Predicting the Future of Ticket Fees

Predicting the Future of Ticket Fees

Ticket Fee Legislation

Did Free Free Friday, your weekly summary of the controversy surrounding ticket fees and other ticketing industry news, predict future? Maybe, if new ticket fee legislation in Texas and California is passed into law. Clairvoyance aside, this week also had one of the most incendiary comments ever made about ticket fees. Plus, there's a toehold of hope in the weekly Wall of Woe.

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed with the knowledge of future events, but could do nothing to prevent them. The same may now be true for readers of Fee Free Friday...

Cassandra Complex

A previous edition of Fee Free Friday made mention of the controversy at a rodeo in Houston, Texas after fans decried the less than forthcoming practices for ticket distribution. Citing radio station KTRH's interview with Chris Grimm, an unwittingly clairvoyant statement was made:

...Applying consumer property rights to tickets is currently being considered by Texas legislators, but is yet to be introduced as a [bill] that can be debated or voted upon.

That was then. This is now...

This week, Texas state representative Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, introduced a bill (HB3041) that would prevent venues from putting restrictions on the resale of tickets. The language of the bill sounds rather severe and if passed could foretell the end of outrageous face value mark-up, which is essentially a ticket fee. Details from The Courier report:

HB3041 would prohibit the primary seller from printing conditions and terms on the ticket and setting maximum and minimum prices for any resale. It also would not allow venues, sports teams and promoters to issue only nontransferable electronic tickets, which must be claimed at the venue by presenting an ID or the credit card used to buy them.

The spirit of HB3041 does hint at ticket buyers having so-called "property rights" over their purchase, but the long-term implications may prove to have the opposite effect. Regular readers of Fee Free Friday know of the tumultuous results the state of Maryland experience when trying to limit face value mark-up and ticket fees. The ruling in Maryland ultimately lead to an exception being made by the city of Baltimore for ticket industry giant Ticketmaster, allowing them to effectively charge unlimited ticket fees.

The Texas bill has an eerie similarity to the state of Maryland, and so does the rhetoric; “When I had a ticket, I thought I owned it,” he said. And if he owns it, he thinks he ought to be able to do with it as he pleases."

The Cuirer goes on to list the exceptions being made for the city of Arlington, home to the NFL Cowboys and the MLB Rangers.

A spokesman for Oliveira’s office told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board on Tuesday that the legislation would not overrule or repeal any city ordinance. So the Arlington ordinance would remain in effect even if the bill passes.

The final version of the bill is yet to be made available to the public, but even in its current primordial form, it will have far reaching effects on venues ability to conduct for-profit business. Also, the is no legal precedent for event tickets falling under landowner-style property rights. In theory, HB3041 could make Print-at-Home paper tickets a document on par with a land deed or vehicle title - and all the legal entanglements therein ("Get loan on your car title in as little as 15 minutes!...").

Seeing the future and being powerless to do anything about it didn't end in the state of Texas...

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Cassandra Complex Act 2

The new ticket fee legislation in Texas has a twin in California, according to Nannette Miranda. In a report by KGO-TV in San Francisco, Miranda describes a California bill designed to protect the rights of ticket buyers.

Assemblyman Richard Pan just introduced a bill that would protect the rights of ticket holders. His measure would ban restricted tickets by giving owners the right to re-sell, donate, or give them away. "For most people, it's really about, you can't make it at the last minute. You want to give it to a family member or friend," he said.

The impetuous of the California bill is different than the one in Texas, however. The California bill intends to give quasi-property rights to ticket buyers in response to a recent move by venues to only allow resale on the venue's website. The closed loop of a venue or ticket outlet creating (and profiting from) its own secondary marketplace has been met with widespread disdain. Most notably in California, were the MLB Los Angeles Angles baseball team implemented the restrictive practice on their official website.

With state governments on the warpath against ticket fees, face value mark-up, and paperless tickets, every venue owner in the county would do well to start reviewing their policies now. Waiting until after sweeping legislation has been past may make for more than just a short term loss of profits.

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"Ticketmaster makes more money than the artist"

Incendiary comments about ticket fees are a staple of every edition of Fee Free Friday, but the ones made this week in a European courtroom are flirting with slander.

Electric Picnic founder John Reynolds went on the record when he railed against what he considers a "kick-back" scheme involving promoters and the European branch of Ticketmaster. Helienne Lindvall published exactly what was said on the Digital Music News website:

Electric Picnic confirmed what artists and their managers have known for ages: part of the fee is used to pay promoters, in the form of rebates. In return, Ticketmaster remains the "preferred" ticket solution.

The same Lindvall piece contains even more jarring quotes, including a talent agent that claims "Ticketmaster often makes more money than the artist from a concert."

According to Lindvall, the UK government previously passed a law that limits the amount of ticket fees a venue can charge consumers in order to make up for booking costs.

In addition to the law against unreasonable ticket fees, there is a guideline venues must follow established by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skill (BIS) that states venues should not charge excessive fees to cover the cost of bookings since "indirect costs are not eligible as a cost to be considered in the pricing of consumer fees."

Of course, there are no Federal laws or guidelines forbidding ticket fees in the United States (at least not yet).

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Wall of Woe

In last week's Fee Free Friday, there was the story of Kid Rock's admirable effort to make concert ticket affordable for his fans. That effort included no fees on tickets when purchased at WalMart. Since then, Walmart has been actively reminding Kid Rock fans that they aren't charging ticket fees, as seen in the tweet below:

...unfortunately, that that toehold of hope pales in comparison to the ocean of tweets and Facebook status updates from angry consumers buying tickets to other events. To get the full force how just how bad things are, you would have to read the new curated list by consumer advocate FanChrist. Beware though, the language used on the list is "not safe for work" (NSFW).

A less four-letter word laden glimpse is below:

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Topanga Lawrence is correct. Tickets fees are, in fact, unnecessary. Why? Because any venue can switch to ThunderTix and have control over ticket fees, including the option of not charging any fees at all.

See for yourselfSince we do not charge you per-ticket fees, 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.

Fee Free Friday will be back next week, until then, if you have been charged an outrageous ticket fee, let us know in the comments below!