This week we ask if ticket fees can ever be a good thing and find some surprising answers. But don’t get your hopes up too high. An investigative report from Nashville finds Justin Bieber fans are as miserable as ever. A concert ticket fee should not break the bank. Plus we have all the TMZ-style staccato of news stories on outrageous ticket fees that you’ve come to expect.
The Bieb wants you to “Believe”, but should you? Read on for the ugly truth.
On Monday of this week, Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter for TV news Channel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee broke the news that Justin Bieber's tour managers have allegedly been selling tickets to the 'Believe Tour' to the secondary market at an outrageously high mark-up.
The televised report cites several sources including one consumer who had not been able to get tickets for her 8-year-old neighbor. Also featured is 'Ticket Masters' author Dean Budnick, featured in our previous Free Free Friday. Budnick told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that artists see how much over face value scalpers make from the tickets and they want to be making just as much, if not more.
The Williams investigation interviewed Elizabeth Owen, the former head of consumer affairs for the state of Tennessee, and asked about the legality of what the Bieber's tour managers supposedly have done:
Owen argues that because of America's love affair with music, the concert industry gets a pass on basic consumer protection laws against unfair and deceptive acts.No business can advertise something for sale -- a product or a service or whatever -- at a certain price unless they have enough of that product or service to meet reasonable public demand.
The consumer affairs chief was then asked point blank if it a violation of the law.
"In my opinion, it is" she answered.
Justin Bieber's publicist never returned NewsChannel 5 phone calls.
The Bieber ticket investigation caught the attention of the Fee Free Friday kindred spirits The Fan Freedom Project who published a scathing commentary on the unscrupulous resale and overt face value mark-up process titled 'This Is Why Concert Tickets Sell Out in Seconds'. From the post:
Justin Bieber is far from the first artist to scalp his own tickets. In 2009, Keith Urban promised fans affordable tickets at $20 apiece, but only 389 of the 15,000 were offered at the $20 price. And only 1,600 seats were sold to the general public for Taylor Swift’s 2009 show at Bridgestone Arena. Most recently, the Smoking Gun posted a leaked copy of Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour rider, which showed that Perry reserves the right to scalp her own tickets on the secondary market at inflated prices.
Outrageous, unjustified concert ticket fees and nefarious resale practices by any entity are harmful to the ticketing industry as a whole. The entertainment market is only just beginning to show signs of revival after the Economic crisis dampened ticket sales. We feel that now is not the time to abuse the ticket-buying consumer for short term gain. While we await a response from the Bieber representatives, now would be a good time for all event ticketing platforms to review their practices and make sure they are in-line with the expectations of the public.
Bieber boondoggle is the latest, and possibly the most egregious use case of markup and the concert ticket fee, but does the ticket fee coin have a flip side? Is there ever such a thing as a "good fee"? The mountain of evidence says no, but If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain.
Wall of Whoa
That's right "whoa", as in "Whoa. Wait a minute...ticket fees can be a good thing?
Legislator Michael Boynton intends to alleviate some of the impact that events at Gillette Stadium in Norfolk County have on the surrounding neighborhood of Wrentham, Massachusetts. The community is all too often burdened with traffic snarls as well as litter removal and crowd control costs that currently are not being offset by the venue.
How does Boynton intend to correct the problem? With ticket fees.
Walpole bears an awful lot of the burden but gets no benefit from having the stadium venue as close as it is to the town line. These communities that feel the impact of these large facilities, yet, get zero of the revenue, this is an opportunity for them to look at it.
The proposed per-ticket fees will be $3 per ticket over face value applied by distance in relation not only to Gillette Stadium but Fenway Park and Comcast Center as well. The fees kick in on events that have more than 15,000 spectators. The ticket fee funds from the ticket sale fee would go towards "municipal infrastructure and facilities, road improvements, public safety, public works, emergency management" according to Benjamin Paulin of Patch.com.
This is one instance where ticket fees are actually a good thing. The Wrentham community can recoup their costs and the dollar amount assigned per ticket is reasonable. That is noteworthy here at Fee Free Friday, normally a bastion of misery and contempt for unjustified fees and service charges.
The sensitivity shown by the city of Boston Massachusetts the people living nearby may, unfortunately be the exception and not the rule. The city of Brooklyn New York may want to pay attention to Boston.
The new Barclay Center, nestled right up against private homes, is not applying the same noble act of giving back to its surroundings.
The idea that properly applied ticket fees can not only serve a purpose, but studies show consumers are willing to pay them if they feel they are reasonable and warranted.
I don’t mind paying a fee if there’s a value I’m receiving in return, I only get ticked off when someone tries to hide or lump them into “general” fees that don’t pertain to anything. Call a spade a spade and label the fee what it’s for, don’t try to hide it in euphemisms.
That kind of consumer understanding towards ticket fees is a brittle state of mind though...
Wall of Woe
Just when you thought it was safe to start buying tickets, the Wall of Woe reminds us all just how much of a contentious issue unreasonable ticket fees are. A quick look at what is being said on tumblr yields:
"I rarely get my concert tickets from ticketmaster because they’re always ‘sold out’ when in fact they’re not."
"I bought my ticket for the September 29th show. $122.18 later…I still hate Ticketmaster."
"The face value of the ticket is a quite reasonable $20.50. But in your $20.50 ticket to see the Johns you’ll have to pay a $12.25 fee, a full 60%."
"$30 at the door in Philly. Online, it's an extra $10, per ticket, then at checkout another $5 for "processing."
"Going to concerts and all those extra fees just put me off."
"I find myself going to concerts less and less because of the outrageous service charges attached to each ticket. As many have said before a $30 ticket very quickly becomes a $50 ticket."
"I used to go to multiple (10+) concerts a year. Now two at most."
"I was going to buy $37 Afghan Whigs tickets. Price with service fees was $50 a piece."
We Can Be Heroes
Cart abandonment, sluggish ticket sales, national bad press and a million unhappy people talking about ticket fees, are all things you can avoid. We know businesses must run profitable events in both the short and long term. ThunderTix has the tools you need to apply fees and services charges that are palatable to ticket buyers, you can even go fee free like the Frederick Oktoberfest, the Savannah Good Times Charters and Burning Man's Alchemy festival.
We have written our thoughts on the best practices for ticket fees in ‘Sell Tickets Online. No Fees.’ which you are strongly encouraged to read.