I have never seen U2 live in concert. Despite being the biggest band in the history of Irish music; and the fact that they have played countless gigs in Ireland in the years since their formation, I have never really felt a major inclination to see them. While it is widely accepted that they put on a good live show and have done some iconic tours, something about them sets my teeth on edge.
So this morning when their four concerts at the 3 Arena in November went on sale, I didn’t even make an attempt to purchase a ticket. The reason wasn’t even related to my ambivalence towards U2. It was more to do with the fact that Ticketmaster was selling the tickets. Therefore the tickets weren’t really on sale at all. It was merely an illusion of a sale.
When I was trying to buy tickets for the Cranberries last May I became aware of the Ticketmaster scam. Having done some research after that fiasco it all became crystal clear.
When U2 (or any band for that matter) go on tour they want to make as much money as humanly possible. If they personally claim not to care about the money it’s all very nice sounding. Their management has other ideas however. U2 don’t want to APPEAR to be scalping their fans though. It wouldn’t do at all for Saint Bono to appear greedy and materialistic. He’s a man of the people – a working class hero made good.
The promoter (in U2’s case this is LiveNation) and Ticketmaster (which is owned by LiveNation) will have worked out that U2 can get away with charging a certain market rate per ticket. As U2’s fan base is predominantly middle aged people, this ticket price is elevated – probably in the hundred of euros. Their audience is respectable, mature and fairly flush with money – easy pickings. For argument’s sake let’s say 300euro per ticket is the price they settle on for what the maximum they can realistically charge.
However U2 put their tickets on sale for 100euro on Ticketmaster. That makes it look like Saint Bono and the Boys are generous people who care about their fans.
In the background U2’s management and Live Nation has agreed a fee with the 3 Arena / Ticketmaster that will see U2 get paid as if every ticket sells at a rate of 200 euro per ticket.
But if the tickets only sell for face value (100 euros) then Ticketmaster / LiveNation will have lost millions of euros, based on the fee that’s already been paid to the band. That can’t happen.
Before any tickets go on general sale a certain number are held aside for the band’s fan club for a pre-sale. This is a necessity to justify the yearly charge that U2 levy on its fan club members.
Afterwards Ticketmaster puts a certain percentage of available seats for sale on the Ticketmaster website at face value. What percentage is anyone’s guess. Based on my experience of buying tickets for popular shows it is a rather low percentage. The remaining tickets are allocated to Ticketmaster’s sister company – the ‘re-seller’ Seatwave. These remaining tickets have NEVER been on sale to the general public.
At exactly the same moment that fans are getting ‘Sold out’ messages from Ticketmaster – mere seconds after the general sale has started – Seatwave are selling U2 tickets at three or four times the face value.
Everyone’s a winner – except for fans who are not able to afford massively expensive tickets. The band isn’t seen to be gouging their fans, although that is precisely what it is doing in a very underhand way.
It’s not just U2 though – it’s standard practice in the live music industry.
This scam allows acts to maximise revenue without being seen as greedy. And if the overpriced Seatwave tickets aren’t moving, then some weeks before the show, they are returned to Ticketmaster to sell at face value.
As was the case with Bruce Springsteen’s concerts in 2016. He played two nights in Croke Park (a stadium with a capacity of 80,000). Both shows ‘sold out’ (ha!) within minutes of going on public sale. Some weeks before his gigs, thousands of seats for the ‘sold out’ shows suddenly reappeared on Ticketmaster. Clearly the Seatwave seats weren’t moving, so Bruce, Ticketmaster and Seatwave cut their losses and the tickets became available at face value once again.
I may yet see U2. There are always people who can’t attend a gig and who resell their tickets for face value closer to the date. Maybe I’ll investigate attending closer to the time.