Ticket Fees: The 10th Circle of Hell
Fee Free Friday, your weekly summary of the controversy surrounding ticket fees, it hot off the press! The Minnesota state senate has voted on a highly charged ticketing bill. Lollapalooza tickets evaporate in minutes and someone is very unhappy about that. And the ticket scalping debate rages on in Houston, Texas. All that and the Divine Tragedy that is the weekly Wall of Woe.
Dante's 'Inferno' depicts a gruesome fate, in one of nine circles of Hell, for those who bring undue misery into the world. After reading this edition of Fee Free Friday, you may wish there was a tenth circle...
In nearly every state in the union, there is legislation to control ticket fees and face-value markup currently being considered. Some bills pass, some get shot down in flames. People definitely want tickets, no fees. One such bill was recently shot down in Minnesota. The bill would have required venues to disclose if large blocks of tickets were being held back from public sale, a practice called “holdbacks” by the ticketing industry.
Proponents of the bill claim forcing outlets to publicly disclose that some or all of the ticket stock has been withheld would make for a better informed consumer. R.V. Baugus wrote what the bill's critics had to say on the International Association of Venue Manager's blog:
Critics argued that the bill would have made it harder for venues in the state to compete for major shows against other venues throughout the Midwest. David Balcer, director of ticketing at the Target Center in Minneapolis, said that, “Many tours and touring artists will simply bypass our state to avoid the regulations in this bill.”
Baugus reports that Michael Marion, president of the Fans First Coalition, is glad the bill was defeated. Note that the Fans First Coalition is described by Baugus as being “an organization that improves the ticket-purchase experience for fans by fighting for greater access to face-value tickets and enhanced protection against fraudulent business practices.”
The anti-holdback law in Minnesota may have been defeated, but the same legislation is currently being hotly debated in numerous other states nationwide. A consensus on whether holdbacks are consumer hostile market manipulation, or the practice is a right of the venue to conduct business as they see fit, may never be achieved at the national level - that would take an Act of Congress.
This past week, the last of the tickets for the gigantic Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago went on sale. The end result being all 100,000 tickets are now sold-out.
The sellout is great news for Lollapalooza founder Perry Ferrell, but, as Ashley Boncimino writes in a ChicagoBusiness.com, not everyone is happy.
Lollapalooza is already getting criticized on Facebook and Twitter for giving too much power to buyers who immediately resell their tickets online.
"Each time I've attempted to purchase Lollapalooza tickets the second they've gone on sale, tickets have sold out within minutes. Those same tickets were immediately listed on StubHub for double the price," wrote one woman on Lollapalooza's Facebook page. "Fans that want to purchase tickets for their own use, not resale, shouldn't have to fight scalpers."
Fee Free Friday's kindred spirit the Fan Freedom Foundation isn't happy either, taking to Twitter on the subject of how quickly Lollapalooza sold out:
It is unclear from the tweet if Fan Freedom is suggesting that the practice of holdbacks contributed to how quickly the tickets sold, or if the tweet is simply an example of defending the hapless ticket buyer.
Lollapalooza tickets are already being sold on the secondary market by "value added re-sellers" and by individuals on Craigslist. Re-sale prices for Lollapalooza three-day passes currently range from $400 to $5,000 each.
And speaking of ticket re-sale....
Radio station KTRH in Houston Texas joined the ticket scalping debate recently by interviewing Chris Grimm. Grimm, a frequent contributor to the Fan Freedom website, spoke with the KTRH show host about a recent incident at a Houston rodeo. As described in the interview, the rodeo ran afoul of public opinion by allegedly allowing employees to re-sell, or "scalp", tickets outside of official channels.
On the general subject of ticket scalping, Grimm introduces the idea of property rights being applied to event tickets. Applying consumer property rights to tickets is currently being considered by Texas legislators, but is yet to be introduced as a law that can be debated or voted upon.
In what could be an ominous preview of property rights applying to concert tickets, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that legislation allowing MP3s to be resold by the purchaser was struck down by a Federal court.
The donnybrook surrounding unauthorized re-sale, for MP3s or concert tickets, will continue indefinitely, but the ticket buying public never benefits from the practice. In the most egregious cases, unauthorized resale hurts not only the the public, but venue owners and, as in the case below, nonprofit charities:
(Dante's) Wall of Woe
Regular readers of Fee Free Friday are well of the anger (and abandon purchase processes) outrageously high per-ticket fees cause. But such familiarity makes the risk of apathy a real concern. For a fresh perspective, read what "JKA", who is obviously new to the harsh relativity of ticket, is asking...
A family member was recently purchasing tickets for a local circus and same thing: even though the circus was local and at the County center, the tickets had to be purchased through Ticketmaster with a surcharge of about $15 per ticket (“facility fee” and “convenience fee”). When purchasing 2 or 3 tickets, you’re talking $30–50 total, just for fees. How did it get that we’re beholden to Ticketmaster?
In addition to the Q & A above, here is just a tiny fraction of how ticket buyers feel about unreasonable per-ticket fees:
The ticket-buying public, armed with the power of social media, is heaping more and more scorn on venues that charge unreasonably high per-ticket fees. But your venue does not have to be one of them - because there is a better way.
Sell Tickets, No Fees
ThunderTix does not charge your clients per ticket fees for selling tickets online or at the box office. You can sell tickets, no 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.