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Pearl Jam Provokes Battle Over Ticket Prices

June 9, 1994

Undated (AP) _ In one of the busiest seasons ever for concerts, the hot young band Pearl Jam is on the sidelines because of a dispute over ticket prices with the nation’s biggest ticket broker.

The U.S. Justice Department began an investigation into possible anti- competitive actions in the concert industry after the band’s lawyers filed a complaint last month.

The battle between rockers and Ticketmaster Corp., a computerized ticket network that has grown to dominate how tickets are bought and sold nationwide, could eventually affect concert ticket prices across the country.

Seattle-based Pearl Jam sought to book a concert tour this summer to capitalize on the success of the 8 million-selling album, ″Vs.″ The band wanted to keep concert tickets at $18 apiece.

″We know we can go into Madison Square Garden and sell it out at $50 a ticket, but we would alienate a lot of our fans,″ said Kelly Curtis, the band’s manager.

Pearl Jam also wanted to keep service charges on the tickets to no more than $1.80. Ticketmaster refused, Curtis said.

Since the demise of chief competitor Ticketron three years ago, Los Angeles-based Ticketmaster has arranged for ticket sales at the overwhelming majority of the nation’s concert arenas. It has exclusivity deals with many arenas and promoters.

Ticketmaster charges service fees ranging from $4 to $15 on top of ticket prices, according to the complaint filed with the Justice Department.

″There should be some kind of fairness to it,″ Curtis said. ″If you have a low ticket price, you should have a low service charge. They’re not accountable to anyone and it’s frustrating. They have this kind of attitude of, ‘If you don’t like it, then go someplace else.’ And they know there is nowhere else to go.‴

The band found it impossible to book a tour without the cooperation of Ticketmaster. In its complaint, Pearl Jam alleged that Ticketmaster organized a boycott of the band with concert promoters.

Ticketmaster said Pearl Jam has no right to determine what it charges for its service.

Ticketmaster spokesman Larry Solters said Pearl Jam is using the service charge issue as a smokescreen for the band’s own greed. He said Pearl Jam tried to dictate merchandising deals with promoters to give the band more money than the industry standard. Pearl Jam also refused to compromise with the company, he said.

Meanwhile, a group of concertgoers in Seattle filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Ticketmaster, charging it with antitrust violations.

Samantha Hazzard, Susan Robins and Lila Hurwitz charged that TicketMaster has a monopoly that causes unfairly high ticket prices in Washington and Oregon.

The lawsuit also names the North American Concert Promoters Association. The fans said large portions of the service charges are ″paybacks″ to arena owners and promoters.

A spokesman for the promoters would not comment.

Ned Goldstein, counsel for Ticketmaster, said ″the whole thing is a PR move to sell CDs.″

Concert prices have skyrocketed in general this summer, led by tickets of more than $100 to shows by the Eagles and Barbra Streisand.

Some other artists have come to Pearl Jam’s support. Pamela Lewis, the manager for Garth Brooks, said fans blame the artist if ticket prices are too high. Brooks tries to keep his tickets under $20, she said.

″Wouldn’t it be great for the industry if a concertgoer could go to several concerts - instead of just one concert that wipes out their entire entertainment budget?″ Lewis said.

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