Loose Lips Sink Ticket Fees
Investigative reporting by the NBC affiliate in Connecticut has exposed the secret of why concert tickets sell out in seconds. The "loose talk" has also torpedoed the outrageous face value mark-ups and ticket fees added by unauthorized third-party re-sellers. Fee Free Friday has all the details on the secrets being exposed, plus there is news that ticket fees are now doubling the price of theater tickets. We also have a report on round two of the battle over ticket fees by ticketing industry giants AEG and Ticketmaster.
The old wartime expression says "loose lips sink ships." But if that ship is the S.S. Outrageous Ticket Fee, then by all means - let's talk!
The Secret is Out
The headline screams The Secret Behind Concert Ticket Sell-Outs. The source is the NBC affiliate in Connecticut WVIT. The investigation's subject matter is a familiar one - concert tickets instantly selling out. The mysterious sell out forces consumers to buy from unauthorized third parties and to pay outrageous face value markups and ticket fees.
The investigation was conducted by "troubleshooter" Jo Ling Kent and published earlier this week. The report focuses on the ticket sale for pop-star Justin Bieber's upcoming concert on July 18 in Hartford. Kent’s investigation stats with a gut-wrenching quote from a young Bieber fan.
Meredith Starrett saved up a month’s worth of pay at her part time job to buy tickets. The day tickets went on sale, Starrett and her mom Monica Katzen set up two computers and two cell phones to try to get a pair of tickets the moment they became available. After an hour of clicking and calling, they only managed to get one.
“It’s infuriating because you go on and try to get tickets and all that you can find is maybe one single ticket. By the time you reach five minutes after ten o’clock, the concert is pretty much sold out, except for a few single tickets,” Katzen said.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigated why and how tickets sell out so fast. To begin with, the odds are stacked against some fans.
As the report continues, there is the obligatory statement from Ticketmaster blaming automated computer programs (aka “ticket bots”) designed to buy up tickets in seconds. The bots may very well be the reason no tickets are available to the public in Hartford, but what about in other cities?
Another NBC affiliate investigated the ticket sale for the Bieber concert in Washington D.C. uncovering nearly identical results - including crestfallen ticket buyers. What is different about the D.C. investigation is what area venue owner Seth Hurwitz had to say.
"Is a bad part of our business that I personally think is killing our business. The scalpers come and get a hold of these tickets and hijack them and they decide the ticket price.”
"I went to Capitol Hill about this because what I really wants is for the federal government to get involved. This won't go away unless you make it illegal for people to sell tickets a certain percentage over face value."
In both reports, the third party re-sellers added hefty markups to the price of the Bieber tickets. Face value markup is effectively a fee if the ticket supply has been artificially manipulated. The face value markup fee for both the Connecticut and Washington D.C. Bieber concerts are averaging $250 per ticket.
This will hardly be the last word on the matter of bots, face value markup and fees. It seems as if each successive investigation exposes the same “secret”. At some point the legislation Seth Hurwitz is asking for will be enacted and the long suffering consumer will be protected from nefarious practices.
Ticket Fees Double the Price of Theater Tickets
Andrea Edmunds recently published her thoughts on tickets fees for the consumer friendly Top Ten Reviews. Edmunds writes that fees are now doubling the price of theater tickets and that is stopping people from buying them. This same downward spiral of ticket fees causing fewer sales, and fewer sales being made up for by raising fees, was chronicled in the ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ edition of Fee Free Friday.
Edmunds’ look at theater ticket fees includes a spreadsheet table of fee prices being charged by the ticket outlets.
We did some research on what the top ten online theater ticket sites charge in their fees for tickets.
It’s a fact that almost each of these sites adds on a little bit more than what you originally thought you were going to pay. They may call them different names, but each of these charges amount to about the same thing. Plus, they all end up coming out of your wallet. And there is not a whole lot you can do to get around them.
We created the graph to show you what kinds of charges each site has added onto the original base ticket price.
In the past, Fee Free Friday has let theaters off the hook when it comes to criticism about ticket fees because theaters provide cultural enrichment as well as entertainment. But if Edmunds’ data is correct, and theater ticket prices are being doubled by fees, the performing arts will soon join music concerts and sports in the Fee Free Friday quagmire.
Battle of the Titans - Round 2
In November of last year, Fee Free Friday wrote of the battle between ticketing industry giants Ticketmaster and AEG. At the time, the two titans were fighting over a lucrative venue in Minneapolis. The venue had enough of the unreasonable fees being applied to tickets and was "seeking an alternative vendor." Now it seems the same battle is happening again, this time in Los Angeles California.
In 'AEG moves to battle Ticketmaster head on' Los Angeles Times reporter Todd Martens writes that AEG is building upon its recent success with its AXS ticketing system at the Staples Center. Nearby venues, currently being served by Ticketmaster, are taking notice of how tickets and the associated fees are being managed by AEG and may be considering a switch. It is important to note that AEG owns the Staple Center and uses it as its marquee example to market AXS to other venues. Martens writes:
AEG is now selling concert tickets at its trio of L.A. Live venues via its 18-month-old AXS ticketing platform. It's the company's attempt to build a national rival to Ticketmaster and challenge the traditional concert business, including battling scalpers.
How big a deal is AXS to Ticketmaster?
"Our potential flow of tickets from our owned-and-operated venues to AXS is about 20 million" tickets, Leiweke said.
Launching a ticketing firm can be fraught with peril, as Live Nation learned in 2009. The promoter opted to launch its own ticketing service rather than renew with Ticketmaster, but the ticketing system struggled with its first major on-sale. Days later, Live Nation and Ticketmaster announced they were merging.
Of course the details of just how much AEG can save a venue, when compared to Ticketmaster, is a closely guarded secret. But as more and more venues end their relationship with Ticketmaster, and switch to AEG's AXS system, the issue of ticket fees is obviously a point of contention with venue owners. Where will this battle end? Will the competition between the two industry giants result in ever decreasing ticketing costs and lower fees? Will round three of the battle include a counter offer by Ticketmaster to eliminate fees entirely? Fee Free Friday will keep a close eye on this issue. Stay tuned.
Wall of Woe
Rarely is humor a part of the weekly Wall of Woe since its function is to remind everyone of who gets hurt the most but unreasonable ticket fees - the event patron. At the top of this week's list of grievances is a tweet by Charles Rubinoff that humorously asks to imagine a world with a cap on ticket fees. The humor comes from the image included in the tweet.
All this loose talk about ticket fees - the investigations, the data sets and the deafening chorus of complaints from ticket buyers - should give masters and commanders (aka venue owners) pause. Do you really want to be lumped in with resentment and mistrust caused by unreasonable ticket fees? There is a better way.
ThunderTix does not charge you per-ticket fees and we provide you with the ability to charge the fees you deem necessary or you even go fee free - it's your choice. We have an online calculator for you to use and determine if ThunderTix is a good value for your business needs. Who knows, you may find that you are paying too much for your current ticketing software and still not have the control over ticket fees that we provide.