When the whole Taylor Swift Ticketmaster debacle went down in November and millions of Swifties were left out in the cold, you almost had to let out a little chuckle at the idea that Taylor Swift would be the one to somehow rise up and become the savior music needed in that moment to hold America’s ticketing monopoly accountable.
The amount of rabid misunderstanding about that moment and many others in the ticketing realm is quite high. You can shake your little balled up fist at Ticketmaster for not allowing you to secure tickets to see your favorite artists all you want. But when you have three times the amount of people wanting tickets than tickets available like with the Taylor Swift tour, you’re going to be left with more disgruntled fans than satisfied ones. This is true for fans of Tyler Childers, the Turnpike Troubadours, and even Zach Bryan for that matter. Monopoly or not, that’s just the law of supply and demand.
It’s also a fact that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, and since these high demand concerts are the perfect environment for resellers to exploit the Ticketmaster system, it adds insult to injury for fans that are already incensed with the company from the exorbitant fees they charge, their terrible customer service record through the years, and for the way they held the money of some fans hostage during the pandemic for a handful of indefinitely delayed events.
So whenever someone gets screwed out of tickets and Ticketmaster is the facilitator, they’re the first to get cursed under breath, and get flamed online. It doesn’t help that the Ticketmaster interface thinks it’s a great idea to immediately shove resell tickets for 3 to 5 times face value in your face as soon as you miss out on the general sale, and expect it to not elicit a negative reaction, and theories that the company is in bed with the scalpers, which they most certainly are to some extent if only since they make fees from the tickets resold through their system too.
But the problem with expecting Taylor Swift to do something about this issue is that she’s just as much a benefactor of the corporate American music kleptocracy as anyone, even if she’s also in large measure a victim of the Ticketmaster monopoly too since just like any major artist, she has no choice but to work with them. In Swift’s statement about the ticketing issue, she spoke about this specifically, and how if it was up to her, she would bring the selling of her tickets in house.
Well. It goes without saying that I’m extremely protective of my fans. We’ve been doing this for decades together and over the years, I’ve brought so many elements of my career in house. I’ve done this SPECIFICALLY to improve the quality of my fans’ experience by doing it myself with my team who care as much about my fans as I do. It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.
There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward. I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could. It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.
And to those who didn’t get tickets, all I can say is that my hope is to provide more opportunities for us to all get together and sing these songs. Thank you for wanting to be there. You have no idea how much that means.
But despite Taylor Swift’s seemingly sincere concern for fans and her frustration at the situation, she didn’t even say the name “Ticketmaster” once in her statement, even though that’s who everyone was blaming, including now two sets of Taylor Swift fans who’ve taken out class action lawsuits against the company for the ticketing debacle.
Whether Swift has signed specific non-disclosure or non-defamation agreements with Ticketmaster—which very well may be the case—or she just can’t risk pissing off the only company that is capable of selling tickets to the venues an artist of her size requires, Swift is just not the one to stand up to Ticketmaster and make them face the music.
This is where the independent voices and Outlaws of country music have always been the most useful at speaking truth to power, bucking the system, and forging healthier alternatives. Working outside of the mainstream industry and autonomously from entities such as Ticketmaster, they’re free to speak their mind and set up systems outside of the grasp of Ticketmaster and other dubious companies, often setting up their own enterprises that can be used as templates for other artists. They’re the punks of country music.
When Tompall Glaser set up a renegade studio just off of Music Row in Nashville in the 70s, everything changed in country music and the power started flowing back to the artists and away from the companies who wanted to be in control. Similarly, when artists like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell started finding success signed to Thirty Tigers where they retained creative control over their music, it forced the major labels to loosen their grasp and allow folks like Chris Stapleton more latitude.
At midnight on Christmas Eve/Christmas, Zach Bryan released a live album of his sold-out concert at Red Rocks in Colorado on November 3rd, and titled it All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster (Live from Red Rocks). Recorded on a night when a blizzard was slamming the Denver area and Zach played through a blinding snow storm (see the crazy photos), it was a Red Rocks performance for the ages, even if the weather meant frost bit fingers, and out-of-tune guitars.
The 24-track album adds to the mountain of material Zach Bryan has released in 2022, including his gargantuan 34-song album American Heartbreak that’s been stuck at #2 in country ever since being released in May, as well as his 9-song Summertime Blues released in July.
Whether it’s blowing through all governors on how much music an artist should release in a given year, playing through weather conditions 99% artists would have cancelled for, or not just sending out some pointed late night tweets, but actually naming an album to be a rebuke of American music’s biggest monopoly (Ticketmaster/LiveNation), it proves that Zach Bryan is his own man, and is rewiring what a modern music artist is capable of.
Zach’s statement accompanying the new live album reads:
Seems there is a massive issue with fair ticket prices to live shows lately. I have met kids at my shows who have paid upwards of four-hundred bucks to be there and I’m done with it. I’ve decided to play a limited number of headline shows next year to which I’ve done all I can to make prices as cheap as possible and to prove to people tickets don’t have to cost $450 to see a good and honest show. To clarify, I am playing a few festivals which I have no control over.
I believe working class people should still be able to afford tickets to shows, so please sign up for the laylo link in my bio to be the first to know about tour dates, registration, and the on-sale of tickets. I’ll also be sending merch-drops and unreleased music through this messaging service.
I am so tired of people saying things can’t be done about this massive issue while huge monopolies sit there stealing money from working class people. Also, to any songwriter trying to make “relatable music for the working class man or woman” should pride themself on fighting for the people who listen to the words they’re singing.
A tour announcement is coming soon and I’m sorry it has taken so long. Just did everything I possibly could to make tickets more affordable.
Also, All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster (Live From Red Rocks) is streaming everywhere now.
As great as all this is, we still have to understand that if there are more fans than tickets, people will still be left out in the lurch, especially if the amount of shows Zach Bryan plays in 2023 are “limited,” which will drive out-of-market demand for the shows he does play. So even if he is able to control prices and keep resellers mostly at bay, this doesn’t mean everybody who wants a Zach Bryan ticket will get one.
Ultimately, regardless of who the artist is, the only way to ensure everyone who wants a ticket gets a ticket is to ramp up supply. This is what Garth Brooks did on his 2016 tour to great success, setting up in arenas in certain markets, and then scaling the amount of performances until demand was met, sometimes performing five or six shows, including matinees to make sure everyone got a seat, while production costs actually dropped since they were conducting more shows in less venues, and tickets were kept affordable, and mostly out of resell markets.
Zach Bryan may not solve the ticketing problem for America, but instead of just blaming the Ticketmaster monopoly, he’s looking to do something about it. Whether he’s successful or not still remains to be seen. But this isn’t some small-time artist who has nothing to lose by pissing off Goliath. Zach Bryan’s 2023 tour dates may turn out to be some of the most sought after in 2023 in all of music.
Zach Bryan most certainly will be blackballed from certain venues and festivals for taking this stance. Let’s not forget that Ticketmaster’s parent company LiveNation owns Bonnaroo, ACL Fest, Lollapalloza, scores of other major monogenre festivals, and a controlling 51% stake in tons of local/regional promoters and venues that can lock an artist like Zach Bryan out of entire markets if they choose. This is the reason Taylor Swift and others refuse to tussle with them. It’s also how you know they’re a monopoly.
But Zach Bryan doesn’t care. That’s what makes this situation so great. For years, country radio had a monopoly over who was allowed to prosper in country music, and be heard by the masses. But through artists like Zach Bryan—and Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, Whiskey Myers, and Sturgill Simpson before him—they rewrote that code by circumventing radio, and still earning Gold, Platinum, and now even Double Platinum singles and albums.
It is a new day in country music, and in live music in general. Tired of the Ticketmaster monopoly? You can continue to shake your little balled up fist in their general direction, or you can get busy building your own networks and infrastructure to circumvent them, and eventually (and hopefully), undermine them, and return the power over music to the artists and fans where it belongs.