Like Pearl Jam for the TikTok age, country/Americana star Zach Bryan is taking aim at the live-events behemoth Ticketmaster. The singer-songwriter immortalized his intense dislike for the company by titling his new live album All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster (Live at Red Rocks) and surprise-releasing it last month, along with a vow to limit his headlining shows in 2023.
Bryan’s move comes after fan complaints about the availability of tickets to his concerts and inflated prices.
“I have met kids at my shows who have paid upwards of four-hundred bucks to be there and I’m done with it,” Bryan tweeted on Dec. 24. “I’ve decided to play a limited number of headline shows next year to which I’ve done all I can to make prices as cheap as possible and to prove to people tickets don’t have to cost $450 to see a good and honest show.” It’s unclear if the high-priced tickets Bryan cited were purchased on the secondary market or via Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing, an option some artists select in order to sell tickets at fluctuating prices based on demand.
Bryan declined an interview request from Rolling Stone to discuss the matter, but in his statement shared to Twitter, he refused to accept that nothing can be done about “huge monopolies [that] sit there stealing money from working class people.” He made a similar statement earlier in December, saying that “working class people can’t even go to shows anymore” and tagging Ticketmaster. A request for comment from Ticketmaster about Bryan’s beef with the company went unanswered.
Bryan’s options for how to approach ticket sales without Ticketmaster are pretty limited, but there are a couple of moves he could make, according to a Nashville booking agent who works in the country and Americana sphere.
“He could mount his own shows in public or non-Live Nation owned spaces, but that is an incredibly time-consuming logistical challenge, from liquor permits to government ordinances and independent security, ticketing, food and beverage vendors,” the agent says. “The less autonomous but easier maneuver is avoiding the Live Nation/TM complex wherever possible and using SeeTickets, AXS, or other less gouge-y ticket retailers. That is much less difficult, but in some markets, [it] is impossible.”
Bryan’s tour was a hot ticket during the second half of 2022, a year that saw the Oklahoma songwriter and U.S. Navy veteran rocket to streaming hero and Grammy hopeful. His sold-out Nov. 3 show at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre came near the end of a lengthy summer-fall run and went on in spite of a freak snowstorm that evening. “All my homies hate Ticketmaster,” he wrote the next day. “Red Rocks was incredible, I love you guys so much.”
“All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster” has become a refrain for Bryan, whose online store even sells a $13 T-shirt featuring the slogan. But his campaign against the vendor began well before that, on Oct. 20 of this year, when he tweeted, “Can someone shut down Ticketmaster yet.” More than 25 Ticketmaster-related tweets (and counting) have been published since then, some funny, others fiery, like his philosophical “death and taxes and hoping Ticketmaster burns to the ground” from mid-November.
Bryan, a prolific songwriter whose triple-album American Heartbreak became a streaming giant upon its release in May, was actually out ahead of the Ticketmaster pile-on stemming from the Taylor Swift Eras Tour debacle in mid-November. That high-profile example, with its legal element over anti-trust laws, has helped to bolster Bryan’s cause. “Yesterday there were probably enough 14 to 28 aged girls tears cried after seeing ticket prices to run the United States on hydroelectricity for 3 years,” he tweeted on Nov. 17.
As politicians like President Biden and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have chimed in against high concert-ticket prices, Bryan has retweeted them — though he remains circumspect about his own politics.
“Biden ain’t a homie but all my homies hate Ticketmaster burn them to the ground Mr. President,” he said when sharing Biden’s words. When former president Barack Obama tweeted his list of favorite music from 2022 — including Bryan’s song “Something in the Orange” — Bryan pounced. “With all due respect prior president Barack Obama we should try and fix Ticketmaster respectfully,” he responded.
Bryan has a handful of festival dates on the books for 2023, including Kentucky’s Railbird, Chicago’s Windy City Smokeout, and Milwaukee’s Summerfest. In several tweets, he clarified that he doesn’t have any control over the pricing at those events. Summerfest in particular seems to have sparked some of Bryan’s anger. He responded to a fan who tweeted him about the $300-and-up tickets for his appearance at the Wisconsin festival.
“After Summerfest was announced, a Live Nation festival; I said moving forward I would take that into consideration,” he replied. “I fixed my shit and Summerfest tickets are a nightmare. This is what drove me so strongly to hate Ticketmaster as much as I do.” He’d made a similar pronouncement in mid-November as well.
Bryan’s concern for keeping costs low for his fans also seems to be rooted in his own experiences as a concert-going fan. On Dec. 26, he tweeted about how he “made $2,000 a month” in the Navy and once spent $850 on tickets. “Why is this normalized?” he asked. His tweets also highlight some of his concert history, including one instance where he spent $250 to go to Lollapalooza in 2015. In a 2013 tweet, he speculated that a ticket to see hardcore band Rise Against “is worth a lung to me.”
On multiple occasions, Bryan has mentioned that an announcement about his live performances for 2023 is coming soon, and made a vague reference to the method by which tickets will be sold. A Nashville manager with clients on the same touring circuit as Bryan says the songwriter’s ability to book shows outside of the Ticketmaster system will come down to the venues he plays, as many of the bigger rooms are backed by Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster.
“He’s got options for now, because his leverage is there,” the manager tells Rolling Stone in a text. “He’s exploded, he’s massive, and he sells fuck piles of tickets. Did he completely avoid Live Nation rooms on these ‘select headlining dates’ he will be announcing soon? If so, then he won’t be tied down to Ticketmaster.”
For his part, Bryan is undeterred in his crusade. On New Year’s Day, he promised “fair prices for all” in a tweet reply to a fan, signaling he’s staunchly committed to the fight — one he seems to be staking his career on.
“The all my homies hate Ticketmaster movement is the hill I will die on,” he wrote in early November. But as Pearl Jam could surely tell him, this hill may be more of a mountain.
[Additional reporting by Joseph Hudak]