"We got to see up close how things work in this country.. It didn’t kill us, but it was quite an experience": Eddie Vedder on Pearl Jam's battle with Ticketmaster, 30 years on

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images))

You would imagine that Pearl Jam might have enjoyed Taylor Swift publicly digging out ticketing giant Ticketmaster when the company fumbled the sales of her huge Eras tour at the tailend of 2022. For Eddie Vedder’s band, it was a case of ‘Been there, done that, just about managed to emerge intact’. Next week marks 30 years since Pearl Jam took such umbrage with the control that Ticketmaster has over the US live market that they decided umbrage wasn’t enough: on 6 May, 1994, Pearl Jam filed a complaint against Ticketmaster with the U.S. Justice Department in a move that the LA Times called a “holy war” between the country’s biggest rock band and the country’s biggest ticketing agency.

In their filing at the time, Pearl Jam said the Ticketmaster had put pressure on promoters to hinder the group’s attempt to embark on a low-cost tour, alleging that the company had a national monopoly on the live industry and specifically pinpointing the huge service fees Ticketmaster were adding to ticket prices.

They were fighting the good fight, but it came at a price. Pearl Jam pulled all dates they had planned that summer and, speaking to this writer in 2011, Eddie Vedder said it was a daunting experience. “The way I feel about it is we got to see up close how things work in this country, we got to be crushed by a huge corporate giant right up close,” Vedder said. “It didn’t kill us, but it was quite an experience.”

Boycotting any venues with Ticketmaster affiliations, the band ended up booking a tour made up of independent venues or sites where they could construct the stage and arenas themselves. It was, Vedder said, not an ideal scenario. “It was getting in the way of making music and playing live shows," he recalled. "When we tried to do the tour all on our own, we spent more time on where to put the portaloos than when it came to setlist. You couldn’t think straight for j-link fences and barricades and safety issues and how many roads in, how many roads out, parking. That became part of setting up live shows, and then those were what the reviews were about! It was ‘if they’d done it with Ticketmaster, there wouldn’t be this hassle’, there was more counterfeit tickets… we had to bring the focus back to music and playing.”

That’s what they did when, in 1998, they began to use Ticketmaster venues once more and could return to proper touring. “In some ways, it robbed us of some of our idealism,” Vedder said. Despite the defeat, it meant fans could get to see Pearl Jam in their natural environment once again, just as they will when the group arrive in the UK for a summer tour next month.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.