UPDATE: New Jersey representative Bill Pascrell rejected Pearl Jam’s criticism of his concert ticketing oversight and reform bill, saying, “Pearl Jam may know a thing or two about making great music, but they’ve been led astray about my legislation.” Though Pascrell didn’t say what specific issues Pearl Jam were supposedly mistaken about, he did offer to meet and speak with the band “about why Live Nation-Ticketmaster doesn’t care about their fans and wants to preserve a corrupt marketplace.” Pascell’s full statement is below.
“For decades now, millions of American fans who want nothing more than to enjoy a little entertainment for their buck have been victimized by the opaque live events marketplace. Fans have been pinched, gouged, squeezed, soaked, and outright heisted by a seemingly endless litany of hidden fees, add-ons, and gimmicks created by the unregulated ticket monopolies who operate in the dark with impunity. My bill would be the first comprehensive overhauling of this corrupt marketplace. Music and sports fans have waited long enough for relief. Pearl Jam may know a thing or two about making great music, but they’ve been led astray about my legislation. I would be happy to speak with the band about why Live Nation-Ticketmaster doesn’t care about their fans and wants to preserve a corrupt marketplace.”
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New Jersey’s Bill Pascrell and Frank Pallone, Jr. are behind the “Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act,” which they first introduced in 2009 after Ticketmaster redirected people looking for Bruce Springsteen tickets to secondary-market sites with huge mark-ups (fittingly, the bill is referred to as the “BOSS Act”). Pascrell and Pallone, Jr. reintroduced the bill last year, and it seeks to add greater transparency to the ticket-selling process and enact regulations that would crack down on scalpers, bots and resellers.
But Pearl Jam — which has been advocating for fairer ticket-selling practices since the Nineties — said the BOSS Act, as it stands now, is “flawed,” and that it “primarily, if not entirely, benefits professional ticket resellers using the so-called ‘secondary market.'” The band took issue with two specific components: one that would block non-transferrable ticketing, and another that would require primary ticket sellers to disclose the number of tickets available to the general public a week before going on sale.
Non-transferable ticketing has been a major part of Pearl Jam’s recent touring plans, including their upcoming Gigaton tour. Non-transferable tickets can’t be re-sold on secondary markets because the person who made the original purchase has to be present when entering the building; additionally, making non-transferable tickets fully digital allows for a constantly refreshing barcode that can’t be copied. (For fans who end up unable to attend a show, Pearl Jam launched fan-to-fan ticket exchanges to keep tickets at face value.)
In their letter to Pascrell and Pallone, Pearl Jam stated that blocking non-transferable tickets makes it easier for scalpers to get their hands on tickets. “Over the last decade of selling concert tickets, we have seen this become an important tool to ensure our fans get to see us at a reasonable price,” the band said. “The benefits to bad actors in the secondary market ultimately hurt the consumers more than the challenges around restricting transferability as professional resellers get tickets meant for fans.”
As for forcing ticket sellers to disclose the total number of tickets available to the general public, Pearl Jam argued that this “hurts consumers more than it will help.” The band noted that bulk purchasers, like professional resellers, care far more about the total number of tickets available than fans. Additionally, forcing the total number of tickets to be announced beforehand would limit a band’s ability to “create additional ticket opportunities,” such as opening up “obstructed view” seats.
Despite the criticisms, Pearl Jam praised most of the reforms in the BOSS Act, writing, “We support the elements that prevent ‘speculative ticketing,’ where ‘bots’ hold many tickets until they find a buyer, preventing real fans from buying tickets directly and misleading others into thinking they’re guaranteed a particular seat. We also agree that the secondary market should not be permitted to confuse consumers by using deceptive websites and support the provisions requiring clear disclosure of all fees attached to a particular ticket.”