The writing is on the wall for ticket fees

The writing is on the wall for ticket fees

ticket industry news

The writing on the wall for ticket fees

Behold! Fee Free Friday has returned with all new tales of the controversy surrounding event ticket fees. This week, a hapless ticket buyer asks CBS reporter Kurtis Ming "How’d I pay $40 above face value for tickets?" There is also news of "great unification" and "transference" sending shock waves through the ticketing industry. Plus the weekly Wall of Woe has a special "divine" message.

As in the famous Rembrandt painting above, is the writing (finally) on the wall for outrageous ticket fees?

Call Kurtis

The CBS television affiliate in Sacramento California broadcasts a popular consumer protection series known as 'Call Kurtis' that is hosted by reporter Kurtis Ming. This week's installment of the series features a consumer who paid exorbitant face value mark-up (which is technically a fee) of almost 200%. The buyer, Kay O’Bryan, bought two tickets to 'How to train your dragon' for her grandson before realizing the fees charged - a scenario familiar to regular readers of Fee Free Friday.

Feeling that she had been taken advantage of, O’Bryan called Kurtis for help. Kurtis writes:

Buying the tickets was not a good experience for [O’Bryan]. After an online search, O’Bryan unknowingly ended up on a ticket resale site and paid $64 for each ticket, plus fees and shipping costs. “We opened them up and I saw, I looked at them. $24.75, I couldn't believe it,” said O’Bryan.

The report is yet another instance of the perils of buying tickets from an unauthorized re-seller. Ming reports that the website O'Bryan purchased the tickets on runs a disclaimer about the application of fees and service charges. Note that the disclaimer is not prominently presented and it requires the ticket buyer to scroll down to see the tiny text.

The final insult to O'Bryan was the refusal by the re-seller to provide a refund.

Yep, a face value of $24.75. O’Bryan overpaid by nearly $40. She tried to cancel the tickets, but the website denied her.

“This is just a really big rip-off.” said O’Bryan.

Ming concludes the report with the sad irony that the tickets were still available at face value on the official website when O'Bryan was routed to the re-seller site.

There is no law against unauthorized ticket resale in California. The golden state should look to Maryland for inspiration on how to best protect consumers, since it is very likely that ticket fees and face value mark-up will soon be at thing of the past.

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"Bit of a Villain"

On Wednesday, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino appeared on stage at the 'Dive Into Media' event hosted by technology news outlet All Things D. During his talk, Rapino announced that ticket buyers will soon be able to buy tickets for Tickemaster shows even after initial supplies are sold out. Ina Fried explains in her re-cap of the interview:

Ticketmaster has long been the place to turn for concert and sports tickets when they go on sale. Ticketmaster’s owner, Live Nation, plans to start offering the ability to resell tickets on the site within a few months’ time. The move will allow content owners, venues and other participants to benefit when tickets get resold for higher prices.

The ticket industry giant is performing this "great unification" of buying and selling as to be in control of the secondary market. By being the place to both buy and sell tickets, the high ticket fees and face value mark-ups should come to an end, at least in theory.

Addressing frequent "constructive criticisms" for past instances of ticket fees, Fried writes:

Rapino acknowledged that Ticketmaster is still mostly associated with consumer ire over its high convenience fees. However, he notes that the entity is a bit of an intentional bogeyman, since a portion of those fees goes back to the artists, promoters and concert venues.

“Ticketmaster was made to be a bit of a villain.”

The full 17 minute video of the Rapino interview is here.

Time will tell if the ticket buying public experiences lower fees and becomes less prone to the pain points of unscrupulous re-sellers. To Live Nation and Ticketmaster's credit, the announcement is step in the right direction to protect consumers and improve the ticketing industry's reputation. Fee Free Friday will report back as the unification is put into place and ticket buyers begin to re-sell their tickets. Good or bad, triumph or tragedy, be sure to check back here for the results.

The "great unification" wasn't the only newsworthy action taken by Live Nation and Ticketmaster...

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An under-reported piece of information that came out during Michael Rapino's appearance at 'Dive Into Media' was the prospect of ticket buyers being able to transfer ownership of tickets to their friends - free of charge.

One of the long standing criticisms of so-called "paperless" tickets has been the inability to transfer ownership to someone else. That inconvenience was exasperated by requiring photo ID at the will call window. According to Entertainment Weekly's Adam Carlson that may change soon.

How annoying it is when you have to wait for a late friend at a show to get their ticket to them? That will soon be a thing of the past, as it looks like all those frustrating Ticketmaster service fees have gone towards an actual service - the company announced Tuesday that it will allow tickets to be transferred digitally for free.

Users will be able to email tickets to other users, with the original barcode swapped out in the process. Recipients of the tickets are only required to create a Ticketmaster account; the service works with all tickets, including paper ones.

In the scenario where a ticket holder cannot attend an event, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They cannot get a refund for the ticket, and they cannot not sell a paperless ticket to someone they know, nor can they simply give it away for free.

The policy change by Live Nation is helpful for person-to-person transfers of ownership like hardship cases of not being able to attend. The service being free, it also represents one less ticket fee incurred by the public.

But the requirement of creating a Ticketmaster account is of concern going forward. The last minute, impromptu nature of giving a ticket to a friend (as one stands in front of the venue minutes before the show begins) makes required account creation a potential new pain point. One step forward, two steps back?

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The Writing On The Wall ...of Woe

The weekly Wall of Woe is where ticket buyers decry the per-ticket fees they incur when trying to see their favorite performers. Seldom is the voice of the performer part of the equation. This week looks to be an exception because popular musician Lucy Rose is telling her fans where they can buy tickets without fees.

Rose may be the first performer to send a message like this directly to fans. Fans of other performers are left to fend for themselves (for now).

"...ticket prices range from $37 to $57, $48.40 and $69 after you add the exorbitant fees charged by TicketMaster."

"...they've had parking fee's, ticket fees, and expensive beers for years and years."

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That last comment was made on a venue's Facebook Wall. It should serve as a warning.

The era of instant worldwide communication is well underway. The power a global voice was once the domain of only a few, but is now everyone has it. Venues that charge unreasonable per-ticket fees risk a torrent of bad publicity, even if they do not have control of how fees are charged because of the ticketing software being used. There is a better way.

no fee ticketing softwareThunderTix does not charge you per-ticket fees. We let you decide on what fees to charge, if any, and provide the tools to intelligently mange how they are presented during the ticket purchase process. With ThunderTix, you can sell tickets online no fees. If your current ticketing software charges you and/or your customers fees, consider switching to ThunderTix. If you need to see for yourself how much money you could save by switching to ThunderTix, check out our online ticket fee calculator.

Fee Free Friday will be back next week, until then, be sure to take a look at all the features we have to offer and sign up for a free trial today!