Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing various members of the McElroy family perform live versions of a subset of their podcasts. The shows were fun, and they made coming back into the city at night after working all day more than worth the trouble.

There was, however, one part of the experience that I didn’t enjoy at all. You see, dear reader, the McElroys elected to ticket these events using TicketMaster, which seems to be a sort of ticketing as a service (TAAS?) platform. I imagine the boys felt it best to separate themselves from the ticketing process and leave it to the professionals, no doubt for some fee assessed per ticket sold. That they decided to outsource this part of their tour doesn’t bother me at all; I’m sure it allowed them to focus on their art and make the shows that much more delightful. What bothered me was the TicketMaster platform itself.

These events were mobile entry only, which means that the only way to get in is to present the QR code (or boxcode, as I like to call them) at the door for scanning. That’s fine with me. The problem is that the only way that I could find to get those QR codes is to download and log into the TicketMaster app. While somewhat annoying and clearly a ploy to sell me more stuff, I was willing to look past this as an unfortunate consequence of the system we live in, if that had been the end of it.

About a week before the event, I decided to get it over with and download the app to my device. I have a OnePlus One, an admittedly old smartphone from those tablet-chiseling days of late 2014, and at the time it was running the final public release of CyanogenMod, a flavor of Android

  1. I’ll further admit here that my phone was far behind the current version of Android, and I’ll take some blame for what happened next. Upon searching for TicketMaster in the Google Play Store, I was unable to find it in the results. It was clear to me what was happening: TicketMaster doesn’t run on Android 6.1

At this point, I could have tried sideloading TicketMaster onto my device, but to be honest I didn’t think of that. Instead, I decided to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while: upgrade. LineageOS had caught my eye some time ago, and since my device is supported, I thought I’d give it a shot. It proved to be pretty easy to set up, and as of writing I have a fully-updated OnePlus One running Android 9.

During setup for LineageOS, I decided to skip installing Google apps, such as the Play Store, Gmail, Maps, and others. I had read that there was some inconclusive evidence about battery drain attributable to these apps, but I was more motivated simply by my long-term goal of reaching Google Escape Velocity. Incidentally, the resulting phone has been much better behaved, and at the moment I only really have to charge it every other day or so.

So there I was, old phone with new OS in hand. It was time to install TicketMaster and try this whole thing again so I could go see those good good McElroys on stage. I downloaded the APK and ran adb install to push it across. Success, it said. Okay, time to launch and—

It crashed.

Hmm, weird, I guess I’ll launch it aga—

It crashed.

Cool, I thought. Why?

I ran adb logcat and tried a third time. I don’t have the error in front of my, but it basically said that TicketMaster couldn’t find the Play Store, so it couldn’t or wouldn’t launch. I sat back in my chair. For some reason, TicketMaster really wanted me to have the Play Store installed. I searched around, and there wasn’t really any discussion on the Internet about this problem or how to solve it. I was stuck.

The unsatisfying conclusion is that I had my girlfriend download the app to her phone, log in, and handle the tickets. I wasn’t able to find a better solution than that. We were able to see the shows, and everything was alright. Maybe I shouldn’t complain.

But I will. What bothers me is that TicketMaster made a lot of assumptions in designing their system. First, they assumed that everyone has a smartphone of their own or access to one. That’s probably mostly true, especially among the sort of crowd that the McElroys draw. Plus, I’m sure the McElroys decided to make the tickets mobile-only, so that part is on them. Whatever.

The other assumption TicketMaster made was that I’m willing to give them part of my identity and some free space and resources on my phone—plus the actual monetary fee for the tickets—in order to see the shows I wanted to see. As it turns out, they were mostly correct in assuming that, since I did it after all, but it sure did turn me off to the whole platform. I can’t say I’ll seek out shows through the platform, and I’ll probably only use it when I’m forced to again in the future.

Now, for TicketMaster, that’s probably not a big deal. They still got their money, and if I didn’t turn into a whale for their platform, they probably don’t care. Most of their customers probably only use the platform once anyway. My contribution (or lack thereof) is less than a rounding error on their bottom line. My high-minded I’ll-take-my-business-elsewhere approach is almost completely useless against their behemoth corporate bulk. And the story is the same for lots of companies that present convenience in exchange for privacy.

Sure, it wouldn’t have been that hard to give in, install the Play Store, and do this the “right” way, but it makes me sad to think that there could be such little freedom in something as simple as buying and presenting a ticket to see a show. The complete lack of respect for even the possibility of anonymity is frustrating, to say the least.

I’d like to live in a world where it’s possible to achieve my goals—in this case, seeing a bunch of older-than-me dudes play D&D and give fake advice over wine—without letting a corporation, or really anyone, into my life. Sure, I could have just not gone to the show, but I’m one of these greedy fellows who wants it both ways. I suppose I could have been more proactive and paid TicketMaster to ship me paper tickets (although its not clear if those would have been effective at the door, given the mobile-only policy), but should I really have to pay more money to escape TicketMaster’s malware?

Think of it this way: if I can pay, whatever, $16.50 to have TicketMaster Fedex me some paper tickets, doesn’t that mean that they value having access to their clients’ phones about that much? What does that say about their motivations?

Anyway, the shows were great, and the tickets were worth the money. Just spare me the corporate slime.

page](, TicketMaster runs on Android 5 and up, but I suspect that that’s just what it could run on if sideloaded onto a device. That it was missing from the Play Store indicated to me that some filter had been applied on TickeMaster’s end to prevent installation on my older device. In general, I’m neutral on this practice, since at some point it’s untenable for developers to support devices from the ancient past. As always, I’m willing to be wrong about any of this.

  1. According to [this