The Pearl Jam-Ticketmaster Showdown, 20 Years Later

By Craig Rosen It was 20 years ago that Pearl Jam took on The Man in an epic battle that became so large that it ended up on Capitol Hill, with even then-President Bill Clinton weighing in on the issue. The Man in this case was ticketing giant Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam was at the height of its game coming off the monster success of the band’s 1991 multiplatinum debut album, “Ten,” and the 1993 follow-up, “Vs.” The latter album debuted with sales of more than 950,000 copies in its first week of release, setting a sales record at the time with a debut tally that’s almost unheard of today. “Vs.,” which was originally going to be called “Five Against One” after a lyric in the song “Animal,” was aptly titled. At the time, Kelly Curtis, the band’s manager said they were “fighting on all fronts.” While the band squared off with its record company over promotional videos (Pearl Jam didn’t want to make any) and the members’ inner-demons with guilt over their sudden success, perhaps their biggest battle was with Ticketmaster. In 1994, the band became less focused on promotional activities and began to cultivate a direct relationship with its audience. Singer Eddie Vedder discovered fans were paying what he felt were exorbitant service-charge fees to Ticketmaster when purchasing tickets to the band’s gigs. As a result, the band scrapped a 1994 summer tour saying it ran into “unconscionable activity” and “outright greed” among the concert industry players, a source told Billboard’s Eric Boehlert at the time. Pearl Jam was so serious about the battle that bassist Jeff Ament told me in December 1994, upon the release of the band’s third album, “Vitalogy,” that he wasn’t sure the band would tour the U.S. to support that release. “It depends on what happens with the Ticketmaster thing,” he said, “but we’ll try to put something together by next summer.” The band attempted to stage its own tour of non-Ticketmaster venues, which often took it to non-traditional venues, where Ament said the band’s crew had to build “shows from the ground up, a venue everywhere we went.” Today, those close to the situation look back at it as a herculean task for Pearl Jam. Representatives for Pearl Jam and Ticketmaster didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment, but Eric Boehlert, who covered the battle for Billboard and later Rolling Stone, notes it was a historic moment in time. “We’ll probably never seen anything like it again,” he says. “Not only within the music industry, but within the world of pop entertainment. Economically and politically, there was absolutely no upside for Pearl Jam to launch a Ticketmaster battle.” Read the full article here:

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