Ticket Masters book review
New books asks, ‘Why are concert ticket prices so high?’ with unsatisfactory results
Concertgoers have long bemoaned those pesky service charges that can sometimes add nearly half of the cost of the ticket to the final price. The higher the ticket, the higher the fees, and if there’s a logical explanation for this then it hasn’t reached the ears of those of us who not-so-fondly refer to the number-one ticket agent as “Ticketbastard”.
In Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped (ECW Press, hardcover, 374 pps, $26.96 Cdn), Dean Budnick and Josh Baron answer all the questions you’ve ever had about concert tickets, automated concert ticketing, the history of concert promotion, service charges and more. Maybe too much more.
This book is comprehensive, to say the least. Editors of Relix music magazine, Budnick and Baron have done their research. They dive into the complete history of concert ticket and concert promotion, going so far as to leave no room-sized computer (the UNIVAC, one of the earliest machines pressed into service for the good of the concert-goer) unturned.
Even those unsung pioneers who first saw a need for automated ticketing get to tell their stories – which are, at least, marginally interesting.
Too much information…
The problem is, the writers seem to have packed every last detail into the book’s nearly-400 over-stuffed (literally – the publisher seems to have reduced margins to fit in more words) pages.
Still, the saga has its dramatic developments, though these are few and far between and mostly involve the actual artists. The Grateful Dead‘s struggle to hold onto tickets for sale to their fans through their own ticketing agency adds some much-needed tension, and Pearl Jam‘s “fight” with Ticketmaster (though it’s really not much of a fight) is a relief when it finally comes, over 100 pages in.
But a majority of Ticket Masters is about businessmen doing what businessmen do – seeing a niche, having lunch and making deals. Sure, few if any of the people who rise to positions of power in these pages come across as saints, but neither do the artists.
The big-ticket arena clowns (we’re looking at you, Sting, Aerosmith and Bon fuckin’ Jovi) are as responsible as Fred Rosen or Irving Azoff (two of the more frequently mentioned names in the book) for high ticket prices and service charges.
… and not enough rage
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to Ticket Masters to vindicate the rage you’ve felt at high ticket prices, you’re more likely to just feel numb by the end of it. That’s how I felt after the pages and pages of deals and petty betrayals (someone got cut out of what he perceives as his rightful profits from a Ticketmaster deal? Cry me a river.) catalogued herein.
As the book drew to a close with a merger that should have steam coming out of the ears of any self-respecting music fan, the Live Nation-Ticketmaster deal elicits an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” shrug.
This is nothing against Budnick and Baron, who have written an objective historical analysis of the concert industry; but for those readers wanting an accounting, Ticket Masters sleeps with the enemy.