In The Hot Seat: Outrageous Ticket Fees
Fee Free Friday, your weekly round-up of the ticket fee controversy, is hot off the press! This week, two executives from industry giant Ticketmaster sat down for candid interviews. Caroline Hutchinson has had enough with sneaky surcharges. And a $12 fee on a $26 ticket isn't sitting well with the Wall of Woe!
In The Hot Seat
Being in the hot seat is when "a great deal of attention and scrutiny is focused on a person or organization." It is also a slang term for being interviewed by the press. Two Ticketmaster executives recently sat down for interviews to talk fees, paperless tickets and scalpers.
Candid Interview With Jared Smith, Ticketmaster CEO - North America
Regular readers of Fee Free Friday know that all too often Ticketmaster finds itself bearing the brunt of consumer criticism as a result of routinely charging very high per-ticket fees. And with few exceptions, it is rare to ever get a direct response from Ticketmaster executives.
That all changed this week when newly appointed Ticketmaster CEO Jared Smith sat down in Billboard Magazine's "hot seat" for a candid interview. Discussing the wildly successful deal struck by Kid Rock to lower ticket fees, Smith is actually supportive and claims the example set by Rock is the first of more to come:
I absolutely believe that we're starting to see the real acceleration of some really healthy things in pricing that are going to create new opportunities for fans to come and experience it in a really special way
However, the expectation is that future concert tours that use Kid Rock's terms as a template will not be as "risky."
The interview goes on to quote Smith's assertion that so-called paperless ticketing is not a consumer hostile practice since it only accounts for one percent of sales.
Past editions of Fee Free Friday have looked at legal efforts to give ticket buyers personal property rights, on par with other legal documents such as land deeds and car titles, but legislation is mired in committee. Reading between the lines, Smith seems to feel that paperless tickets are an adequate anti-scalping measure. This is in stark contrast to the opinion of Fan Freedom CEO Joe Potter:
I don't see any reason why nontransferable tickets need to be the solution [...] Scalpers get tickets through pre-sale and fan club memberships.
The hotly contested debates surrounding paperless tickets and fees isn't going to end any time soon. But it is encouraging to hear that such an influential person like Jared Smith is supportive of Kid Rock's desire to make concerts more affordable.
Candid Interview With Mark Yovich, President of Ticketmaster International
Jared Smith wasn't the only Ticketmaster executive to be in the "hot seat" this week. Mark Yovich, Ticketmaster's president of international operations, spoke at length to journalist Lars Brandle in an interview published by the Music Network.
Like Smith, Yovich is defending the business practices of Ticketmaster and addressed the issue of ticket fees directly:
People complain about fees. If we could find a way to make the fees, not necessarily go away, but tell the customer up-front when they see the ticket price that the fee is included in that price. That way they don’t get a surprise when they start going through the checkout process and get all these add-ons. We hate that with any industry.
We need to do a better job to explain what those service fees are for. And why they exist and all the infrastructure and call centers and scanning technology and investment that we’re making. As a ticketing company, we get a ticket into your hands. And we get you inside the building. Those two processes take a lot of investment in technologies. Ticketing is a complicated business.
Yovich is to be commended for his frank and honest answers to some rather difficult questions. If you work in any aspect of event ticketing, Bransle's lengthy interview with Yovich is highly recommended reading.
Even though two executives have responded to complaints about highly unpopular aspects of the ticketing buying process, there's still a lot of work to be done, as you'll see in the Wall of Woe....
Sneaky Surcharges & Ticket Fees
Ticket fees come in many forms, but the most reviled are exorbitant ones that catch the buyer off guard at the very end of the purchase process. These so-called "gotchas" cause people to take to social media and complain while others write more in-depth tirades - the bread and butter of Fee Free Friday as a matter of fact :D
One of those in-depth tirades comes from Caroline Hutchinson and her OpEd Enough of those sneaky surcharges. Hutchinson decries not just concert ticket fees, but every type of pain point a consumer is made to endure:
My husband has long ranted about bank withdrawal fees but they have been the equivalent of loose change to me, possibly significant if you add them up but not worth getting excited about. Sneaky charges come in all kinds of masks: membership fees, subscription fees, order processing fees, service charges, booking fees, auto-renewals, foreign transaction fees, surcharges and billing errors.
The well-worded piece culminates with a rhetorical "What can we do?" that is asked and answered in a way that is music to Fee Free Friday's ears.
First rule is one of the oldest, 'Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware'. Beyond that never hand over credit card details for something that claims to be free, read every bill especially your credit card statement and most of all don't be afraid to complain.
And speaking of complaints...
The Wall of Woe
Hot under the collar would be a very polite way to describe what is seen each and every week in the Wall of Woe. Often, angry ticket buyers take to social media, blogs and forums using language so foul, it cannot even be published here. Free from four letter words, but just as fired-up, a DSO fan finds the ironically named "convenience" fees far from convenient.
Does anyone know if there are convenience fees involved when buying DSO tickets at the box office? A $12 fee tacked onto a $26 ticket does not sit well with me.
If you have a high tolerance for cursing, you are welcome to read the replies. Or you can read the tweets below which were curated from thousands.
That last tweet by Seth Thiemann is a bit of a shock. It may very well be that the ticketing software being used by the school doesn't provide enough (or any) control over ticket fees.
ThunderTix does not charge you per-ticket fees for selling tickets online or at the box office. 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.
And should you choose to add a reasonable per-ticket fee, you retain 100% of the revenue generated. For example, if your venue sells 5,000 tickets with a nominal one dollar per ticket fee, you earn an additional $5,000.00 after you switch to ThunderTix.