In recent years, there has been growing backlash against Ticketmaster and their hold on the live event ticketing industry. Many artists and fans feel that Ticketmaster’s fees and service charges are excessive and unfair. This has led some bands to try and find ways to circumvent using Ticketmaster for their tours. One of the most prominent bands to try this was Pearl Jam in the mid-1990s.
Pearl Jam’s Anti-Ticketmaster Tour
In 1994, Pearl Jam was one of the biggest rock bands in the world on the back of their hit album Vs. When planning their summer tour that year, the band decided they did not want to use Ticketmaster for their ticket sales due to their expensive service fees. At the time, Ticketmaster had exclusive contracts with many major venues and controlled ticket distribution. This made it very difficult for bands to avoid using their service.
Pearl Jam took a stand and attempted to only perform at non-Ticketmaster venues for their tour. They tried to keep ticket prices low for fans by avoiding Ticketmaster’s fees. This proved very challenging, as Ticketmaster had exclusive ticketing deals with most arenas and amphitheaters at the time. As a result, Pearl Jam was forced to use alternate ticketing methods and perform at smaller venues not affiliated with Ticketmaster.
Challenges of the Anti-Ticketmaster Tour
Pearl Jam’s anti-Ticketmaster tour posed many logistical challenges:
- They had to book alternate venues on very short notice, including state fairs, minor league baseball stadiums, and clubs.
- Many venues had much lower capacities than major arenas, meaning high ticket demand and quick sell-outs.
- The band lost revenue playing smaller venues.
- Promoting the new venues with short lead times was difficult.
- Ticket distribution was complicated without Ticketmaster.
Despite these obstacles, Pearl Jam managed to perform over 30 shows that summer using their alternate ticketing methods. They pioneered new ways of selling tickets, including via fan club presales and local retailers. However, it took an enormous effort from the band and their team to route the tour using non-Ticketmaster venues.
Aftermath and Impact
Pearl Jam’s anti-Ticketmaster tour generated major publicity and highlighted the company’s business practices to the public. It energized the debate about Ticketmaster’s industry dominance. Though Pearl Jam’s boycott attempt was not ultimately sustainable long-term, it did lead to some changes:
- The Department of Justice was pressured to investigate Ticketmaster, eventually leading to new rules against exclusive venue contracts.
- Other bands became more outspoken about Ticketmaster fees.
- Some bands followed Pearl Jam’s lead by routing tours to avoid Ticketmaster, at least briefly.
- Ticketmaster made concessions, including waiving service fees for some fan club presales.
So while Pearl Jam failed to destroy Ticketmaster’s stronghold, they brought meaningful awareness to the issue. Their tour demonstrated the difficulty of promoting events independently from Ticketmaster given their industry muscle at the time. Pearl Jam’s risky experiment paved the way for more consumer-friendly ticketing options to gain traction in later years as the industry evolved.
The Ticketing Landscape Today
In the years since Pearl Jam took their anti-Ticketmaster stand, the live event ticketing market has changed significantly:
- The rise of online ticketing provided more options for event promotion and ticket sales.
- New ticketing companies emerged as alternatives to Ticketmaster.
- Artists and teams gained more leverage to demand lower fees.
- U.S. ticketing companies AEG, Eventbrite, and others broke Ticketmaster’s hold in certain venues.
- Ticket resale sites like StubHub gave fans secondary market options.
While Ticketmaster still sells the majority of tickets to major concerts and shows in the U.S., their market share has dropped considerably. Today bands have more freedom to choose their ticketing partners or even sell tickets directly to fans. Nonetheless, Ticketmaster’s dominance and service fees remain controversial.
Pearl Jam’s nearly 30-year old protest laid the foundation for the more competitive, innovation-driven ticketing landscape that exists today. Other bands continue to follow their model, but have more ticketing options and leverage than Pearl Jam did back in 1994. Their risky tour remains a milestone in live event history and an important warning about industry monopolies.
Pearl Jam’s 1994 anti-Ticketmaster tour was a bold attempt by the band to fight the company’s monopoly over event ticketing. Though the tour faced major logistical hurdles and was not sustainable long-term, it generated valuable awareness and incremental changes. Pearl Jam demonstrated the power musicians can have over the industry, especially by leveraging their popularity. Today’s ticketing market still has flaws, but is much more favorable to artists and consumers thanks to pioneers like Pearl Jam who challenged the status quo.