TicketMaster Changing The Rules

In the NYT today, an article outlining TicketMaster's expansion into auctions and brokerage. We've already seen them restrict "pre-sales" this year, and it looks like the long term model is to move to a completely dynamic price structure for tickets. In most states, you're only scalping if you're selling tickets above face value. But if you're setting face value every time you print the ticket, it's totally within the law.

As scary as this seems, I like to look on the sunny side. Especially since I don't see anyone unseating TicketMaster anytime soon. Here are some effects to watch for:

1. I actually agree with TM's position at the core of this one. When an audience is willing to pay premium prices for premium experiences, the money should find its way back to the artist instead of to a broker or scalper. Yes, TM excises truly absurd convenience fees, but they're no more than the market will bear.

2. A certain segment of the concert-going public will find themselves "priced out" of many major events. TM has thrived so far on the public's lack of knowledge about ticket costs. Because an audience will generally OVER-estimate the value of a ticket, moving to an auction format allows ticket prices to creep up without it appearing that TM or ClearChannel are pulling the strings.

3. As a result, in certain markets I expect to see an upswing in small, alternative venues, like The Point near Philly or Eddie's Attic near Atlanta. Venues like these offer "transcendent experiences" on a small, intimate scale, so they're able to thrive alongside the TM/CC projects.

4. Folks will continue the trend of organizing their own entertainment. Expect (on a small scale, at first) a return to home entertaining and house concerts as a way of getting wants and needs met without having to tolerate the hassles of the existing "club scene."