⏮ After ‘Taylorgate,’ event ticket process not revamped

⏸ Measures to make ticket sales more transparent stalled

🔀 Fees, ‘Platinum seats’ among factors in high prices

Last fall, the internet meltdown dubbed “Taylorgate” happened when Taylor Swift fans clamored for tickets to the Eras Tour for MetLife Stadium and the rest of the country — only for sales to never even reach the general public.

Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, was in the spotlight during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing back in January.

Live Nation Entertainment CFO, President Joe Berchtold (via C-Span)
Live Nation Entertainment CFO, President Joe Berchtold (via C-Span)

A promise to 'do better'

Live Nation Entertainment President and CFO Joe Berchtold blamed an influx of “bots” on their system during Swift ticket presales in November 2022.

Berchtold apologized to the superstar and her fan base, saying they would “do better.”

In the months that followed, two of New Jersey’s Congressional delegates introduced a measure to crackdown on questionable ticket sale practices.

“A fan shouldn’t have to sell a kidney or mortgage a house to see their favorite performer or team,” U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell said in a May release.

Taylor Swift accepts Song of the Year award at 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center (Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV)
In Newark, Taylor Swift accepts Song of the Year award at 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center (Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV)

So, with three months left in the year, has the ticket-buying process in NJ improved at all?

Ask fans of singer Olivia Rodrigo — whose own Guts Tour will roll into Madison Square Garden in Manhattan four nights in April 2024 and Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center in July.

Fans last week registered for one presale and a general sale. In order to buy tickets, they needed to not only receive a code, but manage to buy tickets before they flew out of their virtual cart.

NEWARK - SEPT. 12: Olivia Rodrigo at 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center (Noam Galai/Getty Images for MTV)
NEWARK - SEPT. 12: Olivia Rodrigo at 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center (Noam Galai/Getty Images for MTV)

A number of fans shared experiences on TikTok (Rodrigo’s fanbase leans young, with Generations Z and Alpha).

One deceptive issue — “Charity Platinum” tickets, priced at $840 a seat, before fees, that were spotted in arenas on the tour.

@grimilderowe the “$20 tickets” really got us thinkin this was gonna be reasonable 🙈 #oliviarodrigo #guts #gutspresale #gutsworldtour #madisonsquaregarden ♬ vampire - Olivia Rodrigo

(Rep. Bill Pascrell,Canva) Ticketmaster price gouging reforms
(Rep. Bill Pascrell,Canva)


What are Platinum Seats and why are they so pricey?

“Ticketmaster's Official Platinum seat program enables market-based pricing (adjusting prices according to supply and demand) for live event tickets, similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold,” according to the ticket mogul’s website.

Well before any secondary market upsale, these seats were priced well above the “$49.50 - $199.50 plus taxes and fees” that had been listed as a ticket range for the Rodrigo tour. In both cases of Swift and Rodrigo — and for Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen sales in between — NJ fans watched tickets spike upwards of $1,000 to $2,000 a seat and more, during the initial frenzied sales.

@alaynachu yeah no. that charity pricing is BS and is making these tickets completely inaccessible to people :( (olivia could have opted out of doing this by the way, i know she doesnt choose the prices necessarily but she did choose to do charity platinum pricing.) #gutsworldtour #gutstour #oliviarodrigo #ticketmaster #ticketmasterfail ♬ original sound - alayna

As for “Charity Platinum,” it is believed to mean a portion of the ticket price goes to charity.

There was no listing as to what percentage or dollar amount, or which charitable organization.

Ticketmaster ticket fees (Canva)
Ticketmaster ticket fees (Canva)

What about all those ticket fees?

Musician and New York native Clyde Lawrence also testified at the Ticketmaster hearing in January.

He said they’ve seen Ticketmaster add “a 40% ish or 50% fee added on top” of a base ticket price for shows he has performed.

Berchtold said during the testimony the fees are set by the venues. He also said their business model is ultimately about “artist first.”

Lawrence said his team has asked venues directly about such fees, and "no one is taking responsibility" for setting them.

“For your band to make six bucks out of a 42 dollar ticket price — doesn’t strike me as artist first,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said at the hearing.

Demand Too High For Taylor Swift Concert Tickets, Ticketmaster Cancels Public Sale
Getty Images

What Congress has proposed to fix this

U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell and Frank Pallone, Democrats from New Jersey, introduced the BOSS and SWIFT Act in May aimed at ending hidden fees and speculative tickets (selling tickets that the retailer does not actually have, yet).

A month earlier, the Junk Fee Prevention Act was introduced in both the House and the U.S. Senate.

It would get rid of excessive, “hidden and unnecessary” fees imposed on consumers and require full prices be provided upfront.

“When a concert ticket is listed at $50 and the price nearly doubles at checkout, that's a bait and switch,” U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona said in a written release.

No movement has been made on either federal ticket reform measure, as of late September.

Ticket fees illustration (Townsquare Media)
Ticket fees illustration (Townsquare Media)

Ticketmaster: Who sets the prices, fees?

“The standard tickets sold on Ticketmaster are owned by our clients (venues, sports teams or other event promoters) who determine the number of tickets to be sold and set the face value price,” according to the Ticketmaster site.

Ticketmaster's parent company, Live Nation, is the world's largest concert promoter.

As for resale tickets, listing prices are determined by the seller.

In almost all cases, Ticketmaster adds a service fee (or "convenience charge") to the face value price of each ticket.

It "varies by event based on agreement with each client." The fee is still also added to resale tickets.

An order processing fee is typically charged, usually once for each order — meant to offset the costs of ticket handling, shipping and support.

Aren't most tickets not being handled or processed, when they're paperless?

“In some cases, Ticketmaster's order processing costs may be lower than the order processing fee. In those cases, Ticketmaster may earn a profit on the order processing fee.”

One fee definitely linked to the venue is a "facility charge."

Those may vary from event to event and can be raised or lowered over time. "Ticketmaster does not share in facility charges, they collect them for venues."

City, state, and local taxes are typically included in the face value of the ticket. In some cases, taxes may be listed as a separate charge.

(SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger via C-Span)
(SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger via C-Span)

’Power over the entire live entertainment industry’ a concern, says SeatGeek CEO

“The only way to restore competition in this industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger said during his January testimony in Washington D.C.

“LiveNation controls the most popular entertainers in the world, routes most of the large tours, operates the ticketing systems and even owns many of the venues,” he continued.

“This power over the entire live entertainment industry allows Live Nation to maintain its monopolistic influence over the primary ticketing market,"Groetzinger added.

The SeatGeek ticketing platform serves both the primary and secondary market.

Groetzinger also said venues fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster for ticket sales. Berchtold dismissed any allegations of retaliation or pressuring.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation control about 70% of the ticket market since the companies merged in 2010, according to proposed state legislation also aimed at enacting up-front ticket pricing and full disclosure to customers.

What about sky-high ticket resale prices?

Live Nation Entertainment has said the secondary ticketing market is a major problem facing the industry and concertgoers, in a Fair Ticketing Act the company launched after its Senate hearing.

Other resell platforms have taken major issue with that approach.

In a DigitalMusicNews story in February, a representative for StubHub told a reporter that “LNE and TM’s ‘Fair Ticketing Act‘ specifically focuses on regulating the secondary ticketing market and does not include any significant reforms to their own practices."

Part of the proposal focuses on better enforcement of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.

Since 2016 under the Federal Trade Commission, the BOTS Act aims to prevent ticket brokers from buying large numbers of event tickets and reselling them to interested customers at inflated prices.

Five years after its enactment, the first enforcement of the act saw three ticket brokers ordered to pay millions in penalties.

It was also the only crackdown on record, so far.

(FixtheTix via nivassoc.org)
(FixtheTix via nivassoc.org)

'Fix the Tix' coalition

A coalition of live event industry organizations and professionals has developed its own plan that it's been touting to Congress, called "Fix the Tix."

The group, anchored by the National Independent Venue Association, cites a Bloomberg report that resale ticket prices on Stubhub, alone, have increased more than 100% since 2019, while the face value of tickets has increased only 10%.

Protecting consumers from fake tickets, price gouging, and other deceptive practices, while also focusing on transparency in ticket pricing are among key elements of the Fix the Tix plans.

Concertgoers can also use a form email to send to legislators, in support of ticket sales reform.

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