Ticket Fees are Double Plus Ungood

Ticket Fees are Double Plus Ungood

ticket fees controversy

ticket fees controversy

Your weekly digest of the worldwide ticket fees controversy has returned! This week's Fee Free Friday thought-crimes include ambiguous results after a reduction in ticket fees at a theater in St. Petersburg, Florida (victory or defeat?). There is also a disturbing development in Iowa City that sounds like it is straight out of George Orwell's famous book '1984'. Plus, the Final Four Ticket Fees of March Madness, and the weekly Wall of Woe.

Has the Ministry of Truth finally silenced the voice of angry ticket buyers and convinced them 2+2=5? Read on to find out!

Truth in Advertising

Although rare, regular readers of Fee Free Friday know that small victories in the war against outrageous ticket fees do happen every so often. In that positive vein is an apparent victory at a theater in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Mahaffey Theater recently changed its ticketing policy to eliminate ticket fees entirely (w00t!). But the decision is being met with controversy and the theater’s long term viability without ticket fees is being brought into question. Katherine Snow writes in the Tampa Bay Times that Mahaffey is facing grim economic times and reports that some are calling for the return of ticket fees.

In late January, Bill Edwards announced plans to eliminate pesky ticket fees that drive up prices by roughly $9 per ticket. He hoped to make up the lost revenue - an estimated $360,000 in total - by selling more tickets to people put off by surcharges.

"I subscribe to truth in advertising and full disclosure. The advertised price should be what the community pays," Edwards stated at the time.

The city gets 45 percent of ticket fee revenue, which amounted to $160,642 last year. The rest goes to the nonprofit Mahaffey Foundation, which raises money for the theater and, last year, took over selling tickets and bought a marketing and ticketing system. According to board member Michelle Ligon, the foundation approved Edwards' decision. The City Council wasn't consulted.

How the theater’s bottom line is affected by the loss of ticket fee revenue is a bit murky. Sluggish ticket sales and new third-party management are yet to prove that the elimination of fees was a good move.

Obviously, not enough time has elapsed since the policy change to gauge if more tickets are being sold sans ticket fees. Until more data is accumulated, the debate between anti-fee and pro-fee factions rages on inside both the theater and City Hall.

David Metz is optimistic that St. Petersburg will recoup the lost revenue. Cheaper tickets could mean more visitors, who could spend more money on food, drinks, and parking - money that goes into city coffers.

"I would say ending those fees is going to be productive," said City Council member Wengay Newton, who was unaware the city got a percentage of ticket fees. "Can we cry about $160,000 when he put $2 million of his own money in there? If he wasn't doing all that he was doing, I'd have a major problem with it."

As of this writing, the Mahaffey Theater’s no fee policy is still in place. Missing from the conversation are the opinions of the patrons, who are, ultimately, the final word. If or when a public hearing is scheduled, rest assured Fee Free Friday will post the results.

fee free friday

Double Plus Ungood

When do the words "sold out" not really mean sold out? That is the question being asked in Iowa City, Iowa by Christy Aumer in The Gazette after an area man found himself without tickets for his favorite band. But it gets worse.

According to Aumer’s investigation, more than one venue has been assigning a ‘sold status’ to performances only to open the doors back up again at the last minute. At issue is whether the practice is an innocent misinterpretation of supply and demand or intentional market manipulation. Worrisome is the Orwellian Newspeak being bandied about with little regard for the ticket buying public. Aumer explains:

It often comes down to precisely what “sold out” means. And that can vary, depending on the venue and the act - whether it be a musical group, a dance company or a touring play.

Alexis Kenleigh, chief marketing officer for Orchestra Iowa, the ticketing office for the Paramount Theater  said there are a number of “holds” that apply to most venues. So when a show is listed as sold out, it doesn't necessarily mean all the tickets have been purchased.

Further on, Aumer quotes Kenleigh defending the practice of holding back tickets:

As a popular show is popular and begins to sell out, we’re always constantly having a conversation to release as many ticket holds that possibly exist,” Kenleigh said. “There really is no way to give a ballpark (number of holds).

Eventually the specter of ticket fees raises its ugly head. The insult to injury of being told tickets are sold out, but then they’re not, but now you have to pay a 14% per-ticket fee, brought one Iowan to the boil. Jonathon Hill, who lost out on seeing Muse, said:

It was pretty frustrating at first, but when someone told me why it happens, I was a little less upset. I wasn't so much upset at the band as I was at the venue. But now I know to wait for a while if the show is ‘sold out.’

Hopefully all of the instances of "sell outs" cited are merely demand estimation errors and not part of a new consumer hostile trend. The Orwellian language surrounding ticket fees (“facility maintenance fee”) is bad enough as it is. More doublespeak for ticket stock status would be unwelcome - by the consumer and the ticketing industry.

Final Four Ticket Fees

One labor think tank estimates the NCAA Final Four television broadcast(s) costs businesses 9,000,000 labor hours because of employees watching the games at work. That daunting statistic should provide an idea of just how pervasive March Madness is. Tickets to the final four tournament games are selling on the secondary market for as much as five figures.

Fee Free Friday found a tiny jewel of hope in the ocean of outrageously priced game tickets, thanks to Nedra Rhone of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Rhone recently listed several NCAA Final Four fan events that are offering reduced prices, value packages for families and one ancillary event with no ticket fees.

Bracket Town Refreshed by Coca-Cola Zero: Get $2 off adult and child tickets along with no online ticket fees when you buy before March 18. This interactive event takes place on Fri., April 5 - April 8 at the Georgia World Congress Center and showcases most NCAA sports including golf, fencing, soccer, football and basketball.

A single ancillary event with no per-tickets fees is pale shelter in the grand scheme of the NCAA Final Four, yes, but desperate times call for desperate measures...

Wall of Woe

Speaking of desperate times, the weekly Wall of Woe is where the ticket buying public are desperate for relief from unreasonable ticket fees. A reminder that the below tweets resonate around the world and are only a tiny fraction of what is being said 24/7/265.

NAMM's innocuous tweet

...and subsequent reply from angry ticket buyer

That last exchange between NAMM and jfreeman159 is of note. Why? Because the conversation was changed from one subject to that of unreasonable ticket fees. Social media has put the power into the hands of the people and, contrary to the axiom, with great power comes zero responsibility. Brands, venues, ticket outlets, et al, who still think they can control the conversion are truly misguided.

Rather than let word spread that you are charging high fees, why not avoid the issue altogether and greatly reduce or eliminating ticket fees?

ThunderTix 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. 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, if you or someone you know has been hit with outrageous per-ticket fees, let us know in the comments below!