“Ticket Masters” a sociological study, economics text, and pop culture history all at once

book-cover-ticket-mastersIf you’ve ever wished to determine your exact level of music geekery, Dean Budnick and Josh Baron‘s Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped makes for an excellent litmus test. The book – out next month in paperback from Plume – is an involving, in-depth analysis of the modern ticketing industry.

Far from focusing directly on Ticketmaster, Budnick and Baron go back to the start of the modern ticketing industry. Beginning with the development of electronic ticketing, and steadily working their way forward, Ticket Masters is a sociological study, economics text, and pop culture history all at once.

Frankly, it’s astounding that they got so many of the principals to speak on record. Of course, many of those involved in the hurly-burly heyday of scandal have since moved on from their respective companies. Thus, Fred Rosen really has nothing to fear when he speaks on the Pearl Jam controversy from the mid-90s, having been gone from Ticketmaster for well over a decade.

Of course, if you’ve followed the story of Ticketmaster, Live Nation, AEG, and the like as its developed over the past few years, there are few revelations to be had. Most of the information presented has been public knowledge. However, there are moments where even a hardcore nerd like myself put the book down and said, “Whoa.”

The story of the String Cheese Incident – especially when contrasted with some detailed explanation of the Pearl Jam case – really puts into perspective how much of the ticket pricing lies not with the brokers, sellers, or venues, but with the artists themselves. Granted, it’s a mix of pricing and fees that’s quite difficult for the average fan to discern the details of, but when laid out in Ticket Masters, the straightforward “Ticketmaster = Ticketbastard” narrative isn’t as accurate as one’s been led to believe.

Any one chapter of of Budnick and Baron’s book would be essential for understanding the modern concert-going experience, and provide much-needed perspective on how a service meant to help the fans get seats more easily has morphed into an industry. When taken as a whole, Ticket Masters provides an overview and (for the right reader) a riveting book.