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Is Pearl Jam’s Beef With Ticketmaster Officially Squashed?

Pearl Jam's public fight with Ticketmaster ended 20 years ago, and if there's any doubt that the two camps have moved past the dispute, Wednesday's announcement that Pearl Jam was using Verified Fan…

Pearl Jam‘s public fight with Ticketmaster ended 20 years ago, and if there’s any doubt that the two camps have moved past the dispute, Wednesday’s announcement that Pearl Jam was using Verified Fan for its upcoming “Home” and “Away” stadium concerts this summer should finally put the matter to rest.

The Seattle rock band is asking fans who want to purchase presale tickets to the band’s “Home” shows Aug. 8 and 10 at Safeco Field in Seattle to register through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform. Same for the band’s “Away” shows at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana (Aug. 13), Wrigley Field in Chicago (Aug. 18 and 20) and Boston’s Fenway Park (Sept. 2 and 4).

“I think that Pearl Jam is going out of their way to create a great experience for their fans at the same time that Ticketmaster is also working to improve the fan experience,” said Dean Budnick, editor-in-chief for Relix magazine and author of “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.”

Pearl Jam is using Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform to keep tickets out of the hands of scalpers and off the large resale sites like StubHub, but the two didn’t always see eye-to-eye. In May 1994, after complaining that Ticketmaster had a monopoly on ticketing in the United States, the band hired law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and filed a complaint with the Justice Department, asking for an investigation of Ticketmaster’s practices.


A month later, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard testified before Congress, explaining that they wanted to cap tickets at $18.50 each with a fee no higher than $1.80. Ticketmaster said it needed $2 a ticket to break even and the company’s former CEO Fred Rosen said “If Pearl Jam wants to play for free, we’ll be happy to distribute their tickets for free.”

Pearl Jam didn’t tour the summer of 1994 and tried to skip Ticketmaster venues the following year on its Vitalogy tour, canceling a number of dates after Eddie Vedder got food poisoning and was hospitalized. In the end the DOJ dropped its investigation of Ticketmaster and the band, unable to convince other artists to participate in the boycott, eventually dropped the fight and played a number of Ticketmaster buildings on its 1998 Yield tour.

While the two sides have enjoyed a low-key truce over the years, Ticketmaster and Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis recently signed on to a plan by Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group to support a new design and management contract for KeyArena (over a rival plan from AEG). The decision to use Verified Fan — a platform used by Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran — was made to minimize ticket resale for the seven-show tour, which could attract fans from all over the country.

“Our number one goal has always been to get Pearl Jam tickets into the hands of our fans,” Curtis said in a statement to Billboard. “We are constantly working up ways to improve our ticketing options and level the playing field. Verified Fan is the best solution out there to beat the bots.”

Another Ticketmaster rival, String Cheese Incident manager Mike Luba, said he supports Pearl Jam’s efforts to protect its fans using the Ticketmaster platform. 

“It’s good to see Pearl Jam work with the ticketing industry to take positive steps that make things better for bands, fans and society in general,” said Luba, who has battled Ticketmaster over fan club ticket issues in the past.

Luba said artists like Taylor Swift and Reputation tour promoter Louis Messina’s efforts to use Verified Fan and price tickets higher — part of the “Slow Ticketing” strategy — was “moving the industry in the right direction” and said he hoped Pearl Jam’s use of Verified Fan meant more concerts from the band in the future — “the more Pearl Jam shows, the better for everyone.”

David Marcus, EVP and head of Music at Ticketmaster tells Billboard in a statement that “Ticketmaster is honored to partner with an iconic band like Pearl Jam on their summer concert tour. We have an enormous amount of respect for the band and understand how important their relationship is with their fan base.”

Registration for the Verified Fan presale ends Feb. 4. Sign up and learn more here.