Even in this era, dominated by vertically and horizontally dominant monopolists, few companies are as chronically dirty and corrupt as Ticketmaster (previously), whose parent company, Livenation, is the world’s largest concert promoter. Controlling promotion and ticketing is a one-two punch for a monopolist: Livenation’s rival promoters still inevitably end up selling tickets through Ticketmaster, enriching their biggest competitor.
Ticketmaster and Livenation have managed to claim an ever-larger slice of the revenue generated by creative artists and the companies that invest in their work, Meanwhile, Ticketmaster’s shows are notorious for selling out in seconds to bot-running scalpers who then mark up the tickets and sell them for many multiples of their face-value.
Ticketmaster has always maintained that these scalpers were unfortunate and undesirable parasites that preyed on Ticketmaster, the performers and the audience alike. Ticketmaster says that it uses anti-bot tools to kick scalpers off the system and prevent them from buying tickets, but laments that it sometimes loses the arms-race with the scalpers and their bots.
But a CBC/Toronto Star undercover investigation has revealed that Ticketmaster runs a secret, parallel system called “Tradedesk” that encourages the most prolific scalpers to create multiple accounts to circumvent the company’s limits on ticket sales, and then allows them to re-list those tickets for sale in its “brokerage” market, which nominally exists to allow fants who find themselves with a spare ticket or two to sell it other fans. According to Ticketmaster reps who were unaware they were being secretly recorded, the most successful scalpers use this system to make as much as $5 million/year.
Of course, this means fans are getting gouged. With Ticketmaster colluding with scalpers, there’s no way for a genuine fan to simply buy a ticket at face-value: not only are the scalpers always going to be better at buying tickets than fans can be (because fans buy a few tickets, every now and again, and scalpers work the system day in and day out), but they have an insider advantage, thanks to their partnership with Ticketmaster, who are supposed to be operating a fair marketplace.
But there’s another way in which Ticketmaster is ripping off the world here: Ticketmaster is meant to act as a broker on behalf of performer — the people whose creative labor is the reason for the sales in the first place.
The performers sell Ticketmaster the tickets to the show, and Ticketmaster takes a commission on the initial sale of the tickets and passes the rest on to the performers, but then, when Ticketmaster sells the ticket again (on behalf of a scalper, for a much higher price), it earns a second commission — and the artist get nothing.
Ticketmaster issued a non-denial-denial to the Star and CBC, and implied that this was a case of rogue employees doing naughty things. But the misdeeds that the journalists caught on video came from a wide variety of Ticketmaster staffers, acting on behalf of the company at a major trade-show, with no hedging or any sense that they were offering access to something untoward. What’s more, the CBC/Star report is backed up by a leaked copy of Ticketmaster’s handbook for professional “resellers.”
In a separate investigation, the CBC/Star team showed how Ticketmaster manipulates ticket prices in realtime using deceptive tactics (withholding blocks of tickets until mid-sale, then releasing them at above-face-value prices) to bilk fans out of more money. Hilariously, Ticketmaster blamed this on the “promoter” of the concert, which was Livenation — the company that owns Ticketmaster.
CBC News obtained a copy of Ticketmaster’s official reseller handbook, which outlines these fees. It also details Ticketmaster’s reward system for scalpers. As scalpers hit milestones such as $500,000 or $1 million in annual sales, Ticketmaster will knock a percentage point off its fees.
The Ticketmaster employee who gave the video conference demonstration in March said 100 scalpers in North America, including a handful in Canada, are using TradeDesk to move between a few thousand and several million tickets per year.
“I think our biggest broker right now has probably grabbed around five million,” he said.
Cross, who has spent the past two years researching online ticket sales, suspects some fans will read about this and conclude Ticketmaster is colluding with scalpers.
“On one hand, they say, ‘We don’t like bots,’ but on the other hand, ‘We have all these clients who may use bots.'”
‘A public relations nightmare’: Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program [Dave Seglins, Rachel Houlihan, Laura Clementson/CBC News]
(via Super Punch)
Music of Mind Control with Micah is a weekly radio program on WFMU that bills itself as an “exploration into the musical output of religious cults, new religious movements, and individuals of a spiritually inspired and divine nature.” In between songs (most of which are very listenable) the host provides information about the different cults from around the world whose music is featured on the show.
WFMU has good smartphone apps that let you listen to all of their different weekly shows.
A piece of American rock ‘n’ roll history was discovered in western Massachusetts: the original Aerosmith tour van.
In a recently aired episode of the hit History Channel show, “American Pickers,” hosts and antique scavengers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz tracked down the band’s original tour van in Chesterfield that the group used to schlep to gigs around New England in the early 1970s.
Not much was initially known about the rusted, 1964 International Harvester Metro van, buried in the woods, said the property’s owner, identified only as Phil, who told Wolfe and Fritz the vehicle was there when he bought the land.
Founding Aerosmith member and guitarist Ray Tabano confirmed the find, calling it the band’s “rolling hotel.” Wolfe and Fritz purchased the historic van for $25,000.
screenshot via Boston.com/The History Channel
Photographers capture communities gathering at events organized to celebrate a variety of cultural observances in 2018.
Regional dancers perform at the Guelaguetza festival on July 30 in Zaachila, Oaxaca, Mexico. The Guelaguetza is a festival held once a year which gathers music, dance, gastronomy and handicrafts of different ethnic groups and tribes of the state of Oaxaca.
(Patricia Castellanos/AFP/Getty Images)
Aaron Oppenheim writes, “I made a lil lazy mashup of Legs and Where The Streets Have No Name (just tempo and key matching) because someone on twitter pointed out that they are basically the same song. It works incredibly well.”
Assigned to covertly observe and, if necessary, violently protect air travelers on flights which include passengers on a TSA terrorist watch list or on routes that are considered to have a higher probability of coming under attack in a terrorist action, federal air marshals have been a fixture on many flights since the September 11th attacks of 2001. That we seldom hear about the work that air marshals do is a very good thing. It means that we’re safe as we travel and that they’re very good at keeping a low profile as part of doing their job. It’s a gig that anyone should be proud to do. However, the pride that comes with quietly and professionally protecting folks may be in for a bit of tarnish thanks to a disturbing new program launched by the TSA called Quiet Skies.
As part of Quiet Skies, air marshals are being asked to step off of the flights that they’ve been assigned to protect to undertake a new detail: gathering intelligence on civilians who aren’t on a terrorist watchlist – regular folks like you and me. Unlike ICE, which giddily has accepted a larger number of troubling new powers and responsibilities from the federal government, the air marshals are voicing their concern with the new marching orders being given to them.
From The Boston Globe:
Since this initiative launched in March, dozens of air marshals have raised concerns about the Quiet Skies program with senior officials and colleagues, sought legal counsel, and expressed misgivings about the surveillance program, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Globe.
“What we are doing [in Quiet Skies] is troubling and raising some serious questions as to the validity and legality of what we are doing and how we are doing it,” one air marshal wrote in a text message to colleagues.
It’s not just texts and mumbled complaints cherry picked by a whack of investigative journalists, either. Recently, John Casaretti, president of the Air Marshal Association, stated “The Air Marshal Association believes that missions based on recognized intelligence, or in support of ongoing federal investigations, is the proper criteria for flight scheduling. Currently, the Quiet Skies program does not meet the criteria we find acceptable.”
According to the Boston Globe, TSA documents show there are about 40-50 Quiet Skies passengers pinged on domestic flights each day. On average, air marshals follow and surveil about 35 of them. Think about that: every day, 35 people, who have engaged in no criminal activity, are being researched and followed by undercover agents just because someone doesn’t like the look of them. We’re not talking about citizens of foreign nations here, either – Quiet Skies targets American citizens. For the time being, the TSA is mum on how they choose who the program targets or what makes those individuals worth the attention that they’re being given. Could it be skin color? Religious or political affiliations? Information gleamed from their private email or text conversations? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.
After a ton of digging, The Boston Globe uncovered that the purpose of Quiet Skies is to “unknown or partially known terrorists; and to identify and provide enhanced screening to higher risk travelers before they board aircraft based on analysis of terrorist travel trends, tradecraft and associations.” Dig that unknown. Maybe the person air marshals are being asked to follow is a terrorist – someone better be there watching, just in case they make any sudden movements. As part of the program, travel patterns are studied and acted upon. Some of the victims of this grossly sketchy surveillance program have included a federal agent, a flight attendant and some poor schlep traveling for work. In the case of the latter, it could very well have been you or me.
From a civil liberties standpoint, Quiet Skies is a serious issue. If you want to learn more about it, you’d do well with checking in with The Boston Globe’s excellent coverage of it, here.
Digging the energy and the loose, raw style of these paintings by artist Jonathan Pinto.
“All the big loud housey songs came from the idea of ‘I want to create the same song over and over again’,” Rosenfeld said, “Except that I’ve created each one in a different location, or a different mindset. And just purely based on that, they all turned out unique in their own way.”
The album, Excursions, is out in september; you can get the Minecraft soundtrack on vinyl for $45 at Amazon.
There have been a lot of iconic images offering the FEELING of a NYC subway ride.
The goth woman and her raven, and the Ramones and their guitars are the first to come to mind. Taking photos of people riding the subway is likely on par with photographers crapping out another image of San Franciaco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Once in a while tho, we get art.
I have an MTA card in my wallet.
Trump went off script in Montana last week, conceding “I don’t have a guitar, or an organ.” Trump did note that he has a mouth “and hopefully the brain attached to the mouth.” Stephen Colbert analyzes the rambling Trump rant so weird that Snopes had to confirm it.
Democratic Underground was kind enough to share a handy pic of the moment.
• Trump’s Brain Instrument Is On The Fritz Again (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)