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Neil Young declares touring “broken” as ticketing controversies continue

By | Published on Friday 24 March 2023

Neil Young

Neil Young has weighed in with his views on the recent controversies around Ticketmaster fees and secondary ticketing, saying that “concert touring is broken”.

Writing on his website, Young proclaims: “It’s over. The old days are gone. I get letters blaming me for $3000 tickets [being sold on the secondary market] for a benefit I am doing. That money does not go to me or the benefit. Artists have to worry about ripped off fans blaming them for Ticketmaster add-ons and scalpers”.

In particular he highlights the recent row over the fees charged for tickets on The Cure’s upcoming US tour. Frontman Robert Smith said that the band had chosen to use Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system for the ticketing on those shows in order to reduce the number of tickets that ended up being touted – or scalped if you prefer – on the secondary sites (although Vice reported this week that touts are already finding ways around this).

The band had also ensured that prices for the actual tickets were kept low, so that as many fans as possible could afford to see them play. However, Ticketmaster’s subsequent fees meant they weren’t actually as big a bargain as the band had hoped. Some fans found that, once fees were added, four $20 tickets cost them $172.

Fielding complaints from fans on Twitter, Smith went back to Ticketmaster to question the fees and convinced the company to give ticket buyers partial refunds, as well as dropping the fees for tickets still on sale.

This all comes at a time when Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster is facing heavy criticism in US political circles for some of its ticket-selling practices.

That criticism spiked after all the issues that occurred when tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour were put on sale via the Verified Fan system last year – an incident that resulted in a hearing in US Congress where the ticketing business in general and Ticketmaster in particular were both in the spotlight.

Although in Europe Ticketmaster is no longer involved in secondary ticketing, it remains part of its business in the US, which adds to the controversy. Seeing tickets hoovered up by touts before they can be bought by actual fans is frustrating for those fans and the artists themselves.

Another point of criticism is Ticketmaster’s dynamic ticketing system, which adds variable pricing to primary ticketing, seeing prices increase when there is high demand.

This was implemented in response to high prices on secondary ticketing sites, but when talking to fans last week, Smith said that this system was a “scam” and that The Cure had refused to allow it to be applied to their tickets and urged other artists to do the same.

It’s all those various ongoing issues around ticketing that leads Young to conclude in his blog that “concert tours are no longer fun”.