Is Ticket Scalping Keeping Country Music Fans from Seeing Their Favorite Artists
Supply and demand can be a crazy concept. Sometimes the concerts or events that you think will be gone in a flash, have tickets available for weeks or months. Maybe the location is too far, or maybe it’s not happening on a prime Friday or Saturday night timeslot. On the other hand, there’s other concerts or events that may seem like there’ll be plenty of tickets available, but then ultimately become impossible to attain. Sometimes this is rightfully so. Artists like Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen have shown purely from their streaming records that demand is at an all-time high for both artists right now. The problem becomes when those who aren’t big fans of the artist try to ruin it for everyone else, and it really burns for those who are the biggest of fans and can’t afford tickets which are way too costly.
There are two root problems when it comes to ticket scalping - individuals purchasing tickets with no intention to go, who plan to just resell them and make a profit is one problem. But even worse, ticket brokers and tech geniuses are using online bots to buy tickets in bulk, and resell all of them on either their own sites, or other secondary market sites. These robots are getting the exact same tickets up on several different sites, including Ticketmaster, Stubhub, Seatgeek, Vivid Seats, etc... while having the technology to make sure the same tickets on one site get removed immediately upon them being bought on another site. The algorithms are crazy, and way too advanced for the average concert goer. On top of that, the price they are listing the tickets for often double or triple the face value.
Currently, there are no federal regulations against ticket scalping. You can buy tickets whenever you want, and the law does not prohibit you from selling them. Congress did pass the BOTS (Better Online Ticket Sales) Act in 2016, which made it illegal to use automated technology to flip event tickets. From the Department of Justice:
“Enacted in 2016, the BOTS Act aims to prevent ticket brokers from buying large numbers of event tickets and reselling them to interested customers at inflated prices. To achieve that goal, the BOTS Act prohibits a person from circumventing access controls or measures used by online ticket sellers (such as Ticketmaster) to enforce ticket-purchasing limits. It also prevents the resale of tickets obtained by knowingly circumventing access controls.”
It took five years for the BOTS Act to even be used in prosecution, as a 2021 case brought on by the Federal Trade Commission was the first time action was taken. Three ticket brokers were subject to $31 million in civil penalties. That being said, this was just one case, and there are many other robots and websites continuing to do the exact same thing.
Country artists have noticed, and are starting to do something about this problem. It may not be perfect, but artists are trying their best to vocalize the problem and try to find solutions. Here are a few kinds of different examples of what artists like Luke Combs, Garth Brooks, and Kid Rock have done.
Luke always has his fans in mind. He not only wants his fans to be the ones getting the tickets, but he wants them to get the tickets at a decent price. Luke has used “Ticketmaster Verified Fan”, which gives his fans who subscribe to his fan e-mails to sign up through a link to get a unique code that has access to presale tickets. And from what it seems, he puts most, if not all tickets available via that presale, so that the average person cannot swoop in during the general onsale period. Here’s what he said to his fans via e-mail for one of his most recent tours:
“As always, Bootleggers will get first chance at tickets… To receive an opportunity at pre-sale access, you MUST click HERE and sign up for the Bootleggers pre-sale powered by Ticketmaster Verified Fan … I know this is an extra step, but I do this to weed out as many scalpers as possible… While I can’t guarantee everyone will be verified and randomly selected, those who are will receive their code via text message the night before the pre-sale… Also, I know the price of everything has been going up recently; there’s nothing I can do about that, but the one thing I could do is set the price of my tickets. So what I wanted to do was keep the ticket prices the same as they were before pandemic. These tickets will be priced just as they were the last time you bought tickets, so I really hope you guys will come and check us out. I love y’all and can’t wait to see y’all on the road. See y’all this fall!”
Artists like Old Dominion and Taylor Swift have also used this same approach recently. Many times, it limits fans to a 4 ticket maximum. It also forces you to a choose a city you actually want to attend, by getting a code for that specific city. That helps keep scammers away from using their tactics for every single city of the tour.
Many artists who are playing at smaller, bar sized venues have taken the approach of not even selling tickets. The only way you can go to the show is winning tickets via a series of giveaways, usually through the local radio station. Garth made a powerful statement by doing this at his 7-stop dive bar tour in 2019, and took the same approach again in 2021.
Garth has openly bashed ticketing sites for promoting dynamic pricing, and has been known to make all of his tickets the same price, regardless of where the seat is, to make sure all fans can enjoy no matter how much money they make.
Many radio stations have also taken this approach with only being able to “win” tickets, such as a local New Jersey station doing this for an upcoming Jon Pardi concert in November, and a local South Florida station not even advertising who the artist is going to be, and still only allowing you to win the tickets via the radio station.
Kid Rock has taken a different approach on his hatred for ticket scalpers by just making the tickets absolutely dirt cheap to start with. We’re talking $20, cheap. And while he kept ticket prices lower, he jacked up the prices for the best seats in the house so that scalpers couldn't have their way, and the real fans could grab them. He doesn’t even put the first two rows of tickets for sale, and finds diehard fans himself (Garth Brooks has also been known to take this approach, and finds fans in the cheap seats to bring them up front)
"They are not for sale, " Kid Rock told NPR. "I'm tired of seeing the old rich guy in the front row with the hot girlfriend. And the hot girlfriend, you know, with her boobs hanging out, with her beer in the air, just screaming the whole time. The old rich guy is standing there like he could care less. It's a very common theme at Kid Rock concerts."
He even told NPR some stories about turning down direct, sketchy opportunities for himself to make more money…
“I've been approached by scalpers in the underground who said, we can make you hundreds of thousands of dollars cash. Just give us a few of those front rows for every show. We'll never tell anyone. If you'll do a meet-and-greet with them, you can add 10 grand cash on the top of that… So I mean, they've come to me. And I'd be like, get out of here with that horse crap.”
Kid Rock may be a little more old-school than the technology solutions to the problem, but he makes sure to do what he can, and be vocal about it in the process.
Many artists are still taking the classic approach to selling tickets, but when it comes down to it, their fans are getting hurt in the process. People run to Twitter with complaints, spend money they don’t have, and have a sour taste in their mouth through the process. Artists that are going out of their way to make sure their fans are happy and can attend their shows are not going unnoticed. We’ll see if the trend picks up.