Ticketmaster and the Scourge of Hidden Fees


I want to begin by saying two prices upfront: $113.95 USD, and $137 CAD. At first glance, the Canadian dollar is more expensive. However, when translated into US currency, that ticket price goes down to $101.79. The prices I just gave were for two shows; both are the same band, both are directly from Ticketmaster’s website, both are standing. The difference? The country. In Canada, fees are usually around $10 CAD ($7.43 USD), whereas the fees for a US show total $19.98 a piece, so two tickets makes them $39.95 in fees alone.

For about a decade now, Americans have taken this, because they didn’t know or simply didn’t care. Tickets could exceed over $1,000 USD before fees, and nothing was said. Recently, though, some people have begun to take a stand. Spurred on by the insane prices Ticketmaster was charging for large artists, people began to stop pointing their weapons at the artist and instead began pointing them at Ticketmaster. And with good reason.

As of Apr. 5, 2023, a ticket for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” on the upper level 304 of Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium is $1,020* before fees. Rappers Drake and 21 Savage’s tour  has floor tickets selling for around $596* each at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Taylor Swift has yet to announce any Canadian dates for this tour, but Drake’s tour is playing at the Centre Bell in Laval, Quebec. The cheapest tickets for this show on Ticketmaster sell for around $170 US, and the cheapest tickets for his Massachusetts show are $298 US a piece.

Another major issue is that the Canadian show displays any and all fee amounts upfront, whereas the U.S. shows simply say “$298.00 ea. + fees.” This problem bleeds into all aspects of a show, with some fans reviewing the show negatively because they felt like they didn’t get what they paid full price for. Numerous artists in recent years have come out against Ticketmaster’s fees. It went so far that court cases from both LPC Avocat Inc. and over 200 plaintiffs arose against Ticketmaster over Drake and Taylor Swift concert tickets respectively.

These issues have me wondering if things were easier in a time before the internet and Ticketmaster’s fees. I decided to seek out two people experienced in the field of concerts in the 1990s, my own mother and father.

Traveling Back in Time, Before Ticketmaster

My father has been a big inspiration on my music taste, and he once saw the band Depeche Mode on Jones Beach in Wantagh, NY. While he personally doesn’t remember much about buying tickets himself, as they usually required credit cards, he made it sound much easier. When I asked if he could simply go to a record store or the concert venue to buy them, he agreed that record stores were one way. 

As for the venue, he said, “You could actually go to the concert and scalp tickets, or be the first in line to see if there are any extra tickets available.”

My mother told me a story of how she saw guitarist Eric Clapton in Aug. 1992 at the Xfinity Center, then called Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, in Mansfield, Massachusetts. 

In a text message, she said “I waited in line… for the local record store, The Music Box, to open. We bought the tickets, the only option being the cardstock paper version. I don’t remember there being fees. You just bought the ticket, and however much it cost to get into the concert was how much you paid.” 

She also explained how a version of fan presale, like the codes Ticketmaster uses now, was in effect even back then. 

“I think for some shows, the really popular ones, you would stand in line to get a wristband, which would guarantee you a ticket, kind of what they do now with the presale, I guess,” she said. 

This early version of presale also allowed people an ability to form a community before the show. If you didn’t have anyone to go with, you could easily find someone who was also going alone and look out for one another while camping out for the tickets.

Fighting Back

This era of Ticketmaster’s hold over concerts seems to be ending, however. In 2022, a group of 200 plaintiffs from multiple states sued Ticketmaster and its sister company Live Nation. In Feb. of this year, senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mike Lee, R-Utah began calling for the U.S. Justice Department to look into Ticketmaster for breaching antitrust laws. This was met with the equivalent of Live Nation saying that the consumers are in the wrong for not understanding “the realities of the industry,” which really feels insincere for a major company.

Another major fighter against Ticketmaster is Robert Smith, lead singer of The Cure. In the week leading up to the Mar. 13 presale for US tickets, he urged fans on the band’s social media and website to not buy tickets for shows they will not attend. He continues to make this request to this day. He was transparent with his fans on his disdain for Ticketmaster and his want for fans to have cheap and accessible tickets. His argument included explaining how New York, Illinois, and Colorado have laws in place protecting scalpers, and restricting the sale and transfer of tickets via Ticketmaster.

In a move that was unprecedented and unseen, he also forced Ticketmaster to return every purchaser a $5 US credit. Now $5 isn’t much, but in the Xfinity Center show alone, Ticketmaster gave away around $99,500 US. This remains the same for the shows at every stop, which remain sold out on Ticketmaster.

Artists have been fighting against these huge price hikes for a long time. Some artists simply play venues not owned by Live Nation, however this method is slowly dying out due to Ticketmaster having exclusive deals with most major stadiums. Therefore, Champlain College students wanting to see big-name artists would benefit from looking to see if they’re doing Canadian shows, a common option.

The venue MTELUS in Montreal offers a great show and is rather inexpensive in comparison to places like New York or New Hampshire. I recommend that if any big name acts come nearby, any students should look at Canadian shows for cheaper tickets, less driving, and overall a better experience. 

Ticketmaster’s practices are currently being researched by both a Los Angeles court, with the next date in the trial set for May 25, and the Dept. of Justice. As anger grows in Ticketmaster’s direction, we should remember that this company has nothing to do with what the artists want ticket prices to be. The next time a concert seems overpriced, make sure your pitchforks poke at the bear that is Ticketmaster, and the artist you want to see will most likely join in.


*Pricing comes from Vividseats.com.