By at 7:46 AM Wednesday, October 10th 2012


How Many Concert Tickets Actually Go to the Fans? (Not Many at All)

Sorry, No Exact Matches Were Found, The Truth


When the time comes to refresh your internet browser to buy tickets to see your favorite band live in concert, you probably get the same message as thousands of other fans that attempted to get tickets to that concert: “Sorry, no exact matches were found, but other tickets may still be available.” 

Your response is almost definitely “How is it possible that (insert band name here) sold out (insert arena name here) in the last three seconds?” The truth is that they didn’t. And it’s highly unlikely that it’s possible. There actually aren’t any other tickets available, but not because 18,000 fans were more lucky than you.

According to an investigative study by News Channel 5’s Phil Williams, who was able to get his hands on the ticket manifest (the list of where all the tickets went) to a Justin Bieber concert, of the 14,000 seats available in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, only 1,001 (seven percent of the total number of tickets available) were sold to fans who wanted to see The Bieb Machine. Now you’re probably wondering where the other 12,999 tickets went. See the image below for the answer.

The rest of the tickets went to companies like American Express, to the venue, to the fan club; everywhere but to the fans. For this specific concert, JBieb’s management had also taken a fair share of tickets to scalp on sites like StubHub and eBay for amounts well above face value. And it isn’t only Justin Bieber that has pulled this kind of crap.

In 2009, Keith Urban promised his fans an affordable twenty dollar ticket to his show. What fans didn’t know is that only 389 of the 15,000 tickets were actually twenty dollars. For Taylor Swift’s 2009 show at the Bridgestone Arena, only 1,600 tickets were actually sold to the general public. Finally, most recently, on the rider for Katy Perry’s California Dreams tour, one can read the following. “If Company elects to use “Reseller the s”, Promoters shall hold tickets for each Performance, in quantities and in locations as designated by the Personal Manager, for distribution to public through “Resellers”. “Resellers” shall mean any ticket agency, ticket re-seller or other so-called “secondary market” seller of tickets (such as, by way of example only, StubHub in the United States) who sell tickets to the general public. Promoter expressly acknowledges and agrees that Company shall be entitled to retain, for Company’s sole account, such portion of the proceeds from sales by Resellers.” In English, that means that Perry reserves the right to scalp her own tickets on secondary sites.

However, there are some artists that have souls and have spoken out against these ideals. Pearl Jam, for example, embarked on a tour in 1995 boycotting Ticketmaster by only playing at non-Ticketmaster venues, which prevented them from playing in the United States for three years. You might also remember back in early 2011 when LCD Soundsystem announced their farewell show at Madison Square Garden and it sold out in seconds, causing an uproar in the fan community. When frontman James Murphy heard about this, he immediately took to the band’s website with a long letter entitled fuck you, scalpers. terminal 5 shows added. The letter (obviously) expressed Murphy’s anger towards scalpers as well as announcing that the band was going to play a couple of shows at New York’s Terminal 5 leading up to the Madison Square Garden show. Lastly, when playing at New York’s Webster Hall in April for his AmEx Unstaged performance, Jack White made it almost impossible for scalpers to screw his fans by not sending out paper tickets and implementing a complicated admission system involving a guest list and photo IDs and included going through a bar’s back door that led into the venue. Needless to say, everyone that attended the show was mindlessly confused until they were actually in the venue.

Is it even worth trying to get your tickets through Ticketmaster? That’s up to you. But the odds are that you’re not going to get them because all the good seats went to your band’s management team. So in the long run, you’re probably going to have to hit StubHub anyway.

Check out Phil Williams’ full report on the Justin Bieber scandal.


Meanwhile, On The Internet...

  1. Dan says:

    Tickets going to the fan club don’t count as going to the fans? Who is in that club?!

    • Tom says:

      the graphic isnt necessarily saying that fan club tickets dont go to fans, its just illustrating that when a show “sells out” within minutes via ticketmaster, that many of the tickets were never available through what is perceived and promoted as the primary channel of obtaining tickets. that said, there is nothing really stopping the hardcore scalpers from participating in fan club sales.

      • That’s a really misleading graphic. Requiring a certain sponsoring credit card to be used, a fan club membership, or venue mailing list password for a presale isn’t an awful practice, and it doesn’t take the tickets out of the fans’ hands. It just means they go on sale earlier.

  2. Tom says:

    james murphy is full of shit. im sure a lot of tickets went to honest to goodness scalpers, but im willing to bet much like bieber, many of the tickets were never even available via ticketmaster. lets not forget that 1,500 tickets were magically made available days before MSG because they “removed some big cameras”. uh huh.

  3. chops says:

    This is why I like Texas Is The Reason. No paper tickets, 550 capacity venue in Brooklyn. Will call only.

  4. That probably means that 42% of the tickets went to an American Express presale, not that AmEx takes the tickets for themselves.

  5. Eric says:

    What this article fails to mention is that Trent Reznor did EXACTLY the same for NIN’s show @Webster Hall 3 years ago?
    Wasn’t confusing at all; in fact Trent sent out an email detailing the plan to keep scalpers out of the ticketing loop.
    We had to line up around the block, go in the back door of Webster Hall, show our ID to receive our ticket & wristband.
    We then had to go directly inside.
    And if you were there, you know it was worth it. Nothing like being in a tiny venue w/1,500 truly rabid fans, not some rich douche who could support some asshole scalper charging $1,000 a ticket.
    Billy Joel takes the front row floor seats to all his shows, then sends staffers up to the nosebleeds to handpick college kids who couldn’t afford front row but are true fans & gives them the tickets for free. I know because this has happened to a friend of mine while he was in college.
    If these soulless “artists” actually gave a damn about their fans instead of their bottom line, these things wouldn’t occur.
    Trent’s one of the few artists that gives a fair & transparent view of his show’s ticketing policies: “Why should I be out there busting my ass & some scalper takes all the profit?”
    Rock on, Mr. Reznor…..

  6. Stu says:

    No mention of the new Louis CK tour? Not a musical artist but doing a ton more then any musician in trying to keep a level playing field for fans

  7. Brendan says:

    Some festivals here in Australia print the name of the ticket holder on the ticket at time of purchase. If they can’t go, they have until a certain date to get a refund, at which point refunded tickets are made available to the public one last time. An excellent idea that has been proven to reduce scalping.

  8. Christina says:

    Initially I thought this article was interesting, then I realized it was mostly plagiarized from the FanFreedomProject website, specifically this posting:
    Have a little journalistic integrity. FanFreedomProject has links to StubHub, a major competitor of Ticketmaster, which doesn’t really make it an objective source.

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