Fighting the scalping propaganda | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Fighting the scalping propaganda

A few weeks ago, at the annual Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., my Sound Opinions colleague Greg Kot moderated a panel on the state of the concert industry, with a particular focus on ticketing and the dreaded plague of the secondary ticket market or scalping.

The fine folks at FMC now have put the video from the session online.

As is usual for these kinds of inside-baseball confabs, some participants engage in a fair amount of corporate doublespeak. But Kot does his best to hold their feet to the fire, and the panel includes representatives from two of the straightest-shooting and most fan-friendly regional concert promoters in the country: Seth Hurwitz of D.C.’s I.M.P. Productions and Andrew Kaplan of Chicago’s Jam, last featured in this blog taking Ticketmaster to task at a panel at South by Southwest 2010.

The video kicks into high gear about 19 minutes in, when Jon Potter, President of the Fan Freedom Project, begins spouting a lot of b.s. about how “consumers are ticked off” about technology being used for nefarious means in the concert industry and fans feeling as if they’re not getting a fair shake.

Potter’s organization, it must be noted, is a lobbying group which receives much of its funding from StubHub and other secondary ticket brokers (read: scalpers of the despicable breed last excoriated here in this post), the entities most devoted to screwing the fans at every turn in the name of free-market capitalism. The group’s name seems benign, but it is every bit as phony and dedicated to contrary aims as the numerous shadowy groups funded by the Koch brothers.

Kaplan calls Potter out, reveals him for what he is, touts Jam’s often-frustrated efforts to thwart the scalpers, and envisions an ominous future: “What you’re proposing is that tickets are commodities and whoever pays the highest price is who should go [to the concert], so what you have is the haves and the have-nots”—and less-privileged fans of the band be damned.

Other gripping moments follow through the end, including Potter contending that “there is no such thing as face value on a ticket anymore” (a notion Hurwitz and Kaplan firmly reject); the lobbyist moaning about Ticketmaster (pot, kettle, black), and him trying to weasel out of any culpability for scalpers using computerized robots or “bots” to flood online ticketing systems with requests, grabbing numerous seats at a show while elbowing fans aside.

Kaplan mentions one recent Chicago on-sale where he saw clear evidence of a Torrance, California-based bot grabbing up 30 tickets to a much in-demand show, though he does not name the act or which scalping company he suspects was responsible.

“So we can figure out where the pedophiles are, the music up-loaders, the music down-loaders, the movie up-loaders, and the movie down-loaders, but not the bot guys?” Potter disingenuously asks.

“If it’s not bots, where are the scalping companies getting these tickets?” Hurwitz shoots back.

Potter blames the artists. (And there have been a handful of cases where this was true, including a recent scandal involving Katy Perry.) And panelist Peter Jenner, ironically one of the legendary free spirits of the ’60s who’s managed dedicated eccentrics such as Syd Barrett and Robyn Hitchcock, blames that old demon the free market, saying that artists need to hike up the prices of their tickets to the maximum cost the market will bear so that there’s no room left for the resellers.

“You might remember when we did the Rolling Stones at Double Door in ’94 or ’95,” Kaplan responds. “The ticket price was $7. Is the premise that the Rolling Stones don’t have the right to do that?”

Kaplan and his colleagues at Jam, Hurwitz and the folks at I.M.P., and a handful of other promoters with conscience believe that artists should decide what the fans pay for their concerts, and that those fans should be the ones who are able to attend. That is an ideal worth fighting for—and that is real fan freedom, not the “right” to resell that ticket for five, ten, or fifty times the price.

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