Ticketmaster Enlisting Soldier Field?
Local promoters had a hard time finding a Ticketmaster-less venue for Pearl Jam to play in this summer. Almost every venue appropriate for a group as popular as Pearl Jam - the New World, the Horizon, the United Center - is bound by a contract requiring that tickets have to be sold through Ticketmaster, whcih Pearl Jam refuse to use because of what they claim are the company's monopolistic practices. It was evident early on that the band would have to play at Soldier Field. The stadium, with a capacity of about 50,000 for rock shows, was much larger than the band preferred, but there weren't a lot of alternatives. Ultimately, they agreed to play there, shows were announced, and tickets sold out in 30 minutes.
End of story? Not quite. As the complex logistics of the deal and the show were being worked out between Pearl Jam and Jam Productions, another set of talks was going on behind the scenes. For about four months Ticketmaster has been working with Soldier Field's management to bring the venue under the Ticketmaster aegis. "We're negotiating that deal right now," reports Soldier Field chief Bob Glazebrook.
While owned by the city and overseen by the Park District, the stadium has been privately managed since August of last year by a company called Soldier Field Joint Vneture, a partnership between Specator Management Group and Telemat Ltd. Glazebrook, who took over Soldier Field last year, is a public-venue veteran with a background in the extraordinarily difficult logistics of ticket selling. He oversaw a city-owned ticket agency, Tickets Now, while working at the Saint Louis Arena, and in 1990 he was named general manager of the Peoria Civic Center.
Soldier Field has never had an exculusive contract with a ticket agency. Glazebrook has his reason for thinking about it. Ticketmaster dispenses large sums of cash to venues that sign exclusive agreements, so it would be a smart and lucrative management move.
Glazebrook says that Ticketmaster has a proven record of service - "I think the main thing is to make sure the customers are being taken care of, professionally and quickly," he says - and contends that the contract would keep service charges low for Soldier Field events. "Under this contract there's going to be a specific number for what the service charge is going to be," he says. "It's going to be a set fee. It will vary slightly depending on the price of the ticket, but only very marginally."
All that said, Glazebrook and the city should take a closer look at the deal before going ahead with it. Ticketmaster, which contends that it isn't a monopoly, is the only agency Glazebrook has talked to. Why is Chicago's biggest concert venue - and the last one without an exclusive ticketing contract - not fully investigating its options?
Glazebrook also says that he hasn't been following the Ticketmaster stroy over the past year. Controversy was sparked by widespread disgust at the agency's sometimes extraordinarily high service charges (up to $17 for shows in Chicago) and allegations that the agency is routing back millions of dollars to artists and venues in return for exclusive contracts. All of this has prompted a raft of class-action suits and an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Soldier Field deal will sew up the third largest market in the cournty for Ticketmaster, with some repercussions for fans. For example, Stone Temple Pilots, who are planning a non-Ticketmaster tour, may not have a place to play in Chicago this summer. The agency will also get the last laugh on Pearl Jam, and may make the band's show next month a feat that'll be difficult to duplicate.
Speaking of Pearl Jam, I'd like to hear from people who bought tickets to the show through ETM. Details should be sent care of the Reader or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. ...Hitsville is a fan of New City in general and its music writing in particular; that said, its recent helpful and handy "Good Seats" pullout section (a collection of seating charts at local concert venues) was marred by a blurring between editorial and advertising. Most embarrassing: an overly friendly "Ticketmaster Q&A" item that should have been marked as an ad but wasn't. ...New Trib intern Chauncey Hollingsworth's overview of the local hep ;ublishing scene should have mnetioned that the writeer is a Subnation alum, particularly in light of his rather harsh assessment of it. ...A Spin writer was tracking the members of Urge Overkill through town a weekend or two ago. The mag's feature on the band is currently slated as a cover story for later this summer.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Bruce Powell.