With the “advance” of online ticket sales, we all went from standing in line outside the Wherehouse on a Sunday morning to standing together in a dark room with our hands outstretched, blindfolded, hoping that when the tickets fell from the ceiling we might catch one. Today’s news confirms what we all suspected: someone snuck in a vacuum.
This just in from New Jersey, via the Star-Ledger:
Federal authorities in New Jersey today charged four men with hacking into websites of online ticket sellers and illegally buying tickets to Hannah Montana, Bruce Springsteen and other shows around the nation.
The massive conspiracy virtually hijacked the online ticketing systems and prevented average consumers from buying prime seats.
The men, who ran a Nevada-based company called Wiseguy Tickets Inc., employed a computer programmer in Bulgaria who crafted software to swarm the websites of Ticketmaster, Live Nation, Major League Baseball and other companies, according to a 60-page indictment unsealed in Newark.
In essence, the company was able to cut in front of thousands of fans and buy the best seats in the house, authorities said. Wiseguys allegedly sold the tickets at a steep mark-up to brokers, who in turn sold them at an even steeper price to fans, according to the 60-page indictment. The firm bought more than 1.5 million tickets and grossed more than $25 million in profit between 2002 and 2009, according to the indictment. Wiseguy bought at least 11,700 tickets to Springsteen shows alone between September and December 2007, authorities said.
Goes without saying, but may these guys burn in hell. May we also further discover ways in which technology has actually made things worse, says the weirdo who just typed a postcard on a typewriter to send through the United States Postal Service.
What’s especially maddening is that these can’t be the only people hacking the Ticketmaster system. Nor will they be the last.
Most people will view this Ticketmaster auction for tickets to Radiohead’s just-announced Haiti Benefit in Los Angeles this Sunday at the Henry Fonda Theater as a unique, outside-the-model way to raise money for earthquake victims.
Look at it again. Look at it. You are looking at the future of ticketing: a straight-up auction model.
It’s especially terrifying because it makes perfect sense. Instead of short-changing their profits with fixed prices and watching tickets to sold-out shows sell for four or five times face value on the scalper’s auction market, Ticketmaster has actually developed a platform to sell tickets to the highest bidder while stunting the middlemen down the line.
This might be no big obstacle if you want to go see some low-level act like, I dunno, Matisyahu. But what if you’re a 12-year-old girl from a low-income family and you’re dying to see Beyoncé?
Already, we’ve seen VIP tickets and “Fan Experience” tickets for more in-demand arena shows sold by Ticketmaster for inflated prices. During Beyoncé’s last tour, for example, front-row tickets sold at face value for $500—roughly what could be expected from the second-hand market. (Meeting Beyoncé in person, after the show, cost $1,000.) Those hoping to luck out with an affordable ticket for a good seat still had hope.
I hope I’m wrong, but staring at this auction page feels like looking into a crystal ball of plutocracy for the future of ticket sales.
I know Radiohead is doing a charitable thing with this ticket auction, and I know that people are going to be talking about the “Radiohead model” with this ticket sale. But unlike their pay-what-you-will approach to albums, which humbled the recording industry into submission, this pay-what-you-will approach to tickets is a valuable springboard for the ticket industry, and it’s only going to put a lot more power and money into their greedy, uncaring hands.
Billy Corgan made a less-than compelling case yesterday before Congress in support of the Performance Rights Act, which would force radio stations to pay royalties not only to the songwriters of the songs they play but to the performers on those songs as well. It’s a nice thought and all, especially considering stories such as Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but not a very nice thought when considering Billy Corgan, who is a multimillionaire.
Though I myself am a music performer who has been played on the radio, I’m against the Performance Rights Act and I’ll tell you why. It should have been enacted 60 years ago, when the “hit single” came into being and when radio had the prominence to absorb such payments. Corgan states the laws on radio compensation haven’t changed for 80 years. That’s the very reason radio can’t bear the undue burden.
The business model of radio stations has evolved around the long-held and reasonable idea that it’s the record labels’ responsibility to compensate their performers. Radio advertises the record, the public buys it, and the artist gets whatever deal the artist signed with the label for.
If the artist signs a shitty deal (all major label deals are shitty deals), or if the label is stiffing the artist, or—this one’s good—if the digital age comes along and destroys music sales, why go after analog radio? Simple: because people like Corgan can. Because it’s there. He can’t demand money from “sdream75,” an anonymous user who can’t stop uploading torrents of Siamese Dream, but he can go after radio stations, who are one of the few institutions left in the music business doing the relatively right and honorable thing.
The Performance Rights Act would misdirect understandable frustration with the self-cannibalization of the music industry at large toward a valuable—and similarly struggling—friend of the performer. It would absolutely kill small local stations like the KRSH. What we’d be left with is ClearChannel stations with corporate-issued playlists, prerecorded shows streaming from a computer, and DJs who may as well be programmed robots.
Incidentally, Corgan also spoke out a few weeks ago in support of the Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger (he’s managed by Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff), which officially makes him a mouthpiece of the devil.
Woke up yesterday and groaned at Pitchfork’s top albums, unsurprising since they lost all credibility with The Knife in 2006. Read about the recording industry’s strange new stance on downloading, which is to rely on Internet providers to do their dirty work for them. Was amused at the Phoenix Theater announcing the banning of hyphy shows, which is a brilliant maneuver, on par with announcing the banning of raves.
Flipped on the radio for Face the Music with Scott Mitchell and Frank Hayhurst, on KRSH. Laughed at the end of the show, when Frank presented Scott with a golden kazoo, since, alas, Scott is headed over to BOB-FM and will soon be replaced by Brian Griffith as the morning guy on the KRSH. Brian’ll be good and Scott’s been good, but man. I still miss Doug Smith.
Went to the downtown Post Office, where the holiday season has brought radio privileges for the counter staff. Was glad that instead of “Wonderful Christmastime” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the clerks were stamping packages to “A Simple Twist of Fate,” by Bob Dylan. Dodged a car driving by playing the Youngbloodz-Procol Harum portion of Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals.
Got to work and read this wonderful piece of writing, regarding Leon Russell, by my friend John Beck. Felt the best kind of jealousy—I suspect that John is much more bound to editorial direction than myself, occasionally forced to write about music that he can’t personally get that excited about, and I love examining how he navigates total cowshit and turns it time and again into flowers. He’s good at it.
Read about the heavy metal singer who stabbed her guitarist for messing up a solo. Downloaded DJ Malarkey’s new Holiday mix to listen to while scouring club listings for New Years’ Eve information. Came across this lovely Christmas video of a drunk family partying their asses off around the tree, circa 1962, set to June Christy’s “The Merriest”:
(If you’re looking for a fantastic jazzy album of non-religious Christmas originals, call your local record store and pick up June Christy’s This Time of Year, just reissued a couple years ago.)
Had lunch at Hang Ah Dim Sum with the Love Level crew. Thought about Chinese opera and talked about Darker than Blue: Soul From Jamdown. Was reminded, by Mark and Gary, about KOME-FM and their street-sign stickers. Chatted about Backdoor Records. Thought about the late KPLS-FM and their even later cowboy-hat VW Bug.
Came back to work and gawked at the amazing Kate Wolf Festival 2009 lineup, with Emmylou Harris, Dave Alvin, Richard Thompson, Patty Griffin, Mavis Staples, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Wrote a little bit about Adam Theis and his upcoming SFJAZZ show, whose excellent Spring season was also announced this week: McCoy Tyner, Allen Toussaint, Bill Frisell, Kenny Barron, James Carter, Tinariwen, Roy Hargrove, Chris Potter, Brad Mehldau, Mariza, Kenny Burrell, Michael Feinstein and Branford Marsalis, among others.
Went to dinner at Fitch Mountain Eddie’s with my dad, where Richelle Hart and John Youngblood performed songs like “Summertime” and “Women Be Wise.” Talked a lot of shit about Ticketmaster, only to have the guy at the next table introduce himself as a guy who works for Ticketmaster. Wished him luck with that whole massive-debt-and-getting-dumped-by-Live-Nation thing.
Then: headed to the Raven Theater for the Bobs, who were as entertaining and awe-inspiring as they were when I last saw them at the Raven Theater in 1989. Was billed as the “Sleigh Bobs Ring” holiday show, containing plenty of Christmas numbers—”Christmas in L.A.,” “Christmas in Jail,” and an insane new song sung from the point of view of the Virgin Mary, “What Is This Thing Inside Me?”
Old chestnuts were dusted off, like “My, I’m Large” and “Boy Around the Corner,” and all the new ones like “Get Your Monkey off My Dog,” “Title of the Song,” “Imaginary Tuba” sounded great. Closed with “Christmastime is Here,” which I’m glad is becoming a holiday classic. Haven’t paid much attention to the Bobs in the last 20 years, but I was simultaneously buckled over with laugher, googly-eyed with amazement, and heartened that they still hang out in the lobby afterwards, chatting with all their weird fans. Thanks for keeping it up, guys.
Came home and listened to Booker Ervin, Madlib, No Age and Lucy Ann Polk. (Not Van Morrison, like grouchy Joel Selvin.) Wondered if real life was more important than music, or if the two are actually the same thing. Opted for the latter. Did the dishes and hummed Frank Sinatra. Went to bed.
It might not make up for the hundreds of dollars grudgingly given them in exorbitant service charges over the years, but it nonetheless brings a huge smile to my face that Ticketmaster has recently been dumped by its parent company, LAC/InterActiveCorp.
Probably the most surprising fact of the split is that Ticketmaster is currently $750 million in debt.
So, just to get this straight: after charging service fees; after charging facility fees and convenience fees; after charging handling fees; after charging delivery fees—and perhaps most insanely of all, after actually charging a fee to print out your own tickets, on your own printer, at your own home—Ticketmaster is still $750 million in the hole?
I don’t normally say things like this, but man, God bless the Internet and its equalized playing field for finally bringing down those fucking bastards.