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Live Nation deals with more Springsteen ticket issues, while AEG discusses the roll out of its Ticketmaster rival

By | Published on Tuesday 31 January 2012


The last time there were problems with the sale of Bruce Springsteen tickets on Ticketmaster’s American website all hell broke lose, leading to much ranting, quite a bit of litigation, and some talk about new rules to govern secondary ticketing.

Which is presumably why the Live Nation-owned ticketing giant was quick to issue a statement after Springsteen fans, struggling to get tickets for the Boss’s latest tour, noticed said tickets were already appearing for sale at marked up prices on resale sites.

In 2009, when the main Ticketmaster site struggled to cope with demand for the sale of Springsteen tickets, it pointed fans in the direction of the firm’s own ticket resale service, TicketsNow, which was already selling marked-up secondary tickets for the shows, even though primary tickets were still technically available. Springsteen was not happy when he heard what was happening, and the resulting fallout threw a spotlight onto the whole secondary ticketing thing, and especially Ticketmaster’s dabblings in the resale sector, in both the American media and US political circles.

Much of the drama happened in Springsteen’s home state of New Jersey, where demand for tickets was highest, though loud criticism of the boom in online ticket touting (or scalping, to use the American term) occurred at a national level, and one New Jersey congressman, Bill Pascrell, proposed new legislation on Capitol Hill which would have forced more transparency on the ticketing industry, and especially on the relationship between primary ticket sellers and those who resell for profit online.

Tickets for a new Springsteen tour went on sale last Friday, and the Ticketmaster site again struggled to cope with demand, with many fans finding frozen screens when they tried to buy. But the scalpers were seemingly getting access to tickets, because they were fast appearing on resale sites like StubHub.

Having learned its lesson in 2009, Ticketmaster is now much more cautious in the way it promotes its ticket resale site via its own primary tickets platform, so can’t be accused this time of prematurely directing customers to marked up secondary tickets itself. However, critics of the ticketing giant again wondered why touts were seemingly getting tickets, when genuine fans were not.

Ticketmaster admitted its servers had been particularly busy, adding that this was likely because touts were using software to try to buy up as many tickets as possible, putting a strain on the system. But, the company added, it was doing everything possible to ensure actual fans could get tickets directly, adding that primary tickets were still available.

Said the ticketing firm: “We have been experiencing highly abnormal traffic patterns on our site this morning that have impacted the fan buying experience for some customers. Early indications suggest that much of this traffic came from highly suspicious sources, implying that scalpers were using sophisticated computer programs to assault our systems and secure tickets with the sole intention of selling them in the resale market. We are investigating the source of the problem and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible, but tickets are selling so please stay patient”.

While Ticketmaster’s own secondary site was not overtly benefiting this time round, Pascrell still told reporters on Friday that he was aware of the problems Springsteen fans had had buying tickets from the primary seller and, assuming that was indeed in part due to scalpers employing bots to grab as many tickets as possible, there was now a case for Congress to give some new consideration to the ticket resales market. The congressman said in a statement: “Whether today’s problems are due to honest mistakes or dishonest market manipulation, regular folks who wanted a little entertainment were not able to get what they wanted at a fair price”.

The wider music industry, of course, has often dithered on the issue of secondary ticketing, on both sides of the Atlantic. While some key artists, managers and promoters have spoken out against the growth of ticketing touting in the online age – some calling on the political community to introduce new rules to limit the secondary market – it’s known some other artists, managers and promoters routinely resell their own ticket allocations for gigs via resale sites to generate some extra revenue, making it tricky for the industry at large to vehemently call for some kind of touting controls.

As Live Nation and Ticketmaster dealt with the grumbling Bruce Springsteen fans again, their main competitor, AEG Live, has been talking up its new ticketing platform, AXS, which had a low key launch in the US last summer, and which is set to grow in 2012. AEG, of course, decided to launch its own ticketing business after rival Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010.

And one of the services due to be included in AXS as it rolls out is ticket lottery system, whereby users can pre-register for in-demand events, and tickets will be distributed on a random basis, presumably with efforts to filter obvious touts out of the lottery process. AEG hopes the lottery system, similar to that used by Glastonbury Festival, might overcome the frustrations felt by fans when tickets for big tours sell out in minutes while they struggle to get the relevant webpage to load.

Other AXS features revealed by AEG’s ticketing chief Bryan Perez in a briefing yesterday, according to the Wall Street Journal, include the option for friends to book seats in a block, but each pay on their own credit card, and widgets that will make it easier for sponsors and other music services to sell tickets using the AXS system via their own sites.

AEG’s new business partner, Mark Cuban, was also on hand to discuss the previously reported brand extension, AXS TV, which will appear in place of Cuban’s existing US TV network HDNet. He confirmed the new network will air recordings of concerts and other live events, and would also have a regular entertainment magazine show called AXS Live.

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