Ticketmaster (copy)

Ticketmaster tickets and gift cards are shown at a box office in San Jose, Calif.

It’s a conspiracy theory you hear a lot: bands selling tickets directly to scalpers before they even go on sale to the public.

But it’s never been something to take too seriously.

That is until last week, when a secretly recorded phone call between Live Nation and an associate of Metallica revealed that an agreement was struck to sell some tickets directly to resale sites such as StubHub and circumvent fans, according to an explosive report in Billboard.

It’s been kind of a big thing.

Live Nation, a massive concert promoter that also owns Ticketmaster, said in a statement that it does not “have a practice of placing tickets on the secondary market,” but then also admitted that it sometimes helps artists when they request it.

Artists and their representatives are ultimately in control of their tickets, including where they are sold and how they’re priced.

Between 2016 and 2017, “about a dozen artists out of the thousands we work with asked us to do this,” the company told Billboard. Live Nation added that it does not “distribute tickets on any platform without an artist’s explicit approval.”

One such group was Metallica, which placed 88,000 tickets directly on resale sites for its WorldWired North American tour, which included a stop at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln in 2018.

Arena officials referred me to Live Nation, which declined to comment aside from its statement.

It’s not a good look for Live Nation or Ticketmaster.

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This story comes less than a year after headlines reading “Ticketmaster is colluding with scalpers and taking a cut,” which was supposedly about a secret program where Ticketmaster was profiting off reselling tickets. Of course, that story was blown out of proportion. The program wasn’t secret and Ticketmaster wasn’t driving up its own prices.

But this time, it’s worse.

Fans’ greatest fears are being realized. Every time a concert sells out quickly, fans theorize how it possibly could have happened. Every time tickets “show up” on resale sites (usually because the reseller is simply hoping people take the bait) before they’re supposed to be on sale, fans talk about ticketing conspiracies.

This time, it actually happened. And why is it happening?

Artists are trying to capture a larger slice of the pie. It drives bands crazy when ticket brokers snap up seats and resell them, pocketing the profit. That’s precisely why we see more VIP tickets, dynamic pricing and ticket packages: Bands know they can sell higher-priced tickets, so they do.

This is just another way to do that.

It may even be legal, according to Billboard. But it sure is frowned upon, and it could be destructive for artists, who are offering an interactive experience as much as music when they sell a concert ticket.

Maybe this report is a way to kill that practice.

Artists are already moving to dynamic pricing (where ticket prices fluctuate based on demand), VIP tickets (which include merchandise or meet-and-greets) and services such as Ticketmaster Platinum, a designation for the highest-price tickets available.

That’s good to hear.

It’s also good to know it wasn’t a widespread policy and, according to Live Nation, it’s a practice that’s drying up as artists now have lots of other options to set their ticket prices.

Reporter - Entertainment/music/concert

Kevin Coffey covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally cover other entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @owhmusicguy. Phone: 402-444-1557.

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