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Music

The moment Pearl Jam went to war with Ticketmaster

The monopolistic approach that Ticketmaster has undertaken on its ruthless journey to dominance has caused endless controversy. Many have tried to take them down, but it has been to no avail, as Pearl Jam discovered the hard way in 1994.

It would have been easy for Pearl Jam to have stayed silent, to avoid taking on an entire industry, but it wasn’t in their DNA to do that. Even though it wasn’t affecting their bank balance, the Seattle band decided to intervene and say enough is enough. Unsurprisingly, the group didn’t have the financial might behind them to become victors, but morally, their heart was in the right place.

The issue stemmed from an argument over booking fees, with Pearl Jam wanting fans to be charged $1.80 on top of their $18 ticket, which was considerably lower than Ticketmaster would charge for both. Therefore, the grunge icons halted their plans to hit the road and put their principles ahead of a payday.

The Justice Department approached Pearl Jam, and an investigation began into Ticketmaster’s monopolistic behaviour. The band claimed the ticketing giants bought out the majority of their rivals, which allowed them to charge high service fees and major venues also signed exclusivity agreements, which left both bands and fans unable to avoid feeding their business model. Unfortunately, nothing came of the investigation.

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They successfully managed to get venues on-side by offering 20% of Ticketmaster’s profits for the entire year at a particular location if they agreed not to let any other operator work with them, which could land venues an extra $500,000 of revenue per annum. Therefore, Ticketmaster was free to increase service charges across the country.

When Pearl Jam toured in 1995, they had to play venues such as sporting fields which weren’t used to holding concerts, and as a result, the run of dates was a logistical nightmare, with most dates resulting in cancellations. To compound their misery, Ticketmaster didn’t face any consequences for their actions, and they continue to deploy dirty tactics today.

“Getting attacked by a superstar rock band is a lot like being accused of kicking your dog: There’s a general presumption of guilt until proven innocent,” a Ticketmaster spokesperson said in 1995 about the chain of events. “Luckily the facts were on our side, and we prevailed.”

Recently, Ticketmaster caused controversy with its surge-pricing strategy, which increases the price of tickets depending on demand. Fans were furious when they went onto the site to buy tickets for Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band’s tour and saw they were sold for upwards of $5,000. However, the company claim that only around 1.3% of the tickets sold so far have been for more than $1,000.

According to reports, Pearl Jam’s decision not to use Ticketmaster cost them $2million. For many years, they continued to refuse to work with the giant until their most recent tour after they came to a compromise. The group agreed to relinquish control over their Ten Club after Ticketmaster settled to save some of the best tickets for the most loyal fans. Furthermore, they also put blockers in place to stop third parties from buying up all tickets and selling them online for more than the face value price.

Even though Pearl Jam are now in bed with Ticketmaster, they are doing it firmly on their terms. They realise they’ll never be able to change the entire industry, but they can make it fairer for their fans. If only other acts would follow suit.