Fee Free Friday - It's On Like Donkey Kong Edition
It’s been a busy week in the war against high ticket fees. String Cheese Incident is taking on Ticketmaster by “scalping" its own tickets and there’s a new version of the BOSS ACT - These new high profile ticket fee disputes seem to shout “It’s on like Donkey Kong!”.
The String Cheese Incident
It was a front page headline. It was a lead story on mainstream TV news. It was the story of the week.
Popular jam band String Cheese Incident (SCI) defied convention and purchased all of the tickets for its appearance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and then put the tickets up for sale without any per ticket fees or service charges. The widely read New York Times article reports:
"We’re scalping our own tickets at no service charge. It costs us money to sell the tickets, but we are going to eat that cost this summer in order to make a better deal for our fans and let them know how much we appreciate them. If the tickets are 49 bucks, we want them to be 49 bucks when the kid buys them at the end."
In addition to the Greek Theater performance, the band intends to buy more of its own concert tickets, then re-sell sans fees on the their website, for other stops on their nationwide tour this summer. SCI's intent is explained on their website:
The String Cheese Incident is proud to announce that we have figured out a way to finally achieve the ultimate goal with this whole ticketing exercise! Every ticket bought through SCI Ticketing will be SERVICE FEE-FREE! That's right, if you order tix through the band's website there will be no service charge add-ons.
The ticket price that is listed is the price that you will pay. The band is going to cover the credit card fee. The band is going to cover the cost to take the orders and fulfill the tickets. The cost of a $49.95 ticket to Red Rocks will cost you $49.95. The cost of a $49.95 ticket to the Greek will cost you $49.95.
We may not have heard the last of SCI vs. Ticketmaster, the legalities of a band “scalping” its own tickets are yet to be hammered out in court. Until the other shoe drops, the Fan Freedom Project sums it up best:
Fans are increasingly frustrated by drip-pricing, which obscures the true cost of a ticket until the final point of purchase and can increase the cost of a ticket by as much 30 – 40% over face value once all the hidden fees and surcharges are accounted for. The solution, which String Cheese Incident elegantly presented to their fans via this stunt, is “all-in pricing,” where the total cost of the ticket is presented to ticket buyers upfront. All-in pricing is an important consumer protection, and one that would drastically improve the ticket-buying experience for fans.
Of special note is where the Fan Freedom Project is located - Washington D.C. That puts them just steps away from the K Street supported back room dealings that are associated with event ticket legislation.
BOSS ACT 2012
Know as Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act (BOSS ACT). The BOSS ACT focuses mainly on making computer automated acquisition of event tickets illegal, but also included several provisions addressing per ticket fees. Rep. Pascrell held the news conference in front of Newark's Prudential Center, just hours before the Bruce Springsteen concert to announce the legislation. The Congressman sums up his intent with the bill:
Bruce is pretty popular around these parts, and he's got millions of fans who would love to see the shows. Before this show even went on sale, sites like Stubhub and TicketNetwork had scalped tickets for this show listed for sale for hundreds of dollars. Yesterday, tickets in the lower level were listed on StubHub for over $10,000! Where does this end? How is the average guy or gal supposed to compete? Are only people who can afford a $10,000 ticket supposed to be able to see the Boss?
Reading through the provisions you can see the BOSS ACT 2012 has some teeth to it. Note this line item that addresses ticket fees specifically:
The primary ticket seller must make public the total number of tickets offered for sale to the public, disclose all tickets being withheld from public sale and the number of tickets held back under each method, disclose all ancillary charges to customers when the price of tickets are advertised, and print these charges and total cost on each individual ticket.
So once the revised bill is passed, a concertgoer will see the base price plus additional fees and services charges printed clearly right on the ticket. We suspect there will be more than one person up in arms about the unreasonable fees.
Fox Theater abandons Ticketmaster
The historic Fox Theater announced that they have partnered with Atlanta-based Ticket Alternative.
Similar to the issues being addressed with the BOSS ACT, lack of primary market availability, the move to a new vendor is primarily made in response to consumer being unable to buy tickets for an event directly. PR spokes person for the Fox Theater explains:
By telling customers to come directly to us for tickets, we can provide them peace of mind, [We] have been working with a local law firm to crack down on “cybersquatting,” when ticket resellers present themselves as the Fox’s (or any venues) ticket outlet and then sell tickets at an obscene markup.
There are still some exceptionally high fees being leveled on tickets purchased from the new Fox Theater outlet. A Nicki Minaj $76 base price ticket has a $14.25 fee tacked onto it.
...So an availability battle has been won, but the war against unreasonably high fees rages on.
All kidding aside, your bottom line is of paramount concern to us. Your ThunderTix account gives you the option to have your event be fee free and we encourage you to do so. If you do charge per ticket fees we urge you to use temperance.