a blog.

middle brow | citizen how \ 13 oct 17 /

big trust.

we were super excited to have released *EDDIE* this past week at lucky dorr at the park at wrigley. did they win last night? hope so. even as a bunch of sox fans. this coming monday, dat park will be showing let's play two, the documentary about pearl jam's shows at wrigley field last year. and our beer, which is named after pearl jam, will be on tap just there. only there. just over there. around the corner in that little corridor next to the stadium. and only there. so got get it.

but thinking about pearl jam and beer made us think about ticketmaster and the 90s.

the pearl jam-ticketmaster story is sorta infamous. but i'll break it down for you hee-er.

it all started when pearl jam threw a **free** thank-you concert for 30K fans in seattle. and ticketmaster charged each fan a $1 service fee. which ain't a lot of money. yeah. i know. we know. they knew. but shit. if you're throwing a "free" show that costs a dollar. that might make you push your checkered-hot-dog-boat filled with french fries across the diner table in disgust. you just can't eat anymore. you just can't. f'ing greed. ... and so pearl jam started sticking their fingers in the many eyes and up the many noses of ticketmaster. and it all eventually came to many heads.

anyway. the more serious and sober story is this: ticketmaster signed a bunch of contracts with venues across woody guthrie's great land. these contracts made them the exclusive ticket provider for any event staged in any such venue. with this long-term exclusivity, ticketmaster could do what it wah-nid. and what else would a massive corporation do in such a scenario but stoke its greed?!? so, perfectly in step and tune, they started adding surcharges to tickets. for shit like parking. and services. and "conveniences". read: bull shit. apparently, these fees would sometimes reach 25% of the headline ticket price. 

and fuckin'-a man!!! eddie vedder was pissed!!! and so was stone gossard!! and mike mcready!! but not jeff ament. he was busy perfecting his bass-player sways and jumps and jimmies. what a bass performer!

so anyway. when pearl jam demanded that their tickets be kept under $20. with surcharges no higher than $1.80. ticketmaster told them to go suck an egg. so they did. they boycotted ticketmaster. and they filed a motion with the federal government dude! you're trying to tell me kurt cobain was cooler than eddie vedder? this vedder dude took on a giant, greedy, one-track-mind-one-trick-pony corporation. and convinced a bunch of crotchety white senators with train-loads of power to investigate it. and they found something shitty... ticketmaster, go figure, was likely engaging in anti-competitive practices by entering these contracts and then inflating ticket prices for unjustifiable reasons.

now this (and other radical behavior by the band) all angered the big foul giant. so ticketmaster even leaned on lots of venues where they didn't have these exclusive contracts. in some unsavory ways. and made it near impossible for pearl jam to play in the summer.

but nevertheless. the superbly sonic seattle crew designed a national tour through a hodgepodge of self-made, rural, outdoor venues and a smattering of non-ticketmaster venues and other similar such. and boy! was it a fucking bear to get tickets to those shows! we remember. cuz this was right around the time that we started waiting in line for tickets to shows. at the local carson pirie scott. for hours in the rain. and the fake pigs (mall security) would drive by. and everyone would laugh at their geo trackers. and the girl with the bells would give you an eye or two. and you'd ask her for a lighter. and she'd have one. and you'd sit down next to her and tell her all about andrew wood. and she'd tell you all about david byrne. and then you'd invite her to your 12th birthday party.

but we could never find pearl jam tickets! how the f were we supposed to without the internet? pearl jam didn't have a number in the goddess-forsaken phone book! 

it turns out: most of the pearl jam fan folk felt the same pains. there were too many ticket tricks. and nobody in woody guthrie's great land could figure them out. pearl jam just couldn't beat the horned beast. and so they cancelled their tour. and their boycott. (and. go figure. now they sell tickets at three digit prices through their old foe.)

and then. a short bit after pearl jam lost their stomach for the fight. the justice department ran out of resources and stopped investigating ticketmaster. but we learned something interesting from the 'fuffle: that ticketmaster was using part of the "service" fees to pay concert venues for exclusivity. that is, ticketmaster was paying venues to refuse to use any other ticket provider.

***

now, this is pretty perfect as beer fan fodder. didn't we just talk about how it should make the heavens roar and the hells lech when a business wins not because they offer a better product and not because they brand their product better and not because they deliver it more efficiently but instead because they have lots of cash flow and they use that cash flow to lick-and-pinch-out the newly burning flames of smaller, competitive businesses?

well that's what ticketmaster was doing. and still does. (and it's what lots of beer distributors and some big craft beer companies do.) and it should not be allowed. and you should care about it. because it tends to reduce choices. and raise prices. and lay off your brother-in-law. and bankrupt your neighbor's small business. and enrich a few wealthy executives and stockholders. and make the world a worse place.

what does this say about consolidation in the beer industry? watch lagunitas and goose island and ballast point. i guess we'll see. and what does it say about consolidation in the grocery industry? watch amazonian foods. i guess we'll see. but the history of the healthcare industry. and the media industry. and the telecom industry. and the ticketing industry. and the retail industry. and the airline industry. suggest some not very good things.