Well, I blew out the entertainment budget this month (and then some), but on two consecutive weeknights in mid-July, Carrie and I will be taking off from work a little early and walking over to Central Park's Summerstage (2005 schedule not up yet) with picnic suppers and Army blankets in hand to hear Lyle Lovett and his Large Band and Elvis Costello (appearing with Emmylou Harris.)
So what am I bitching about? Well, just as after every online encounter with the monopolistic, suckful behemoth that is Ticketmaster.com, I'm muttering darkly to myself, "never again."
Let's break it down. Face prices on tickets for self and wife for two shows amounted to $190. Yikes, but okay, that's what concerts cost these days... and you can't fault the talent. A Lyle/Large Band show and Elvis & Emmylou the next night? No argument here.
Then Ticketbastards piles on $40.65 in "convenience charges" and "order processing fees." For those of you keeping score at home, that's a 21% premium over face value... and that doesn't count the revenue from the service fees that they're charging the artist and the venue.
To add insult to injury, if you pick "online delivery of tickets" (they e-mail you a link, you print out the tix on your own printer, an option that saves them printing and delivery charges) it costs extra! Utterly disgraceful. (God help you if you need overnight delivery.)
Hey, ordering online is pretty damned convenient, no question about it. But these are general admission tickets for an outdoor music festival; there's no seat selection logic required, no choices to make, just buy 'em or don't. For that, they make 21% on the transaction (plus whatever they can gouge out of the artist and promoter on the back end?)
Ticketmaster crossed my threshold of annoyance long ago, but they are perilously close to my personal threshold of economic pain.
So why don't I take my business somewhere else?
Simple. I can't. They have the venue all sewn up, just as they control ticket-based access to 90% of all large-scale live music venues in the United States. If I want tickets, I've gotta deal with them.
It's one of those "there ought to be a law" situations.
Well, actually, there is a law. It's called the Sherman Act, but so far, Ticketmaster has avoided investigation and prosecution under it (or the related Clayton Act.)
Free-market capitalism: good. (A credible, lower-cost alternative to Ticketmaster would either blow them out of the water or force them to cut their costs in short order.)
Monopoly/crony capitalism: bad.