The obscenely wealthy are struggling with a case of thin skin this week. Taylor Swift threatened legal action against PopFront, a tiny website with only 236 Twitter followers at the time of writing, over a story titled: “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” The headline is a bit ridiculous, sure, but now Swift’s duking it out with the ACLU. It appears that Jay Z is also feeling the appeal of threatening journalists over negative coverage.
On Friday, November 3, Digital Music News reported on the struggling ticket sales of Jay Z’s latest tour. The writer, Paul Resnikoff, cited extremely low ticket prices (like as low as $6 for Jay Z’s show in Anaheim, California) and the fact that the rapper cancelled a show in Fresno, California as evidence for the struggle.
Then, on Monday morning, Andrew Kupinse, whose office Cummings & Lockwood LLC represents Jay Z, emailed Digital Music News to attack Resnikoff’s article for being “false.” Kupinse even linked to a Billboard article with “ more accurate facts regarding 4:44 tour sales,” in the hope that it would convince Resnikoff to change his article. In that piece, Billboard, speaking to LiveNation, which has a 10-year touring contract with Jay Z, argues that the rapper’s tour is doing fine. The article—well, LiveNation’s argument—goes like this:
Sales for JAY-Z’s tour represent a paradigm shift in concert tickets: by more aggressively pricing front row seats, VIP experiences and platinum tickets, concert promoters are getting increasingly more skilled at commanding high prices and record grosses from their best seating inventory. That’s bad news for ticket resellers — by pricing tickets closer to actual market value, JAY-Z and Live Nation are capturing more revenue and creating little room for brokers to mark up the best seats.
Conversely, the strategy takes pricing pressure off the upper-level seating sections. Priced out of the top tier, many ticket brokers are stuck buying and selling tickets in the upper bowl. And since consumers can still choose between buying the same seat on the primary or the secondary, many brokers end up selling off tickets below face value, taking a loss.
The gap between Jay Z’s lackluster ticket sales and the explanation given by Live Nation has led to some confusion among music journalists. Is Jay Z’s tour flopping, or is this all part of an ultra-savvy business plan to make ticket pricing fairer? After the Billboard piece, some music writers argued the latter. (One headline read: Jay-Z has figured out how to make concerts cheap—by selling crazy expensive tickets).
But the fact that concert tickets aren’t selling out on a nationwide tour after the release of one of his best albums is a reasonable critique to give such an established artist. Digital Music News’ reporting and the LiveNation interview show that while fans will pay astronomical prices to see Jay Z perform live from the front row, the rapper may also be having trouble selling tickets priced on the lower end.
No matter how bad the sales, it is disconcerting that Jay Z and Taylor Swift are attacking the press for little reason other than not wanting any negative press around their name. Digital Music News’ writer Resnikoff told TrackRecord in an email: “We’ve been routinely bullied by lawyers just trying to intimidate us out of writing unfavorable articles. It’s a real abuse of the law, and speaks volumes on how attorneys routinely compromise ethics.”
TrackRecord also reached out to Kupinse for comment and will update when we hear back.