Yesterday, news broke that Ticketmaster has allegedly been running a secret program that aids scalpers in selling tickets on the secondary market for additional fees. CBC News and The Toronto Star sent investigative reporters to Ticket Summit 2018, a ticketing and live entertainment convention in Las Vegas earlier in July, where they went undercover as professional scalpers. During the conference, the two reporters were pitched on Ticketmaster’s professional ticketing resale program and solicited to use TicketDesk, Ticketmaster’s newly launched ticket-reselling software that allows scalpers to upload and adjust prices on large quantities of tickets to the secondary market that the company has kept under wraps from the public.
Notably, representatives from TicketDesk told reporters that TicketDesk and Ticketmaster’s resale division does not share reports or information about scalpers with Ticketmaster’s division that monitors for “buyer abuse.” Said one representative, “We’ve spent millions of dollars on this tool [TradeDesk]. The last thing we’d want to do is get brokers caught up to where they can’t sell inventory with us.”
After the initial story went viral, earlier today, Ticketmaster responded to the allegations laid out in CBC News and The Toronto Star‘s respective articles on Ticketmaster’s ticket-scalping policies. You can read the company’s response, and some thoughts on their response, below.
It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers. Ticketmaster’s Seller Code of Conduct specifically prohibits resellers from purchasing tickets that exceed the posted ticket limit for an event. In addition, our policy also prohibits the creation of fictitious user accounts for the purpose of circumventing ticket limit detection in order to amass tickets intended for resale.
A recent CBC story found that an employee of Ticketmaster’s resale division acknowledged being aware of some resellers having as many as 200 TradeDesk accounts for this purpose (TradeDesk is Ticketmaster’s professional reseller product that allows resellers to validate and distribute tickets to multiple marketplaces). We do not condone the statements made by the employee as the conduct described clearly violates our terms of service.
The company had already begun an internal review of our professional reseller accounts and employee practices to ensure that our policies are being upheld by all stakeholders. Moving forward we will be putting additional measures in place to proactively monitor for this type of inappropriate activity.
From our understanding of articles published by CBC News and The Toronto Star, it seems as though Ticketmaster’s response addresses accusations that the news outlets never actually made, effectively dodging commenting on the actual claims from the reports.
For example, Ticketmaster says that it’s categorically untrue that it has a program in place to “enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets.” The main accusations in the two articles are centered around the fact that the company has invested millions in a new program under the Ticketmaster umbrella that aids ticket resellers in moving large amounts of tickets while turning a blind eye to how they were obtained, so long as the reseller’s use Ticketmaster’s platform. Ticketmaster’s response to the allegations reaffirms that it prohibits “the creation of fictitious user accounts for the purpose of circumventing ticket limit detection in order to amass tickets intended for resale,” but fails to address why TicketDesk doesn’t investigate how these resellers came to possess blocks of tickets much larger than the allotted amount per person.
Furthermore, the articles never said that resellers have 200 TradeDesk accounts. From our understanding, TradeDesk allows scalpers to consolidate and re-sell tickets purchased from multiple Ticketmaster accounts. The whole point of TradeDesk seems to be facilitating scalpers to upload massive amounts of tickets at once. Based on that premise, it wouldn’t make sense for scalpers to use multiple TradeDesk accounts. TradeDesk’s entire impetus for existing is to streamline the process of moving large amounts of tickets on a single platform. The outcry over this story is not over the number of TradeDesk accounts a given re-seller can have—it’s about the fact that this new scalper-facing platform was developed in the first place, tacitly endorsing brokers moving blocks of tickets that violate purchase caps and could have been acquired through multiple Ticketmaster accounts. In this case, Ticketmaster’s response once again addresses a claim that sounds definitive, but actually doesn’t carry much weight when examined under a microscope.
It seems as though Ticketmaster’s response continues to conflate policies with buying tickets with re-selling them. While their policies say one thing about rules for purchasing tickets, a main crux of the issue is that TradeDesk does not relay suspicious seller activity to Ticketmaster’s division responsible for policing scalping. In fact, one representative noted to the undercover reporters that “We [TradeDesk] don’t share reports, we don’t share names, we don’t share account information with the primary site. Period.”
Given that TradeDesk was not listed on Ticketmaster’s website or corporate reports, it’s unclear whether the use of TradeDesk is regulated by the same official policies as Ticketmaster. If it is the case that TicketDesk does not adhere to the same Seller Code Of Conduct as Ticketmaster, Ticketmaster doubling down on their official policies in their response to the articles is essentially erroneous. Scalpers have found ways to get around official policies and re-sell marked-up tickets since Ticketmaster’s inception, from fake accounts to bots and beyond. In this light, TradeDesk seems to be a way for Ticketmaster to skirt their own rules and push any blame onto their new, hush-hush subsidiary platform, allowing them to publicly maintain their policies on ticket limits and fraudulent purchases while still making money off secondary market sales.
Hopefully, Ticketmaster will follow through with the internal audit mentioned in their response. Given the public outrage caused by these new reports, we can only hope the company does something to address these claims. In short, scalpers suck.