with their wallets? Unless these industries are disrupted, I feel like Canadians don’t have buying power – and that consumer trust is irrelevant.