TICKETMASTER FLEECES - Pearl Jam and Fans Fight

by: Scott Pfeiffer

OK, so Frederick D. Rosen, CEO of Ticketmaster, the nation's #1 ticket distributing agency, with annual sales of $1.3 billion, is not a censor. But his company does keep us from jamming to the music we love, live.

This is an economic problem. Fans without money to burn are excluded from events by the surcharges and fees TM heaps onto tickets. You pay a "convenience" fee (typically around 30% of the ticket price) for each ticket, not per order: Chuck Philips of the LA Times has likened this to a super-market charging you a "convenience" fee on a gallon of milk, for saving you a drive to the dairy. Phone customers pay a $1.55 processing fee. It all adds up to boost the cost of the average three-ticket order by over twenty dollars. And that's in addition to the facility fee, and before you pay for parking!

I called TM for a Dylan ticket recently. When I got to the venue, TM had "conveniently" failed to show up. When they did, after I'd already spent a half hour watching fans who'd paid less file into the theater, I ended up standing in a long line of pissed phone customers to get my ticket.

What is worse, "Ticketshafter" manipulates its shift schedules in such a way that its employees, mostly poor black women, can't rack up enough hours to earn full-time status. This way the company can deprive them of health insurance. As Bob Herbert writes in the Feb. 14 New York Times, "This is clearly another example of a company prospering while its employees are condemned to a frustrating and nerve-wracking fight for subsistence."

Ever since TM killed their summer tour as surely as any censor could, Pearl Jam, one of the most uncompromising bands, has been fighting back. Pearl Jam insisted on a cheap ticket with a "convenience" fee of no more than 10%. Fred Rosen said no way. And because TM has contracts with facilities and promoters guaranteeing that no one else can distribute tickets to events, the threat of lawsuits sunk the tour.

In response, Pearl Jam on May 6 caused Sullivan & Cromwell, a preeminent anti-trust firm, to file a memorandum with the Justice Department's anti-trust division. Bass player Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard testified at a congressional hearing on July 7.

In the band's Seattle hometown, Pearl Jam fans have become a force, filing a class action consumer anti-trust suit against TM. Pearl Jam's audience is aware of the irresponsibility of passivity, and given how often this band has stood up for us, including on the issue of freedom of expression, it's up to us to think about how we can get busy. Specifically, how can band and fans ally themselves with poor TM employees?

Editors note: Watch for more about this issue in the next ROC. We have been informed by sources at Pearl Jam's management that an exclusive interview with Eddie Vedder concerning TM may be possible.

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