Ticket Fees – The Soap Opera Continues

ticket fee legislation

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the box office, Fee Free Friday returns. This week there is a whole new fight over ticket fee legislation as the soap opera in Baltimore continues. Some "enterprising jerks" have found a new way to disenfranchise ticket buyers. And just what is a "movie mulligan" anyway?

Ticket Fees In Baltimore - Part 36

Good heavens will the ticket fee soap opera in Baltimore ever end? This week, there has been yet another development in the fight over ticket fees.

The previous edition of Fee Free Friday called the notion of Baltimore allowing unlimited ticket fees a consumer hostile practice. It was also acknowledged that the City of Baltimore's strict ticket fee cap of fifty cents was outmoded and business hostile. That edition of Fee Free Friday proposed a middle ground solution (more than $0.50 but not unlimited) but it was merely a proposal.

Well, lawmakers in Maryland are obviously avid readers of Fee Free Friday because just hours ago a new "middle ground" ticket fee bill was proposed by Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes.

"He will have a fight on his hands."

As reported by the Baltimore Brew, Councilman Stokes introduced all new legislation that will usurp the current law allowing a few big conglomerate ticket outlets such as Ticketmaster to charge an unlimited amount in ticket fees. When it was passed, the current law was met with heavy criticism from not only consumers but venue owners - who are still restricted by the $0.50 cap. The Stokes bill brings common sense and reason to the on-going ticket fee donnybrook, so says Baltimore Brew:

The bill would end the practice by which Ticketmaster, the dominant “middleman” in the region, can tack unlimited fees onto tickets ordered by consumers on-line or by phone. The current legislation will sunset in September, by which time Stokes hopes for passage of his new bill. He will have a fight on his hands.

While Ticketmaster and its parent, Live Nation Entertainment, have declined to publicly comment on the ticket fee controversy, the company recently hired Paul A. Tiburzi to represent them before the City Council.

Last week when Fee Free Friday proposed that venues should be allowed to charge more than a fifty cent ticket fees, but not be allowed to charge unlimited ticket fees, it was meant to be a positive solution to bring about peace in Bmore. But ticket fees are such a hot button issue, that the well-crafted solution put forth by Councilman Stokes appears to be making the issue even worse.

Councilman Stokes' proposal for ticket fees is both business and consumer friendly, and the specifics are as follows.

  • 15% on the first $50 of a ticket’s box-office price.
  • 10% on that part of the ticket’s price that is more than $50 but less than $150.
  • 5% for that part of the ticket’s price that is $150 or more.
  • Limit the service charge to $7.50 on a $50 ticket, $12.50 on a $100 ticket, $17.50 on a $150 ticket and $20 on a $200 ticket.
  • Require a ticket seller to “disclose prominently”on the face of the ticket the fee imposed and provide similar information on all advertising.

Stokes' smart, even-handed solution should serve as model for ticket fee guidelines at all venues across the country. But as Baltimore Brew states "Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has the ultimate power to pass, kill or amend the bill through her block of Council allies. The administration has not yet taken a position on Stokes’ legislation."

It is acknowledged that there can be a political slant to any ticket fee legislation in Baltimore. So for objectivity sake a summary opinion of the Stokes bill, and Baltimore ticket fees in general, written by the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) is available for you to review here.

Venue owners in the City of Baltimore should be paying very close attention to the progress of the Stokes bill as it will directly affect their revenue. Of course, there is nothing stopping a venue owner outside of the City of Baltimore from immediately putting Councilman Stokes' fee structure into place...assuming your ticketing software gives you control over fees. :D

This week's episode of the Baltimore ticket fee soap opera is most definitely not the last, so be sure to check back here every Friday for the latest developments!

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Enterprising Jerks

In addition to being the ghostwriter for Justin Bieber, Frank Ocean is a talented and popular entertainer in his own right. Tickets for Ocean's concerts are highly sought after worldwide, including down under in Australia. Unfortunately once tickets become "highly sought after" the ominous specter of unauthorized re-sale raises its ugly head.

As far as consumers are concerned, the face value mark-up from unauthorized resale is a pain point second only to outrageous ticket fees (and technically, high face value mark-up is a fee). According to Australia's Pedestrian TV, there are a few "enterprising jerks" re-selling Frank Ocean tickets for some eye-popping prices.

eBay user estella598743987 is selling Frank Ocean tickets [...] with the peak bid currently sitting at $405, and a pair of GA floor tickets to the Melbourne Festival Hall show are going for $396. Note that these prices are significantly higher than the retail sale price of tickets, which was around $89 including booking fee.

The problem here isn't the people who are on-selling the tickets, but with the purchase policies of the organisations like Frank Ocean concert promoter, Live Nation, that don't protect their customers - the genuine fans seeking tickets through legitimate means - from turning to scalpers time and time again.

Pedestrian TV also says that the concert promoter and the venue are trying to do what they can to rein in ticket scalpers by making tickets non-transferable, but that practice isn't exactly a popular one.

The on-going debate as to whether or not non-transferable tickets are an effective solution to unauthorized re-sale has been covered extensively in past editions of Fee Free Friday. Beyond non-transferable tickets, is the radical notion of assigning tickets the same personal property rights as a deed to a house, or an automobile title. That high level personal property right is being considered in several states right now. See the 'Grimm Reality' line item of Ticket Fees: The 10th Circle of Hell for more information.

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Movie Mulligan

It isn't just concert tickets that contain fees, movie tickets do too, only in a slightly more insidious way. Earlier this week the Los Angeles Times reported that one major movie theater chain has been offering a discount on movie tickets, then turning around and charging a "location surcharge." This shell game with ticket prices gives the theater a do-over (also know as a "mulligan") when it comes to charging per-ticket fees. From the LA Times:

Sherry Tedeschi is an avid moviegoer, typically hitting a film a week, sometimes two or three. The Beverly Hills resident usually patronizes the AMC Century City 15 multiplex...She buys packets of discounted AMC tickets at Costco. So it was with more than a little dismay that Tedeschi, 69, learned recently that, beginning July 8, her discounted AMC tickets will be slapped with a $2 "location surcharge."

Such fees are a sneaky way that ticket prices are being jacked up at a time when audiences are shrinking and average costs to catch a flick already are near a record high.

No word yet if this consumer hostile practice has spread to the movie theaters chains, other than the one mentioned by the Times. If it does, rest assured you'll hear loud, angry cries from ticket buyers. And speaking of hearing loud, angry cries....

fee free friday

try free todayThat last tweet by Laila Tai ...um, ties directly into ticket fee laws being debated in Baltimore as you read this. Rather than wait until ticket fee legislation is enacted in your city, why not establish a healthy fee policy right now? A healthy ticket fee policy is one that is profitable for you and consumer friendly as implemented by your choice in ticketing software.

Does your current ticketing software give you the control you need to implement a healthy fee policy?

ThunderTix does not charge you per-ticket fees for selling tickets online or at the box office. 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.

And should you choose to add a reasonable per-ticket fee, you retain 100% of the revenue generated. For example, if your venue sells 5,000 tickets with a nominal one dollar per ticket fee, you earn an additional $5,000.00 after you switch to ThunderTix.

Fee Free Friday will return, and until then, be sure to take a look at our other features and sign up for a free trial today!