Dear editors:

To know Ticketmaster is to know Ticketshafter. They charge way too much for mediocre service. (Cash only?!) I take no pleasure, however, in seeing any company brought to court under the subjective fog of the Sherman Act [Hitsville, June 17].

The twisted legislation of the Sherman Act doesn’t make any actions illegal; only results are illegal. What’s the “blockbuster issue” that “may” suggest Ticketmaster’s monopoly is illegal? It’s the practice of profit sharing with venues, promoters, and artist managers who sign on to long-term contracts. Is this act illegal? Evil? If Joseph Alioto feels that this act is a form of “commercial bribery,” would he be against an upstart competitor using such an arrangement to gain contracts with the industry? Are airline frequent-flier programs “commercial bribery”?

Sure, the Ticketmaster contracts provide barriers to any potential competitors. But is Ticketmaster supposed to offer a welcome mat to competition? Obviously, Ticketmaster is competing against the potential for competition. If they had a coercive (government-sponsored) monopoly, they wouldn’t need to worry about keeping competition from taking market share.

And what if Paul Weiss wins? What exactly is the federal government supposed to do? He does not say. It would appear, though, that he is looking for some sort of price control. Who, then, is to define “reasonable” vs. “excessive”? By choosing to pay the surcharges, Weiss has in fact accepted them as reasonable. (Or does he discard all reason when he puts on his rock fan hat?) I actually do think a $4.25 charge is unreasonable, therefore I don’t pay it. (I was going to see the Lloyd Cole show, but whoa–Ticketshafter charge! Forget it.) That’s how pricing works in a free economy, Paul.

The ultimate absurdity of the Sherman Act is that it was intended to foster competition. Yet what rational potential competitors would go into a business field constricted by federal price controls?

“If you don’t want to buy that ticket from Ticketmaster, where do you go?” shrugs Weiss. How about to the box office? How about going to see a band that doesn’t charge $18 face value? (If you don’t want to pay $18 for Soundgarden, where do you go? Soundgarden has a monopoly on that “market.” Only Soundgarden can put on a Soundgarden show. Why not sue them, too?)

No one is coerced into buying tickets from Ticketmaster. People choose to. Those concerts that were so cool to list in a federal complaint typically sell out in less than a day. People literally queue up overnight and dial their silly little fingers off to buy these tickets. Which leads me to ask, how is it that the bands get hurt by Ticketmaster, as Alioto alleges? Is Soundgarden hurting? And why is it that fans are “hurt” by ticket surcharges but not $18 face values?

I loathe Ticketmaster. But we don’t need some aggressive personal-injury lawyer with eyes on a big settlement. (That’s what you want, Weiss, isn’t it? Settlement–not a trial?) What we need is an entrepreneur with an 800 number, some modems, industry contacts, and lots of energy. Hey, there’s tons of rock fans, gobs of new independent venues, and legitimate (i.e. free-market, not litigated extortion) money to be made. Give me a call–I’ll put up some capital!

Mark Roeser

26-year-old, rock fan, nonlawyer