After years of trying to compete with StubHub, eBay and other companies in the multibillion-dollar ticket-scalping market, Ticketmaster has boosted its new TM+ resale program to the point that 90 percent of the company's events are sold in that manner. Last fall, TM+ was in beta-testing mode, including just a few dozen concerts, but today fans can buy face-value tickets as well as high-priced resale tickets on the same webpage for dozens of stars, such as Bruno Mars, Billy Joel and Lady Gaga. For one upcoming, nearly-sold-out Beyonce and Jay Z concert, for example, a fan can buy a ninth-row seat at face value for $750 or an eighth-row seat through TM+ resellers at nearly $1,300.
"It has absolutely skyrocketed in the adoption rate," says Bob Roux, co-president of U.S. concerts for Live Nation, the concert promoter that owns Ticketmaster. "It is subscribed by virtually every artist in virtually every show." Michael Rapino, the company's chief executive, recently told investors that "we are very thrilled with the progress we are making on our secondary-market share." Translation: Expect more reselling on Ticketmaster.
One concert-business source says Live Nation promoters are strongly encouraging artists to turn on the resale option, via TM+, during pre-tour financial negotiations — and many artists are buying in. "If you don't participate, it's going to happen," the source says. "Whether Ticketmaster does it or doesn't do it, it's out there on other sites."
Artists' attitudes towards scalping and the lucrative "secondary market" for tickets have shifted recently, as StubHub and eBay do bigger and bigger business. Although Bruce Springsteen has taken elaborate steps throughout his career to ensure resellers don't price fans out of the best seats — along with many other artists, he has participated in Ticketmaster's paperless system, in which fans show ID and credit cards in order to see the show — his attitude may be changing. "The negative connotation that used to surround reselling tickets has essentially disappeared," Jon Landau, Springsteen's longtime manager, tells Rolling Stone. "A large part of the public has accepted this."
But some artists, who are opposed to scalping by street-corner salespeople or the promoters who put on the show, say they'll never take advantage of TM+. "Tom Waits doesn't believe that the wealthiest people should get the best seats. He believes that the people that want to see the show the most should be able to get the best seats," says Stuart Ross, tour director for the singer-songwriter. "We don't want to take all of a person's disposable income just to go to one show. If we do, we're harming the industry."
Still, it's getting harder for those who agree with Waits's position on scalping to stay out of the resale market. The Black Keys and Eric Church, for example, have relied on paperless ticketing for years, and have refused to participate in TM+ — but that could change, says Fielding Logan, who handles their touring operations for management company Q Prime. "They want to get their tickets in the hands of real fans at face value," he says. "But there may be a time, in the next 12 months, where I don't have a choice."
Oddly enough, eBay-owned, ticket-reselling giant StubHub has spent the last few months moving in the opposite direction — sponsoring charity concerts by artists from Tokyo Police Club to Lykke Li. "Ticketmaster has always been able to get away with calling us 'scalpers' while enabling secondary sales," says Glenn Lehrmann, a company spokesperson. "It's very clear now that what they're doing is both sides of the equation."