A Tale of Two Cities' Ticket Fees
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Fee Free Friday, the TMZ of ticket fees, is back with a tale of two cities. In Nashville, Tennessee all hell is breaking loose with two simultaneous scandals, one for Lady Gaga tickets, the other for Eric Church tickets. In Minneapolis, Minnesota high ranking government officials are livid about Vikings' tickets laced with outrageously high fees. Plus a rare good news item in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
'A Tale of Two Cities' depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy. Read-on to see how that becomes an apt representation of the plight of hapless ticket buyers demoralized by ticket fees.
The Gaga donnybrook stems from a NewsChannel 5 investigation that traced tickets being scalped for the upcoming show at the Bridgestone Arena. The serious sleuthing purportedly found that one or more blocks of tickets were set aside and designated "for Live Nation executives".
Phil Williams, the chief investigative reporter at NewsChannel 5, describes the situation:
As we originally reported, Ticketmaster spokesperson Jacqueline Peterson denied that the company was involved in any scalping. Those tickets were put on sale to the general public, then purchased by a scalper and put on StubHub. As we noted, Peterson said that she could not provide any proof, citing the company's privacy policies.
The investigation spurred a response from Ticketmaster lawyer Edward J. Weiss:
Live Nation executives never took possession of the tickets. Before the public on sale, Live Nation released the tickets to the general pool of tickets available for sale to the public on Ticketmaster.com, where they were sold at the face values prescribed by Lady Gaga's management....We know who first purchased every one of those tickets -- or at least the names used to buy them, as scalpers use aliases, and many of them.
The unscrupulous practice of taking blocks of event tickets out of sales circulation with the intent of funneling them out to a predesignated re-seller has been well documented in past Fee Free Friday posts. The shady policy may make for a quick burst of revenue, but it it very damaging to the venue in the long term. Every instance of so-called "value added reselling" erodes the public's trust. This latest report involving Gaga tickets may be met with more than just legal action, it may incur the wrath of millions of "Little Monsters" (Lady Gaga fans) who have a collective buying power to can make or break a venue.
At the same time the Lady Gaga ticket scandal was going on, a dust-up over sought-after Eric Church tickets was happening. Once again, Nashville's tenacious NewsChannel 5 investigative team was in the thick of it.
As reported, city prosecutors will not open an investigation into ticket scalping of a recent Eric Church concert. Why? Because Ticketmaster is not complaining about the bots.
The other shoe is yet to drop. Fee Free Friday kindred spirit Jon Potter of the Fan Freedom Project was in the Nashville courtroom during the legislative committee hearing. From the NewsChannel 5 report:
Ticketmaster critic Jon Potter told lawmakers that he filed a complaint after NewsChannel 5 Investigates looked into a recent Eric Church show at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Church's manager Fielding Logan showed us evidence from Ticketmaster itself, indicating it knows when those illegal bots were used.
Logan showed the legislative committee a chart prepared by NewsChannel 5 from Ticketmaster's data, indicating that most of the seats in front of the stage were purchased by professional ticket scalpers. Use of those software bots is already a crime in Tennessee.
The report goes on to quote Potter as to the reason no further action is being taken as "Because Ticketmaster didn't complain about the seating chart that Fielding Logan showed you, he closed the investigation...Something is wrong with that."
Indeed. When ever tickets are sold by scalpers, often at face value mark-ups exceeding 1,000%, the ticketing buying public pays the price (all puns intended).
The second city in this tale is Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the NFL Vikings football team.
Ed Stych writes in the Minneapolis Business Journal state Governor Mark Dayton is less than pleased with the Minnesota Vikings owners for considering charging a new, and unprecedented ticket fee. Called a "stadium builder's license fee", the Vikings are looking to spread their costs across to season-ticket holders. From the Stych article:
The Vikings recently sent a survey to ticket-holders asking how much they would pay for a personal seat licenses (PSLs). The licenses, which would cost hundreds of dollars — maybe thousands — per seat, would likely be a one-time fee that gives fans the right to a seat. The cost of tickets would be extra. The money collected from the PSLs would go towards the team's $498 million share of the $975 million stadium.
In a letter to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, Dayton criticized the team for even considering personal seat license [fees]. Dayton went on to say that "it would be better that (the stadium) not be built" if the team charged the PSLs and were to "betray" the trust of Vikings fans.
No amount of Orwellian double-speak can mask what personal seat license really is - yet another ticket fee. Football fans already pat premium prices for the season tickets, and they are made to jump through hoops to get them in the first place. The idea NFL team owners want to charge those same loyal fans a second time for the same tickets is will do nothing for long business goals. If anything, it may push the season ticket holders to individual game tickets on auction sites, perpetuating the misery.
We will continue to monitor the reports coming from Minneapolis, as well as the half dozen other cities who are implementing personal seat license ticket fees, some of which are over $50,000.00 each, and publish them in future Fee Free Friday posts.
Pay It Forward
The duplicity theme in this week's Fee Free Friday continues. Normally a bottomless pit of ticket buyer despair, we are encouraged by this next bit of news.
The city of New Orleans announced a concert to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy will be held at the Mahalia Jackson Theater November 20th. The concert originally had a very reasonable ticket price of $50 most of which would be a donation.
But the true intent of the benefit concert was derailed when the specter of unreasonable per-ticket fees appeared. Kevin Allman wrote Tickemaster was going to charge a hefty $12.00 in ticket fees and services charges for the concert.
Fortunately, good judgement has prevailed and the ticket industry giant has recanted its position, modifying the fee amount to "cover costs" (doing so after the Big Easy's mayor stepped in). From Allman's follow-up:
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has more stroke than we do when it comes to giant conglomerate ticket brokers. Spokesperson Siona LaFrance said the new fee is $5.40 plus a $1.35 credit card surcharge and Ticketmaster will donate $3.90 per ticket to Sandy relief. Monies raised from the concert will go to the NOLA Pay it Forward Fund at the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF). It will be used to support non-profit organizations assisting in hurricane relief and recovery efforts.
We applaud the mayor's efforts and Ticketmaster too. The victims of hurricane Sandy need help. Now is not the time to laden the altruistic efforts of the benefit concertgoers with unjustifiable per-ticket fees and nebulous service charges.
We suggest you take a moment and enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling. It won't last long....
Wall of Woe
In stark contrast to the excellent results of lower ticket fees for the New Orleans benefit concert are the cries of anguish from this week's Wall of Woe. The very same ticket service provider that lowered its fees for a Sandy relief efforts goes right back to where it started.
"Hey Ticketmaster & ticket scalpers, I HATE YOU. Love, The fan who would love to sit in the front row for once without having to sell her soul."
"Concert ticket fees suck ass."
"I'm being charged $100 in fees for concert tickets being sent to me for via FedEx."
"Ticket fees turn a $25 ticket into a $40 one."
"Tickets for The Thug in Me $15...$28 w/ ticket fees."
Dickens' beloved novel begins “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” but worst of times may end up being the only time, if the consumer hostility of unreasonable ticket fees continues unabated. The cities of Nashville and Minneapolis are just two of the thousands of cities trying to bring about change in the ticketing industry. Unless the ticket companies and venues mend their ways and voluntarily address the issue of tickets fess, state (and possibly Federal) legislation will be the norm.
It doesn't have to come to that.
ThunderTix allows you to sell tickets online with no fees. We encourage you to pass along that savings to the consumer and show them the long term vision of your business is tied directly to their satisfaction. Your patrons will love that you don’t add fees. It’s that simple. Lower ticket costs through no added fees translate into higher sales and greater patron satisfaction.