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Toronto Star Went ‘Undercover’ to Investigate Ticketmaster, But Did They Find Anything New?

The Toronto Star has been hammering Ticketmaster this week in a series of investigative reports with the CBC on ticket pricing and Ticketmaster's relationship with the secondary market.

The Toronto Star has been hammering Ticketmaster this week in a series of investigative reports with the CBC on ticket pricing and Ticketmaster’s relationship with the secondary market. The report has some new information about how the company prices concert tickets, narrowing in on two Bruno Mars concerts at Scotiabank Centre this weekend, showing how prices can suddenly swing up for hot ticket shows.

Interesting reporting, but not particularly ground-breaking — we all know that Ticketmaster uses dynamic pricing, just like hotels and the airline industry, to scale tickets and drive yield. But on Wednesday, The Star published an undercover video from a Las Vegas ticket broker conference showing Ticketmaster employees offering what appears to be an uploader service for ticket scalpers.

For those who don’t know, an uploader program, or ticket management system, basically takes a broker’s available ticketing inventory and automatically uploads it to all the major resale sites, and then helps manage sales across multiple platforms. It’s an essential tool for scalpers with lots of tickets to manage — uploading and downloading them manually would take a ton of resources.


There are dozens of ticket manager services available, but what makes Ticketmaster’s TradeDesk different is that it appears to be built by Ticketmaster engineers, although it’s unclear if it’s compatible with primary ticket purchasing.

A source tells us that TradeDesk has been around for several years, but in their undercover video, a rep for the company seems to imply that TradeDesk allows brokers to use multiple ticket accounts and resell “hundreds of thousands of tickets every year — in direct violation of its own terms of use,” according to the article. According to one high level ticket reseller who spoke to Amplify, TradeDesk also allows brokers the ability to upload some tickets outside of the TM+ environment to sites like StubHub, VividSeats, SeatGeek and Ticket Network.

It’s common knowledge, our source says, that ticket brokers are often hesitant to use TradeDesk because they “assume TM resale will rat them out to TM primary and they will lose seats.”

The Ticketmaster TradeDesk rep filmed in the video seems to indicate that Ticketmaster doesn’t actively monitor TradeDesk for violations of the company’s terms of services. When the undercover reporter asks whether Ticketmaster will be “policing our accounts” for violations of its policy, the rep explains “No. I have a gentleman who has over 200 Ticketmaster (accounts) right into the point of sale and syncs his tickets in every day.” When asked how many clients manage multiple TM accounts through TradeDesk, the rep responds “I’d say pretty damn near every one of them.” If true, that would mean that all of the clients using TradeDesk are violating TM rules regarding ticket limits and fake accounts.

We went to the Ticketmaster web page created for TradeDesk, but the site offers few details on what the service does. And it’s not a secret that Ticketmaster profits from resale — the company operates one of the biggest resale sites in the country. But this report shows how Ticketmaster quietly accommodates scalpers with business tools and products that make it simple for them to move inventory from the primary to the secondary market without being blocked by programs like Verified Fan or Ticketmaster’s compliance rules.

Amplify spoke to a source at Ticketmaster who described the Sun story as inaccurate and said that Ticketmaster offers tickets on both the primary and secondary market to keep up with consumer demand. An official response from Ticketmaster is said to be forthcoming, but was not available by press time.

This article was originally published by Amplify.