Why Spotify Selling Concert Tickets Is Unlikely to Improve Anything

Just another middleperson taking a cut

  • Spotify is trialing direct concert ticket sales to fans. 
  • It will still add a booking fee on top. 
  • Many venues even take a cut of a band’s merch sales.
hand holding concert tickets

Rubberball / Mike Kemp / Getty Images

Spotify will now sell you concert tickets, either through the app or from a new Spotify Tickets website. But don't get excited about the end of Ticketmaster just yet.

The problem with concert tickets is there's always a service in the middle taking a cut. Whereas pretty much everything else can be sold directly these days, when you want to go to a gig, you end up paying a huge extra fee on top of the ticket price. Will Spotify make up for the minuscule amount paid to musicians for streaming their music by cutting out this ticket commission? Probably not.

"As per Spotify, its ticketing site acts as a ticketing agent and takes a booking fee. So, of course, Spotify is going to take a slice or processing fee when booking tickets through the platform," Sudhir Khatwani, co-founder and editor In chief at The Money Mongers, told Lifewire via email.

Another Slice of the Pie

Spotify’s ticket sale scheme is currently just a test and only applies to pre-orders. That is, it will sell a limited number of tickets to the concerts of participating artists. And since Spotify won’t yet send you the tickets, you’ll have to provide identification details to pick them up from the venue. If you miss out on the pre-sale, then you’ll be redirected to a partner site to buy in the usual way.

Buying tickets to see Limbeck through Spotify

So, does this mean the end of add-on fees? No. First, this is only a test, so anything could change, but right now, the Spotify Tickets FAQ says, "The Spotify ticket price includes booking fees." It does not specify whether those are Spotify's fees, those of any involved venue, or fees from a third-party agent operating behind the scenes. But a fee is a fee, and there is still a fee. 

Right now, it seems Spotify is checking to see whether it could make some extra money by taking over the role of agents like Ticketmaster. I won't be crying any tears for that, and it's no surprise that Spotify wants to squeeze yet more money out of artists and their fans, but it's a shame that this isn't going in a different direction. 

Starving Artists

It was never easy to make money as a musician, and while it's even easier than ever to create music and get it out to people to listen to it, making a living is harder than ever. As streaming services soak up more and more listeners and fewer people buy downloads or physical media, the actual musicians who create everything are left selling t-shirts and other merchandise and hoping to make some money from live shows. 

And guess what? If you thought the money for the t-shirt you bought at the band's merch table all went to the band, you'd be wrong. Many venues demand a cut of merchandise sales, too. It's not all venues, though. 

"As an independent venue we are firmly against charging merch fees and always have been. We understand touring is expensive enough for artists. We are proud to be one of the few remaining large capacity venues who don't impose charges," said London's Troxy on Twitter

Crowd of people at a concert at night

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

It’s going to take a behemoth the size of Spotify or Apple to break the hold ticket agents have over live music concert tickets. The results could be fantastic. Artists could charge more money and keep the extra, or new models can emerge, the same way services like Square let anyone take credit card payments, even people selling junk at a flea market.

Unfortunately, the temptation may be too big. If Spotify proceeds with selling tickets directly, then it seems unlikely that it would drop the sales commission or pass even a part of that commission to the artists. The best we can hope for, and probably the best we will ever get, is that you can buy tickets without having to type your name and address into the same form over and over as the website breaks and forces you to reload it like five times. 

Welcome to the future.

Correction 8/16/2022: Correct the source's title in paragraph 3.

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