John Oliver Calls Out Ticketmaster Scams + Rising Prices on ‘Last Week Tonight’
As music fans, you probably already know how difficult it can be to score tickets to see your favorite artists when they go out on tour. In an episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver addressed Ticketmaster and some of the scams it's been involved in, using instances with Pearl Jam and Metallica to highlight the flaws in the ticket-buying industry.
During the segment, Oliver included a few video snippets of fans voicing their frustrations with purchasing concert tickets and the rising costs. "If you don't want to be behind the stage, you're looking at $500 per ticket. Who can afford that?" one fan said. "For the amount I'm paying to see any random band that's going on tour, they better be fucking serenading me," declared another.
Oliver pointed out that the average cost for a popular concert has more than tripled since the mid-1990s, and that Ticketmaster is the main culprit responsible, especially because of all of the fees that are slapped onto the face value price at checkout.
Former Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff explained the fees in a video clip, saying, "When people hear what Ticketmaster's service charge is, Ticketmaster was set up as a system where they took the heat for everybody... In that service charge are the credit card fees, the rebates to the buildings, the rebates sometimes to artists, sometimes the rebates to promoters... We're like the IRS — we deliver the bad news."
A year after Azoff gave that speech, Oliver noted, Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation, a move which was announced sometime in 2010 and called itself "the largest producer of live music concerts in the world."
Some venues have reported that Ticketmaster "threatens" them to utilize their services as opposed to another ticket-selling company, which Live Nation has denied. To showcase Ticketmaster's influence over music venues around the world, Oliver mentioned Pearl Jam's Ticketmaster boycott in the mid-'90s, which saw the band attempt to do a world tour at venues that didn't use Ticketmaster.
"I regret to say that it is impossible for a major rock group to put on a national tour under the current circumstances without Ticketmaster," Pearl Jam's manager Kelly Curtis said in 1995 [via the Washington Post]. "They've got a monopoly. We did everything we could over the past 14 months to get around them and put this tour together, but we failed. It's up to the Justice Department now."
Oliver then brought up one of the most dreaded parts of the ticket-buying experience — ticket brokers and bots — which often snag the majority of the tickets available before they're even available to the general public, leaving fans with extremely low availability. These tickets are often sold to secondary marketplaces such as StubHub and Seat Geek, and also right back to Ticketmaster's own resale hub, for hiked up prices. Oliver added that a government report found that "professional brokers represent either the majority or overwhelming majority of ticket sales."
While some artists can attempt to control the price range for tickets to their own shows, others, as Oliver referred to, actually try to get the scalper prices by purchasing their own tickets — including Metallica.
In July of 2019, Billboard reported that a Metallica representative teamed up with Live Nation to scalp tickets to their 2017 North American WorldWired tour so that they could collect higher profits from the marked-up fees. Metallica and Live Nation reportedly each agreed to take 40 percent of the resale value.
Watch the full Last Week Tonight segment below.
John Oliver Calls Out Ticketmaster Scams + Rising Prices in The Last Week Tonight Show