The new general manager of Ticketmaster presides
(again) over a massive distribution network.
aybe it was a youth spent around hotels and
clubs hi the Catskills that gave Robert Garsh
a feel for the "leisure industry."
He shrugs. Sure, that could have some-
thing to do with his choice of profession, he
The low-key Mr. Garsh, 39, just became
general manager of Ticketmaster's Michigan
office for a second time, replacing Jeff Kline
in the job Mr. Garsh held up until 1989. He
was bored back then and asked for a job that
offered more adventure.
When Mr. Garsh, a Troy resident, learned
Mr. Kline was heading for Chicago, he re-
quested his old job back so he could spend more
time with his wife, Dr. Pam Claps, an emer-
gency-room physician at Detroit Receiving
Hospital, and children Zack, 4, and Lea, 1 1/2.
While the transition to his new post is un-
der way, he is still acting as national real es-
tate director for Ticketmaster's 50 offices
throughout the country and offices in Eng-
land, Mexico and Australia.
Mr. Garsh's father, David, ran a sundries
store in a hotel in the Catskills — a vacation
hotspot that showcased aspiring comedians
and other entertainers. Mr. Garsh remem-
bers meeting Ann Margaret and Melba
Moore, plus assorted boxers when he had a
job delivering messages to hotel guests.
As a teen-ager, he took a job as a telephone
operator in New York City. He believes he
was the first male to break into the business.
Then it was off to college at Stonybrook
University in Long Island and then gradu-
ate school at Keller Graduate School in Chica-
go. After graduation with an MBA degree 13
years ago, Mr. Garsh approached Fred Rosen,
the head of a new company called Ticket-
master, for an interview that led to his job.
Around that time, Ticketmaster was creep-
ing into the ticket market and squeezing out
Ticketron, then the king in the ticket-mak-
ing and distribution business.
Ticketmaster's success in taking on a gi-
ant was due partly to Ticketron's laissez-faire
attitude, Mr. Garsh speculated.
"They dictated the rules and got sloppy,"
he said. 'We were friendly; we were able to
get the job done. Basically, it came down to
relationships (with performance venues)." In
1991, Ticketmaster essentially absorbed Tick-
Ticketron also failed, he added, because its
software "couldn't compete with ours."
Mr. Garsh declined to talk about the beat-
ing Ticketmaster has lately taken from rock
bands like Pearl Jam that resent the com-
pany's virtual monopoly of the ticket mar-
ket and the $2-$4 surcharges it attaches
to tickets. But he defended the company, ex-
plaining that costs are high in an operation
that relies on constant updating of software
and that has such a complex distribution
Pearl Jam took its anti-trust claim to the
U.S. Justice Department, which found no
proof to support it.
"In the paper you see the complaints from
one or two people, not hundreds of thousands
of people who are satisfied. It's convenience
that people pay for," he said.
Ticketmaster controls 85 percent of the
sports and entertainment venues in the city,
including the Joe Louis Arena, the Palace of
Auburn Hills and the Fisher Theatre. It lost
the Detroit Tigers organization last year af-
ter the organization started its own in-house
The company operates 3,147 outlets world-
wide, including 130 outlets in Michigan, and
while there is competition — in Grand
Rapids, Tickets Plus has grabbed a share of
the market — "Nobody's made a major push
in Michigan," he said.
Ticketmaster offers its customers a cen-
tral ticket bank from which they draw, and
phones and ticket-selling outlets. Callers near
and far are patched into a main switchboard
to order tickets, and Ticketmaster picks up
the cost of the call.
Mr. Garsh said an average of 8,000 calls
come through the Michigan office during the
week and close to 20,000 on Saturdays.
Ticketmaster's 350 to 400 employees oc-
cupy almost an entire floor of a Bingham
Farms office building. A team of software de-
signers works in one section, while 125 op-
erators man phones in another. Mr. Garsh
said there are 150 to 200 operator jobs, but
not all operators are on duty at any time. A
computer room is lined with dozens of boards
and printers that spit out the tickets. Posters
advertising past and future concerts and
events take up most of the wall space.
Ticketmaster has a site on the World
Wide Web that carries information on events
at venues all over the country, artist bi-
ographies and a chatline. Mr. Garsh said
the site will be transactional in a few
months, allowing users to buy tickets elec-
tronically. However, first the company must
ensure that credit card numbers cannot be
And Ticketmaster is venturing into the
publishing world with a celebrity-packed
magazine called Live that will cover sporting
and entertainment events and carry guides
specific to each region in which it's distrib-
uted. The first issue comes out in February
with articles by Neil Simon and Carrie Fish-
er, among other humorists.
Mr. Garsh noted that the business isn't as
glamorous as one would think, although dur-
ing one of his first assignments — handling
seating arrangements for the first Farm Aid
concert — he found himself flanked by Bob
Dylan and Tom Petty. Also, he's been "to just
about every concert and sports event" imag-
"I don't thrive on celebrity encounters," he
said, but, "it's the entertainment industry.
You deal with a lot of interesting people. It's
fun. I don't have to wear a tie every day." ❑
NO VEM B ER 1 7
JULIE EDGAR STAFF WRITER