Music fans’ ire toward Ticketmaster for expensive concert tickets may be somewhat justified, according to a fiery investigation by CBC News and the Toronto Star on Wednesday detailing a secret scalping scheme run by the ticket sales company itself. The two outlets sent journalists undercover as scalpers to a live entertainment convention this summer, where Ticketmaster reportedly pitched them on underground dealings in its professional resale program, through which it takes a cut of profits.
Ticketmaster, which is owned by live entertainment juggernaut Live Nation, enlists resellers to grab large batches of tickets from its site and then flip them for higher prices on a Ticketmaster-owned, invite-only platform called TradeDesk (touted by the company as “The most powerful ticket sales tool. Ever”), according to the report. Ticketmaster gets extra fees from the pricier resale tickets on top of its fees from selling the original ticket. CBC and Toronto Star journalists were told that despite the existence of a Ticketmaster “buyer abuse” division that looks for suspicious online activity in ticket sales, the company turns a blind eye to its TradeDesk users who grab lots of tickets. A sales representative told one of the undercover journalists that there are brokers with “literally a couple of hundred accounts” on TradeDesk, and that it’s “not something that we look at or report.”
Ticketmaster has sued groups in the past for using bots to grab up live events tickets from its site, which prompted counterclaims that Ticketmaster was itself supplying scalpers with bot software or assisting them with mass resale — which, per this week’s investigation, TradeDesk appears to be doing. “This is going to be a public relations nightmare,” popular Canadian radio program host Alan Cross told CBC upon seeing the findings, noting of previous “whispers of this in the ticket-selling community, but it’s never been outlined quite like this before.”
Ticketmaster has not issued any public comment, but in a statement to CBC, said that “as the world’s leading ticketing platform, representing thousands of teams, artists and venues, we believe it is our job to offer a marketplace that provides a safe and fair place for fans to shop, buy and sell tickets in both the primary and secondary markets.”