Let them eat cake ticket fees!
Fee Free Friday is back with all the tumultuous ticket industry news about ticket fees. Customers want no fees tickets but seldom receive them. This week we find a recurring theme across all the line items is one of indifference to the plight of the ticket buying public. Be it ticket fees, nefarious distribution practices or outright mismanagement, the famous non-quote "Let them eat cake" is all the public hears.
Marie Antoinette may have never actually said "Let them eat cake", but read on to find out which venues and ticket outlets are...
"Let them eat cake"
Regular readers of Fee Free Friday know that very seldom do we hear from the other side in the ticket fee debate - that being the venues and outlets imposing them. The effort is made to ask the reason for the unreasonable fees, but seldom is there a response. Patrons want no fees tickets, but venues usually ignore this request. It seems that Natalie Jamieson is much better at getting a response.
In 'Newsbeat's guide to ticket booking fees', Jamieson asked the ticketing industry heavyweights point blank, about per-ticket fees and services charges. The responses read as carefully crafted legalese more than off-the-cuff mea culpa. One could even be forgiven for reading between the lines and seeing the "Let them eat cake" indifference/disdain.
The questions posed to Ticketmaster, the O2 area, AXS and others echo what millions of ticket buyers have asked:
Q: Why do you charge a booking fee on top of the price of a gig ticket?
A: (Chris Edmonds, managing director of Ticketmaster) There's a misunderstanding about what the fees are for and the revenues that Ticketmaster would actually get. In reality we wouldn't see any share of the actual ticket price, that would be shared between the promoter, venues and the artist. The actual per ticket fees that we charge to the consumer are our sole source of revenue.
Q: Why do I still have to pay if I print my ticket at home?
A: We can only offer our customers print at home tickets if we're working with a venue and we've got our access control systems in there so it's a contribution in terms of that cost. Our objective is to get all tickets onto mobiles, onto people's payment cards or give consumers the option to print at home. As that progresses over the next few years then I actually think there will be more flexibility in terms of the fees we charge.
Q: Why do you charge a booking fee?
A: (Rebecca Kane, spokesperson for AXS) Everyone will be familiar with service charge fees and our service fees are very comparable to what Ticketmaster do. I think the advantage for AXS is we don't actually charge for print at home because if you're using your own machine and you're using your own ink and your own paper why should we charge you for that? People will move more and more to print at home.
Some fair points are being made. But the all parties are dancing around the rugby scrum, rather than dive head first into it. If Fee Free Friday were to ask, the line of questioning would start with "Why are ticket fees often presented at the end of the purchase process? Shouldn't fees be itemized and shown up-front, at the beginning?" Then we'd ask "What exactly is a 'facility fee' anyway? Shouldn't each fee and service charge be accurately described in plain English?"
We won't hold our breath waiting for the answers, nor will we ever expect the same industry giants to conduct a proper AMA directly with the public, like President Obama did recently, rather than use the press as a intermediary. We allow venues to sell no fees tickets, leaving the choice of whether or not to charge them up to venues.
Speaking of the president, the ticket distribution process for his upcoming inauguration is not going well...
Hail to the Grief
Earlier this week, there was a widely reported issue with the distribution of tickets to various events for President Obama's second Inauguration. Initially Ticketmaster sent an email to everyone who had signed-up on the Presidential Inaugural Committee website ( https://2013pic.org ). The email made the offer to its recipients that tickets were available by clicking on a link. The problem? It was a full 24 hours before the official availability. Worse, the premature offer allowed people to click all the way through the purchase process and pay for tickets. The White House, the Inaugural Committee and Ticketmaster all went into damage control mode.
There was a follow-up apology email sent out recanting the errant offer and stating that all inaugural event tickets are "first come, first-served basis". One such event, the official inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, is in such high demand, third party re-sellers have tickets listed for sale at $250 each.
The public's reaction to the snafu has been well documented (often to a hilarious effect) on Buzzfeed. A more journalistic account comes from Arin Greenwood of The Huffington Post. Greenwood cites the Inaugural Committee's formal statement on the matter:
On Sunday evening, Ticketmaster experienced a technical error that inadvertently caused an email to go out ahead of schedule to people who had signed up for Inaugural ticketing information with an invitation to purchase public tickets for The Inaugural Ball and the Inaugural Parade. The Ticketmaster website was overwhelmed, slowing the purchasing process. Ticketmaster has taken responsibility for this mistake.
However, a significant number of public tickets to both The Inaugural Ball and the Inaugural Parade were purchased this evening, despite the early email. This is consistent with the Presidential Inaugural Committee's announcement that a limited number of public tickets would be available on a first come, first-served basis. Ticketmaster will be in touch with additional information on ticket sales.
You can read all of the subsequent apology statements in Greenwood's post. No amount of formal statements will sooth the impression made to the public, though. The president was elected by the voting populous, so the celebration should include those same citizens and not become a game of political cronyism and insider privilege.
While we're on that subject....
Fiesta Bowl Fiasco
Reports of improper use of event tickets as "perks" for politicians are the stuff of many a Fee Free Friday line item. The purported improprieties, once made public knowledge, are usually addressed, admonishments issued, and all returns to "normal". In Arizona past issues with tickets functioning as political perks have not yet been resolved. The result is an in-depth report on the state of (un)well being by Kathleen Ingley.
The Fiesta Bowl game and its many related events have become a football extravaganza that kicks off the new year for the Phoenix area with national publicity and a hefty economic boost. But over the past three years, the Fiesta Bowl has also become the source of continuous embarrassment in the Valley of the Sun, for bowl officials, civic boosters and state legislators, as well. And it isn't over.
The parade of bad news began in December 2009, when the Arizona Republic exposed the Fiesta Bowl’s scheme of urging employees to make campaign contributions and then illegally reimbursing them. In March 2011, a special investigative committee revealed that the bowl had showered elected officials, mostly legislators, with lavish gifts.
Where does it end? According to Ingley, it hasn't. Tickets, luxury suites, extended non-work related trips, etc. are yet to come under strict governance, leaving the ticket buying public waiting.
Many Arizonans are puzzled by the Legislature’s failure to do any sort of ethical house cleaning. Last session, more than a half-dozen reforms were proposed to restrict gifts and strengthen reporting requirements. None passed.
“I was stunned that in the wake of the Fiesta Bowl there wasn't some sort of comprehensive gift-ban reform,” said Deb Gullett, a lobbyist with Gallagher & Kennedy and a GOP legislator from 2001 to 2005.
Lawmakers and observers cite several reasons why nothing happened: an election year, potential embarrassment for the one-in-three legislators who had taken Fiesta Bowl-funded trips and the lack of any strong push from outside public-interest groups, which were caught up in other issues. Some legislators argued for better training, not legislation.
The admirable scope and scale of Kathleen Ingley is far beyond the scope of Fee Free Friday and you are encourage to read the entire report. When event tickets become embroiled in a political scandal, all parties (the venue, the event organizer, the performer, and a disappointed public) are dragged into the into the malaise.
Wall of Woe - Principia Disappointica Edition
It is as if ticket fees are a mathematical formula for consumer disappointment , a formula not unlike Sir Isaac Newton's famous book Principia Mathematica. But rather than enlighten, nebulous per-ticket fees bring darkness - a "Principia Disappointica". This week's Wall of Woe is just a tiny fraction of one percent of the disappointment ticket buyers expressed in the past few days.
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