The 13th annual Billboard Touring Conference & Awards kicked off Wednesday (Nov. 9) at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel with a lively discussion on the ongoing battle of ticket resellers in the secondary market and the role of ticket pricing dynamics in a panel titled "We Don't Have a Scalping Problem, We Have a Pricing Problem (So What Are We Going To Do About It?).”
Moderated by Billboard's Ray Waddell, the panel -- which included William Morris Endeavor entertainment agent Michele Bernstein; Bob Roux, co-president, North American Concerts, Live Nation; John Meglen, co-president, Concerts West; Jared Smith, president, Ticketmaster North America; Barry Rudin, president, Barry's Tickets; and manager Jared Paul of Faculty Productions -- tackled the issue, which reached a fever pitch in 2016 as hot tours by Adele and Bruce Springsteen sold out in minutes. With lawmakers focusing on bots and industry practices, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue continues to elude the primary market by way of reselling.
Rudin often found himself playing defense as he asserted the practice of selling on the secondary market is a service for “the busiest, most successful people who don't have time to chase down tickets.”
Ticket prices, Rudin said, vary with each artist. For example, Pearl Jam, who “cares about fans,” routinely make an effort to keep tickets low, whereas a luxury band like The Rolling Stones will charge “what the market will bear.”
Rudin also pointed out that Prince’s bid to keep tickets low for his 17-night stretch at The Forum also doubled as a way to “satisfy Prince’s ego, which is also a factor in this.”
Meglen said artists have a big say in ticket prices.
“All artists are different and there is no one way to do it for everyone. Is pricing important to them? Is making a lot of money important to them?” he asked. “At the end of the day, it's a supply and demand issue. Was the ticket price too high? Maybe it was. Also, it’s about playing the right venues. Certain artists have greater demand than others. We put all the money out on the table and we are just basically trying to execute it the way that the artist wants it executed.”
Meglen was most critical of the secondary market and said that in the case of Desert Trip -- which featured appearances by The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan -- the biggest resellers were not bots or brokers, but the fans themselves. “The biggest scalpers for Desert Trip was the public,” he said. “ It was like they got the Willie Wonka Golden Ticket and realized, ‘Honey, we can go to Hawaii for a week.’”
Bernstein and Paul said that artists are definitely aware of the issue. Paul said he routinely gets screen shots from artists of tickets on StubHub and asking if there is any way to get it under control. Bernstein said that living in a social world, artists can see where fans complain about, for example, a $275 ticket. “If a hot tour goes on sale and the aftermarket is vibrant, the artist comes back and says, 'Why don't I get that piece?'” she said.
Meglen -- who talked about the early days of paperless ticketing with early Miley Cyrus tours -- said there are solutions to unwanted scalping or reselling, such as making tickets non-transferable.
Roux added that it may be as simple as respecting the wishes of the artist. “If an artist doesn't want in the market, respect that,” he said.
The Billboard Touring Conference & Awards continues today and tomorrow (Nov. 10) at the SLS Beverly Hills in Los Angeles as the event moves to the West Coast for the first time.