NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When you go to buy a ticket to a big concert or a big game, you've often got to deal with Ticketmaster.
Rocker Bruce Springsteen first questioned whether Ticketmaster was rigging the system -- and, now, a major Nashville music industry figure is raising some of the same questions.
Earlier this year, it was "The Boss" versus "The Master." After Ticketmaster redirected concert fans to its own scalping site, TicketsNow, Springsteen declared that he was "furious" with the ticketing giant.
It was at the same time that Keith Urban had a side deal with Ticketmaster, letting it pull out hundreds of tickets from his world tour to be sold as "Official Platinum Seats" for inflated prices.
Legendary concert promoter Louis Messina says Taylor Swift turned down a lucrative deal from Ticketmaster that she considered akin to scalping tickets to her own shows.
Still, as our investigation discovered, prime seats repeatedly showed up on TicketsNow and other ticket sites being scalped for outrageous prices. And Messina tells NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams that he suspects Ticketmaster had a hand in it.
"Is Ticketmaster standing at the front of the line grabbing tickets?" Williams asked.
"Ticketmaster has all of the tickets," Messina answered. "They don't have to stand at the front of the line."
The Houston-based promoter, who also works with Kenny Chesney, George Strait and major artists, explained. "Are they [Ticketmaster] feeding their own companies? If you owned a company... I would think the answer is yes."
"You suspect that's going on?" Williams asked.
"Yeah, of course, I do. How can you not?"
"That's a big deal if they're doing that."
"There's nothing that I can do, though. I mean, there is nothing I can do."
Ticketmaster says tickets from Keith Urban, for example, might end up on TicketsNow only if a concert were postponed and fans who purchased the so-called "platinum" tickets wanted their money back.
They could also end up there if a fraudulent credit card was used to purchase those seats.
"I'm not educated enough regarding ticketing to know how the Ticketmaster, TicketsNow, all that works," Messina said.
"You're one of the biggest names in the business," Williams noted.
"But you know what, there comes a time when you just shrug your shoulders -- and I shrugged my shoulders years ago."
However, a new lawsuit by a New Jersey ticket broker claims that a Ticketmaster-affiliated company that manages the Eagles was involved in a secret scalping effort for the band's 2008-2009 tour.
The lawsuit also claims Ticketmaster itself scalped tickets for Van Halen, Def Leppard, Kanye West, Steely Dan, George Michael, Journey, New Kids on the Block and Neil Diamond.
Add to that, a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of concert fans accuses Ticketmaster of driving up prices by engaging in "an illegal conspiracy known as 'Project Showtime.'"
It claims Ticketmaster "deliberately withheld a pre-determined number of ... tickets from the 'primary market'" to be scalped. That enabled the "co-conspirators to reap millions of dollars in illegal profits."
Pascrell says NewsChannel 5's on-going investigation of concert tickets illustrates the need for reform.
"What you brought out has hit the nail right on the head because now the artists -- many of them -- in collusion," the New Jersey Democrat said in a telephone interview.
"We need oversight -- there's no two ways about it. The fact that people in the industry don't know what's going on -- which I find hard to believe -- leads me to believe that it's even worse than I thought."
On Tuesday, Ticketmaster agreed to do a satellite interview Wednesday morning to answer Phil Williams' questions.
But at 3 a.m. Wednesday, the company sent an email, backing out.
Still, a spokesperson denied Messina's suggestion that they ever pull any tickets to be scalped. In the email, she said:
"As stated clearly on our web site and outlined in the internal ticketing documents your station uncovered from the Sommet Center and Taylor Swift tour, it is the sole decision of our clients -- the promoter, venue and/or artist -- to determine the location and amount of tickets to be sold during a presale, promotion, fanclub, platinum, auction and /or general onsale. We applaud the investigative journalism conducted by NewsChannel 5 and stand behind the ticketing maps and instructions uncovered."
She also called the lawsuits "meritless."
Still, we had two simple questions: Was there ever a Project Showtime scalping effort? And, if so, what was it?
The spokesperson refused to answer those questions. In a separate statement, she said:
"Ticketmaster continually explores new and viable revenue streams in both the primary and secondary marketplace on behalf of our clients and live event rightsholders to maximize sales and capture the fair market ticket value for promoters, venues, teams and artists."