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I’m Through Pulling Punches

by The Hand Of The Father, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group)

Ticketmaster now charges “convenience” fees up to 60 percent on concert tickets: They get $9 on the $15 tickets to John Mayer’s shows, for instance.

There’s nothing Mayer can do to evade this “convenience,” unless he’d like to play way joints tiny or hard to find or otherwise inconvenient.

‘Til recently, there has been a way around Ticketmaster’s “convenience.” An artist holds a percentage of tickets for its fan club. Most artists hold 10 percent, but Dave Matthews, probably the biggest concert draw in North America, holds about half the tickets to his shows. Ticketmaster’s various “conveniences” do not apply to such sales. Some–not many–artists add their own surcharges, but those are always far less than Ticketmaster would apply.

Ticketmaster doesn’t like the practicing of not offering concert-goers its conveniences. A couple weeks ago, venues and concert promoters around the country received letters from Ticketmaster, which controls sales at virtually all of them. The letter claimed that artist holds for fan clubs violate Ticketmaster contracts. A week or so later, Ticketmaster sent another letter, modifying the earlier one. According to this latest missive, artists can hold back no more than eight per cent of their tickets, and they can only sell them to fan clubs of which Ticketmaster approves–there has to be an annual fee of at least $15, for instance.

There is nothing you, me, Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews can do to change the situation. Under the Clinton-Gore administration, even after a Congressional hearing at which Pearl Jam and others (including me) testified to the effects of Ticketmaster’s stranglehold, the Justice Department ruled–against the advice of most of its Antitrust division staff–that Ticketmaster shouldn’t be sanctioned as a monopoly. (The fact that Ticketmaster employed Mickey Kantor, the Clinton “trade representative,” may have helped the company.) It is hardly likely that the Bush gang is going to be more consumer friendly.

Fans cannot turn to alternative ticket providers. Ticketmaster drove them all out of business. Artists cannot turn to alternative venues and promoters because as part of its fanatic “free market” philosophy, the Bush-Clinton-Bush administration decided not to enforce those. The result is one company, Clear Channel, controlling virtually all American venues and promoters. Fans can’t count on using the publicly-owned airwaves to express their discontent with being inconvenienced because Clear Channel also owns virtually all the radio stations. We could call our Congressmen and demand a law against it, but that law wouldn’t be enforced because:

a) it wouldn’t pass because Ticketmaster would outspend us on lobbying,

b) our congressmen believe in unregulated free-market capitalism, and

c) our government doesn’t enforce such laws (see beginning of paragraph).

Incidentally, guess who owns Ticketmaster? Barry Diller’s U.S.A. Networks. Which were just sold to Vivendi. Which just happens to own Universal, the record company that controls 40 percent of the U.S. market and belongs to what the Federal Trade Commission calls a major label “cartel.”

For the past 20 years, we have stood by while free market fanatics and cowed liberals beat their chests over the wisdom of the market, the genius of privatization, the global triumph of capitalism. This is the result.

So enjoy this summer’s shows–if you can afford them. I am sure that Ronald Perelman or some other billionaire privateer will be shaking his fat ass in the front rows. You should smile broadly as you watch that person pretend to enjoy the show. What they’re really enjoying is the convenience you’ve provided by swallowing the bogus rhetoric of the capitalists.

“Corrupted by wealth & power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side & a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.”—Huey Long


(What’s playing at my desk):

1. “Cold Woman Blues” / “99 Blues” / “Outside Woman Blues,” Blind Joe Reynolds (from a CD burned by a friend featuring newly discovered tracks–plus the well-known “Outside”–by a country bluesman so great a friend commented, “He sounds like Robert Johnson’s lost brother.” (Very very scratchy 78 sources-try for your own sample)

2. 1000 Kisses, Patty Griffin (ATO)

3. Mundo, Ruben Blades (Columbia advance)

4. You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Rev. Pearly Brown (Arhoolie) (Among the half-dozen greatest blues evangelists, ranking with Blind Willie Johnson-audibly his model–, Arizona Dranes, Gary Davis and hardly anyone else.)

5. By the Hand of the Father, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group)

6. Try Again, Mike Ireland and Holler (Ashmont)

7. Gravity, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group)

8. Down the Road, Van Morrison (Universal)

9. The Very Best of the Winans, The Winans (Rhino)

10. Talk About It, Nicole C. Mullen (Word/Epic)

Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. He can be reached at:

Dave Marsh’s Previous DeskScan Top 10 Lists:

May 20, 2002

May 14, 2002

May 6, 2002

April 30, 2002

April 22, 2002

April 15, 2002

April 9, 2002

April 2, 2002

March 25, 2002

March 18, 2002

March 11, 2002

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: Dave blogs at

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