Coronavirus

Congressman Dismisses Pearl Jam's Objection to Ticketing Reform Act: 'They've Been Led Astray'

Pearl Jam
Danny Clinch

Pearl Jam

'I would be happy to speak with the band about why Live Nation-Ticketmaster doesn’t care about their fans,' wrote Rep. Bill Pascrell in a letter to the rock icons.

Pearl Jam’s efforts to impede the progress of a House bill that would result in an overhaul of the concert ticketing industry has been rebuffed by the legislation's primary sponsor.

In January, the rock icons penned a letter urging U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) to oppose the BOSS Act (H.R. 3248), a bill designed to bring greater transparency to the ticketing business while giving consumers easier access to tickets through both the primary and secondary markets.

In the letter, the band criticized multiple provisions in the bill, including one that would ban non-transferable ticketing and another that would require primary ticket sellers to disclose the total number of tickets that would be offered to the general public a full week before the sale. It argued that those provisions would hurt, rather than protect, consumers, while benefiting scalpers who resell tickets on the secondary market, often at highly inflated prices. Pearl Jam conceded that they agreed with a number of other elements in the bill -- including provision that would prevent the use of bots and require disclosing all ancillary fees up front -- but remained opposed to it in its entirety.

Pascrell’s response rebuts Pearl Jam’s arguments against the bill, which he and Pallone first introduced in 2009 after Bruce Springsteen fans were prevented from buying concert tickets at face value from Ticketmaster and instead were redirected to a secondary broker selling them at a hefty markup (Ticketmaster later attributed this to a technical glitch). The congressmen reintroduced the legislation last June.

“Pearl Jam may know a thing or two about making great music, but they’ve been led astray about my legislation,” said Pascrell in a letter to the band on Thursday (Feb. 20). “I would be happy to speak with the band about why Live Nation-Ticketmaster doesn’t care about their fans and wants to preserve a corrupt marketplace.”

Pascrell’s letter ends with a summary of the bill’s provisions, which restricts efforts by primary sellers to prevent reselling on the secondary market or institute a “price floor” on ticket. Among other provisions, the bill would also require greater transparency from secondary sellers and prohibit employees of venues, primary ticket sellers, artists, artist teams and others associated with a particular event to knowingly resell tickets at a higher price.

Pascrell has been a longtime critic of the live event ticketing business. When President Barack Obama was weighing whether to approve a merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in 2009, the congressman urged him to reject it. He argued that the merger would give the combined company an unfair marketplace advantage and result in higher ticket prices for consumers (a modified version of the merger agreement was ultimately approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2010).

In July 2018, Pascrell and Pallone sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission chairman Joseph Simons highlighting a Government Accountability Office study that had found a number of competition and consumer protection issues in both primary and secondary ticket-selling markets. In response, the FTC organized a workshop on the live events marketplace the following year to review challenges faced by ticket buyers.

In October 2018, Pascrell also wrote a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that called on the Justice Department to open an investigation into alleged market corruption by Ticketmaster.

Pearl Jam’s critique of a bill that would add greater transparency to the live events business might feel strange to fans who remember the stand they took against Ticketmaster in the 1990s (long before the Live Nation merger). At the time, the band accused the ticket seller of monopolistic practices and canceled a 1994 summer tour after the company refused to lower the service charge it assessed to ticket buyers. Pearl Jam partially relented the following year when they allowed Ticketmaster to sell tickets for some of its Vitalogy tour, due to the seller’s exclusive agreements with nearly all stadium-sized venues on the East Coast.

The relationship between Ticketmaster and Pearl Jam turned a major corner this year, however, when the band chose to exclusively play Ticketmaster-ticketed venues and even surrendered control of its Ten Club presale ticketing to the company. Pearl Jam was apparently won over by a shift over the past several years that has seen Live Nation and Ticketmaster ceding greater control of pricing and other matters to artists.

Despite these strides, Pascrell clearly believes there is more to be done to regulate the industry -- and Pearl Jam’s letter apparently did little to slow the momentum of the BOSS Act, which is currently under consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.