(Illustration by Ray Bartkus)
Billboard.biz Do you believe artists should be more outspoken about this issue?
Michael Rapino: This summer I believe we'll be able to get that done, I hope. Sunlight is a great disinfectant. In general we leave artists to do what they do best. Given how important the live show is, and making sure those fans are getting what the artists want, it's probably a good idea that the artists start lending their voices to educating the challenges on the bots and speculative selling.
What about across the industry? Do you feel like Ticketmaster is fighting this battle alone?
"Got Milk?" was a fabulous campaign for that industry. This isn't about the daily competitions we all have, this is about AEG and Live Nation and Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and management companies and artists. We all have incredible investment in this industry, we're spending incredible amounts of money on the infrastructure to make the live industry a growing, prosperous business, and we want to make sure that if anyone isn't invested in the same end goal that we stand together and start to make a change and bring some light to this to make the consumer live experience continually better and not let piracy and technology enter into the equation
Is the 10 a.m. on sale obsolete?
It's not black and white. One of the challenges of the industry is we all need to find better and better technology solutions to solve the problems. I also don't want to sound like the Napster days, where we sue and legislate and hope the bad guys go away. There should be legislation to keep speculative selling and bots out of the system, because to me it's an illegal violation of the artists' and consumers' contract to buy a ticket.
We're deep in R&D in our product group working on new and better ways and technologies to make sure the consumer can have a secure Saturday morning onsale. Mobile is going to provide incredible new opportunities for a consumer and the transaction of a ticket to be much more secure and safe. Regardless of the bad guys, the good guys have to spend some more time and energy and money and create better products that can deliver that Saturday onsale.
Whether it's a Saturday onsale or a two-month pre-register [for tickets], you're still going to have the bots pre-registering for two months and taking all the slots. It's not like you can move the onsale and they're not going to figure out how to fill up the queue in whatever new version you have. I don't think moving the goal posts scares them away, I think re-inventing the goal posts scares them away. Short term, I think we need to bring attention to the bots and the speculative sellers and do what we can to get rid of them.
Is part of the problem a lack of inventory available to the general public between various promoter, artist, venue, sponsor, team, etc., holds and presales?
In general, that is becoming an issue. Some of the so-called presales are effective. A presale in theory means a fan bought a ticket. Presales are great sometimes for one reason: they usually come with some level of marketing that we the promoter or the artist can't afford on our own. If a certain sponsor is going to spend a certain level of money on TV campaign and radio spots and print and online to help sell that entire tour, we look at that as incremental marketing we need to sell all of the tickets. If we have to trade some presale tickets to get greater marketing to get awareness for the entire tour, then that's a tradeoff we make sometimes. In this world of a lot of cluttered messages and limited marketing budgets, we will gladly at times take a tradeoff and move some tickets to a presale to let fans buy through certain channels, if we're getting a net positive marketing spend on the tour, because ultimately that helps us sell the final tickets which are always the hard part in life after the presale. In general, we have to make sure that our Saturday mornings or whatever day has the most available tickets for fans.