In the opening paragraphs, it’s important to quickly answer the main question being asked. For this article, the question is: Does an artist have to use Ticketmaster? The quick answer is that no, artists are not required to use Ticketmaster. However, Ticketmaster does dominate the primary ticket market in North America so it can be very difficult for artists to avoid using them completely.
What is Ticketmaster?
Ticketmaster is a ticket sales and distribution company based in Beverly Hills, California. It is a subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment. Ticketmaster sells tickets for live entertainment events on behalf of event organizers across North America. This includes concerts, sports games, theater shows, and more. Artists, teams, venues, and promoters contract with Ticketmaster to sell the tickets to their events.
Ticketmaster has exclusive ticketing agreements with many major venues and promoters. This means if an artist wants to perform at one of these venues, they have to use Ticketmaster to sell the tickets. Ticketmaster’s exclusive deals and dominant market share in primary ticket sales make it challenging for artists to sell tickets without using their platform in some capacity.
Why do so many artists use Ticketmaster?
There are several key reasons why the majority of artists end up using Ticketmaster:
- Exclusive venue deals – As mentioned, many major venues and promoters have exclusive ticketing agreements with Ticketmaster. Popular tour stops like Madison Square Garden in NYC require artists to use Ticketmaster.
- Established infrastructure – Ticketmaster has an established platform and infrastructure for selling tickets online and at box office outlets. Many artists find it easier to leverage their existing system rather than build their own.
- Widespread brand recognition – Ticketmaster has built brand recognition over decades in the ticket sales business. Consumers are familiar with purchasing tickets through Ticketmaster. Artists can benefit from this existing brand awareness.
- Analytics and data – Ticketmaster provides valuable sales analytics and fan data to artists and promoters about ticket buyers. This data can help inform an artist’s touring and marketing strategy.
- Industry connections – Ticketmaster has longstanding relationships and influence within the live music business. Breaking from the norm by avoiding Ticketmaster entirely can be challenging in this ecosystem.
Essentially, Ticketmaster has become such an embedded middleman in the live event ticketing process that most artists accept using them for at least some of their ticket sales and distribution.
Are there alternatives to Ticketmaster for artists?
While it’s difficult to avoid Ticketmaster completely, artists do have some alternatives and options to reduce reliance on them, including:
- Direct artist-to-fan ticket sales – Some artists sell tickets directly to fans through their own websites. This allows them to bypass middlemen like Ticketmaster. However, it requires setting up infrastructure to handle sales securely.
- Partnerships with independent ticketers – Smaller ticket companies like Eventbrite, AXS, and eTix can offer more artist-friendly service. Venues that aren’t locked into Ticketmaster deals may use these platforms.
- Paperless ticketing – With paperless/mobile tickets, artists can have more control without having to print physical tickets. Solutions like ScoreBig and Ticketfly offer these services.
- Physical box office sales – Artists can still sell tickets directly at venue box offices without going through Ticketmaster online. However, this strategy limits availability.
- Lotteries/registration – Some artists like Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters have fans register for ticket lotteries to better control allocation.
- Dynamic pricing – Tools like Platinum Tickets allow artists to adjust pricing in a more granular, data-driven way beyond Ticketmaster’s capabilities.
The viability of these alternatives depends a lot on artists’ individual situations, including venue relationships, fan base, and touring needs. Artists generally have to pick their battles carefully when it comes to bypassing Ticketmaster.
Case Studies: Artists selling tickets without Ticketmaster
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour
In November 2022, Taylor Swift announced her latest Eras stadium tour in an unprecedented ticket sale. She partnered with Ticketmaster to sell tickets on her website through Verified Fan presales and only opened a few general on-sale windows on Ticketmaster.com. The approach aimed to get more tickets directly into the hands of her fans. However, it was plagued by website crashes, long waits, and bot attacks. Swift had to cancel the general on-sale due to insufficient remaining ticket inventory. The fiasco highlighted that bypassing Ticketmaster entirely comes with substantial operational risks.
Louis CK’s DIY tour
Comedian Louis CK took a DIY approach to ticketing his 2017 stand-up tour. He sold tickets for his 39-city tour exclusively through his website, cutting out middlemen services. The move allowed him to keep ticket prices low while also combating scalpers reselling tickets. However, it also required handling all of the logistics of marketing, payments, and ticket delivery internally. The demanding strategy was aided by CK’s strong pre-existing fan base. Ultimately, he proved it’s possible for some artists to run their own ticketing, but not without challenges.
Pros of avoiding Ticketmaster for artists
While difficult, there are some potential upsides for artists if they can minimize or eliminate Ticketmaster from their ticketing process:
- More control over the fan experience – With their own ticketing, artists can better control factors like prices, transfer policies, and bot protection.
- Better data on fans – Direct ticketing allows artists to gather their own data on ticket buyers rather than rely on Ticketmaster’s data.
- Fewer fees – Direct or independent ticketing means fewer processing fees tacked onto ticket prices, making prices lower for fans.
- Higher revenue percentage – Artists may be able to negotiate a higher percentage revenue share without Ticketmaster’s fees.
- Brand differentiation – Selling tickets independently from rivals can set an artist apart and build fan loyalty.
However, these potential upsides have to be weighed against the difficulties and risks of bypassing such an established player like Ticketmaster.
Cons of avoiding Ticketmaster for artists
Some of the key cons and risks artists face if they try to avoid using Ticketmaster include:
- Lack of infrastructure – Developing secure, scalable ticketing infrastructure from scratch is extremely challenging.
- High upfront costs – Major initial investments are needed for website development, payment processing, customer support, and more.
- No established brand recognition – Fans are less familiar buying outside Ticketmaster, making marketing more difficult.
- Loss of venue/promoter relationships – Those with Ticketmaster deals may be unwilling to cooperate with independent ticketing.
- Poor fan experiences – Technical issues, lack of support for ticket transfers, etc. can frustrate fans.
- Lower sales and reach – Avoiding Ticketmaster may limit an artist’s sales, exposure, and tour expansion.
In most cases, these cons present significant hurdles for major touring artists trying to move away from Ticketmaster entirely.
- Ticketmaster is not an outright requirement for artists, but its dominant position makes avoiding it completely very difficult.
- Exclusive venue deals, established infrastructure, brand recognition, and industry connections drive most artists to use Ticketmaster.
- Some alternatives exist like direct sales, paperless ticketing, and independent platforms, but come with major operational challenges.
- Selling tickets independently provides more control for artists but lacks Ticketmaster’s capabilities and reach.
- For major touring artists, the risks and difficulties of not using Ticketmaster at all typically outweigh the benefits.
In summary, while Ticketmaster is entrenched in the live entertainment ticketing landscape, artists are not absolutely forced to use their platform. With substantial effort and risk, it is possible to minimize or forego Ticketmaster entirely through direct sales and alternative partners. However, for the vast majority of touring artists, some level of cooperation with Ticketmaster will continue to be the most logical and beneficial approach. Their combination of venue relationships, technical infrastructure, industry sway, and consumer recognition maintain their status as the dominant ticketing outlet that artists must strategically work with or around. As a result, completely avoiding Ticketmaster remains an uphill battle for most artists.