It's small consolation for Radiohead fans who find themselves without tickets for the Amphitheatre show - unless, that is, they want to drop $188 each for cheap seats (more on that later). But Ticketmaster has come clean - sort of - on the great Radiohead ticket fiasco that saw ducats for the show sell out in minutes.
Blame the "Internet robots," software used by "brokers" (scalpers, some would call them) that can tap into Ticketmaster's automated ticket-selling system and buy up tix to the hottest shows in minutes flat.
Six grand gets you the software that bypasses those squiggly word tests you have to complete before you can access Ticketmaster's system.
If you didn't manage to get your lawns for $35 when they went on sale online a few weeks back (actually $50 when you add Ticketmaster service fees), Ticketmaster was there to help, directing buyers to TicketsNow, which it owns. Only tix on that site were going for a whole lot more - up to $625 a pop.
Blame the capitalist system. The federal Competition Bureau seems to have no problem with Ticketmaster getting in on the lucrative resale ticket game. Call it artifical inflation.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
When it swallowed up TicketsNow for a cool $265 million back in January, Ticketmaster promised to "provide fans more options and the most secure, reliable and convenient ways to buy tickets to the events they want to attend at the price they want to pay."
"t's absolutely market-based pricing," says Ticketmaster spokesperson Albert Lopez.
Yes. Let's blame the intricacies of the ticket-buying and -selling biz.
With everyone from bands, promoters and venues looking for a cut, you can hardly blame Ticketmaster for charging those exorbitant "convenience fees," up to $14.25 a ticket, on top of everything else.
The feds say there's not a lot we can do, even if the Ticket Speculation Act prohibits the reselling of tickets for profit, period.
"Competition law is based on the notion of a free market system, so that usually means companies are free to market products any way they see fit," says Chris Busuttil, Competition Bureau assistant deputy commissioner of civil matters.
"f the market works and there are enough people out there willing to buy tickets under whatever conditions are set, then that's the market working. There's not a whole lot you can do."
Mel Fruitman, vice-president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, sympathizes with music fans.
"There's something wrong with hiving tickets off to a reseller they own," says Fruitman. "If it isn't illegal, then it damn well should be."
Ticketmaster may not have a monopoly on the ticket distribution business, but it has pretty much cornered the market. A wholly owned subsidiary of New York-based InterActive Group (IAC), which trades on NASDAQ and racks up revenues in the billions worldwide, Ticketmaster distributes through some 800 "brokers" in North America.
The brokers, we're told by Ticketmaster, buy tickets from Ticketmaster like everybody else does - online. Blame the vagaries of unrestricted trade.
The company says it does its best to monitor the brokers and ensure they're not charging you $188 for counterfeit tickets, another growing problem in this online biz.
"These are professional businesses that have been in operation for some time," says Lopez.
You want to be considered for the Ticketmaster scalper club, too?
It's not as lucrative as it sounds, says Lopez. Nearly 50 per cent of all live events go unsold.
"There's always a risk involved for brokers who seek huge payouts for rare shows. "It's entirely possible that someone who takes that $35 ticket and tries to resell it for $185, $190 or $250 may in the end sell it for less than face value or not at all."
Of course, there will always be people who will pay up, regardless.
A response suggested by the Consumers' Association's Fruitman is contacting venues and artists to voice your concern over the way their tickets are being sold.
"Quite often they have a say in the pricing because they want their fans to be able to afford to come," he says."
Radiohead management did not respond to calls. However, Live Nation, the company putting on shows at the Amphitheatre, plans to sever its partnership with Ticketmaster in 2009.
Says press contact John Vlautin, "We will take over the ticketing. We wanted to be the steward of that fan relationship. Under our deal with Ticketmaster, they were the ones with the relationship.
"That will be our responsibility now, and when there's accountability it can only be better for music fans," says Vlautin.
The only recourse for music fans for now is not to buy from Ticketmaster.
We e-mailed Ticketmaster's head office to ask why the company was using its offshoot TicketsNow to resell Radiohead tix at hyper-inflated prices. Here's part of a FAQ link Ticketmaster sent back.
Does Ticketmaster hold back tickets to sell on TicketsNow?
No. Ticketmaster does not give special privileges to brokers, which could put us at odds with our clients, and strictly enforces ticket limits. That being said, many of us have experienced the frustration of not being able to get tickets when they go on sale, only to see tickets show up on resale websites. The fact is that the vast majority of primary market tickets end up in the hands of fans eager to attend the event.
How can tickets to some events sell out in a matter of minutes?
Ticketmaster, through our website alone, has sold more than 14,000 tickets per minute. However, it is not uncommon for several hundred thousand fans to make ticket requests in that same time frame.
Why is Ticketmaster directing fans to TicketsNow, a broker-driven site?
To provide consumers with more choices and greater security. In the past, some brokers have used automated software to try to gain unfair access to tickets and purchase the best seats in large quantities. This practice is illegal, and Ticketmaster has used legal means to block them from our site.
Are tickets always more expensive on TicketsNow?
Highly popular event tickets that are available tend to rise in price until the supply exceeds the demand. We see this regularly in the airline and hotel industries; flights and rooms for holiday weekends are always more expensive than at other times of the year. The sellers on TicketsNow are constantly monitoring this demand, and prices adjust accordingly. However, for events that aren't in high demand, tickets can often end up below their original face value, resulting in great deals for consumers who are bargain-hunting.