Zach Bryan is one of the fastest-rising stars in music, and the young Navy veteran has used his newfound fame to pick a fight with Ticketmaster, the industry behemoth that controls ticket sales for a huge number of concert venues around the country. On Christmas Day, Bryan released a live album called "All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster."
For those who haven't been following the music news this past year, let's revisit the positive story of Bryan's career explosion and the negative story of Ticketmaster's massive screw-ups that have raised the ire of both fans and some of the biggest artists in the world.
If you haven't heard Bryan's music, check out the live version of his No. 1 country single "Something in the Orange" from the "All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster" album.
First, let's talk about Bryan. Born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in the tiny town of Oologah, Oklahoma, he followed a family tradition and joined the Navy. During his service, he started writing songs and recording them with his iPhone behind the barracks. "Heading South" went viral on Spotify in 2020, and Warner Bros. offered him a recording deal.
OK, make sure you've got this. Bryan was active-duty military when he signed his first recording contract. He was honorably discharged in November 2021 after eight years of service so he could pursue a music career with the Navy's blessing.
"American Heartbreak," his major-label debut, was released in May 2022 and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It's a triple album with 34 songs. "Something in the Orange" has been certified platinum, and the album has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Do the math. Bryan has been out of the Navy for only 14 months and he's had a No. 1 single and headlined prestigious venues like Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. It's a nearly unprecedented rise, and the artist looks set for a long career going forward.
Bryan is both a singer and songwriter, which makes him an outlier in the Nashville music scene. Country labels seem to want to have as many songwriters as possible on each track, so artists like Bryan and Taylor Swift who don't participate in the song factory system are a threat to the status quo. He is a rebel just by making music from the heart without any input from the industry suits.
Speaking of Taylor Swift, Ticketmaster has been under the microscope since the company completely botched the online sales for Swift's upcoming "Eras" tour back in November. The company's website crashed under an unprecedented level of traffic from 3.5 million verified fans who had presale codes. The disaster repeated itself the next day when Capital One credit-card holders were supposed to have early access to tickets.
That disaster followed the controversy of a "dynamic pricing" experiment in July with Bruce Springsteen that drove prices up to $5,000 for some seats. Ticketmaster is now under scrutiny from fans, and there's talk of hearings before a U.S. Senate antitrust panel.
Zach Bryan's issues are a bit more personal. His album title was inspired by the experiences his own fans have been having with high ticket prices.
The executives at Ticketmaster could have laughed off the title, but Bryan's tweet makes his position crystal clear. "I have met kids at my shows who have paid upwards of four-hundred bucks to be there and I'm done with it," Bryan wrote. "I've decided to play a limited number of headline shows next year to which I've done all I can to make prices as cheap as possible and to prove to people tickets don't have to cost $450 to see a good and honest show."
"I believe working class people should still be able to afford tickets to shows," he continued. "I am so tired of people saying things can't be done about this massive issue while huge monopolies sit there stealing money from working class people. Also, to any songwriter trying to make 'relatable music for the working class man or woman' should pride themself on fighting for the people who listen to the words they're singing."
Those are strong words from a true idealist. Pearl Jam tried to take on Ticketmaster almost three decades ago and got nowhere. We'll be watching to see whether this Navy vet has more success in 2023.
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