Ticket fees and scalper bots scatter like cockroaches in the light of new legislation
Ticket fees and so-called scalper bots scatter like cockroaches in the light of new legislation. This week we have an update on legislation that is oh so close to becoming law. Plus, we look into rumors of market manipulation of the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary concert tickets. We also find our professional peer group begin to follow our fee free lead. All that and the complaints of ticket buyers who have paid more than 60% of the face value in fees and services charges.
Ticket fees and scalper bots are running out of hiding places, read on to find out where their favorite holes in the walls are!
Shine a light
The lead story this week comes from Anthony Campisi and his report that the New Jersey state senate has approved legislation to curtail unscrupulous practices by so-called "value added re-sellers". The re-sellers and their supposed army of computer programs, or "bots", that buy up the majority of event tickets and then sell them to consumers with face value mark-ups as high as 1,000% have been the target of the Garden state before.
We wrote of the legislation's birth back in June, in our 'Only The Strong Survive' edition of Fee Free Friday. At the time it was a state assembly decrying outrageous face value markup and unreasonable per-ticket fees. This past Monday, the assembly bill has graduated to being much closer to enforceable law, with senatorial approval.
The implications of such a state law are being hotly contested. While majority opinion says the re-sellers and "ticket bots" must be squashed like scattering cockroaches after turning on the light, some hold the opposite view and say the law will lead to businesses leaving New Jersey for the green pastures of Philadelphia Pennsylvania where no such law exists (yet).
From the Campisi report:
The measure was opposed by a litany of venues and sports teams including the New York Yankees and the Devils. Ron VanDeVeen, senior vice president of events for MetLife Stadium. is on the record saying 'We do have issues on many different parts of this bill. We will lose events if this bill becomes law.
Sen. James Beach was the only member of the committee to vote against the bill, citing fears that Atlantic City and Camden venues will lose business to Philadelphia.
Long time readers of Fee Free Friday know that the voice of the consumer rarely gets proper representation in these matters. Sports stadium owners, ironically armed with millions of dollars from ticket sales, lobby against ticket price controls and anti-scalping measures Ticket fess, service charges resale and unauthorized re-sellers have heretofore never been regulated. That is changing rapidly as the New Jersey examples shows.
We sincerely hope the consumer is the ultimate beneficiary of all ticketing legislation with reasonable profits still being made by venues and legitimate ticket resale outlets. But, if the face value mark-up is a four figure percentage, that should tell you "reasonable" has not yet been achieved.
Beast of Burden
No sooner did the tickets for the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary concerts go on-sale did rumors of nefarious sales practices begin. The legendary rockers have put themselves in the unenviable position of having to deny accusations they and the concert promoter withheld huge blocks of tickets and deferred them to unnamed secondary entities. The purported ticket inventory manipulation has caused what few tickets are available to the public to skyrocket in price - some tickets already selling for $2,000.00 each.
Greg Cochrane of the BBC explains:
Brigitte Ricou-Bellan, StubHub's general manager said there are certainly some tickets which are being funneled through some secondaries That's driving up the prices. Viagogo would not comment specifically on The Rolling Stones gigs but said in a statement "We work closely with sports teams and event organizers all around the world, and in some cases we receive a direct ticket allocation. Importantly, revenue from those tickets goes back to the event organizer."
While big corporate entities finger point, it is the Rolling Stones fans who suffer. A quick look at the comments in NME's 'Fans left frustrated as The Rolling Stones tickets sell out instantly' post show the true victims of pre-sale ticket shenanigans.
It is unclear what the logic there is to alienating the ticket buying fan who has their wallet out and credit card in hand. The Rolling Stones have spent the past 50 years entertaining billions of people, that built in demand for tickets should be more than enough reason to not put them at the head of the line. Shadowy secondary ticket outlet and even less reputable unauthorized resellers shouldn't get special preference for the supply when demand is already assured.
Strings of convenience
Andrea Swensson has some real world dollar amounts for ticket fees in her 'Stings of convenience: Ticket fees and the rising cost of concerts' post for Minnesota Public Radio. Her specific example is what Morrissey fans are paying this month. Swensson's describes the same gotchas every ticket buyer faces nationwide:
Once a set of seats are secured and the transaction nears completion, the price suddenly shoots up to $91.29 per ticket, adding almost 22% to the total ticket cost. Argh! Sadly, a 22% increase is actually a modest fee compared to many modern-day ticket sales; extra charges tacked on by companies like the behemoth Ticketmaster corporation can be as high as 60% of the cost of the ticket.
Consumers paying outrageous per-ticket fees, like the 60% cited above, will only cause fewer sales, and thus fewer events. This death spiral cannot be allowed to occur as it will impact the entire event industry, not just performers or online ticket software vendors. To our credit, ThunderTix does not charge per-ticket fees, and now we're starting to see some of our competitors follow our lead.
This morning WIRED magazine published a 'Fighting Greed' interview with online ticket software company Ticketbud. In the interview the CEO says they are not charging ticket fees either, and that he "bristles at what he sees as price gouging in the rest of the online ticket industry." We think that's a positive sign the ticket industry is moving in the right direction.
We also think TicketFly has it mostly correct in their new marketing promotion that eliminates per-ticket fees one day a week. That new promotion has flattered us too since they call it "Fee Free Friday" but it's in a very different context. Their Fee Free Friday is more of a coupon at certain events on Fridays when no fees are charged to ticket buyers.
We want to see more of our professional peer group follow our lead and reduce if not eliminate per-ticket fees completely - everyday of the week! ;)
Wall of Woe
Even though its encouraging to see ticket industry software companies all following the same consumer friendly practices, the ticket buying public is far from happy. The weekly Wall of Woe is back as awful as ever. The scope and scale of tweets, Facebook status updates and forum posts is far beyond one #FFF post, but some of the most heartbreaking ones are below.
"I’m going to watch a CFL game with a buddy on Friday which I’m looking forward to even though Ticketmaster charged me $2.50 to print out my own damn tickets. I hate Ticketmaster more than I hate The Big Bang Theory."
"They make NO exceptions...the total was actually $273 for two $120 tickets plus fees."
"But $58 after ticketmaster fees just seems ridiculous. I can afford it. But its the principle. On a Thursday at that!"
"Joe Budden ticket: $25 dollars - cool. Facility Fee: $2.00. Convenience Fee: $8.00. Processing Fee: $2.50. The right to print out your ticket: $2.50. I don’t think 40% of the cost should be in dumbass fees."
"Tickets would have been $39.50 to go to a7X without them but FOURTEEN DOLLARS OF TICKET FEES and you end up with $53.50 nah man I’m not THAT big of a fan. I would have gone for $39." [That's an abandon cart no sale because of ticket fees]
The tide of unreasonable per-ticket fees is not going to turn anytime soon, but there is a life raft to hold onto until it does. ThunderTix does not charge per-ticket fees and we have written a guide for you to read to help you decide if you should do the same: Sell Tickets Online No Fees. We know for a fact that a profitable business can manage their costs without imposing exorbitant ticket fees and serve their ticketing buying customers best interests. ThunderTix offers industry leading tool to manage fees including the option to go fee free.
That's all for this week. Fee Free Friday, the original #FFF, will return next week to be the TMZ of ticket fees. Until then, be sure to take a look at our other features and sign up for a free trial today!