Keep An Eye On The Ticketing Uproar

With people feeling more comfortable going to public events again, the travails consumers suffer when trying to purchase tickets are coming front and center. Last week TicketNews reported that President Biden is urging Congress to pass legislation limiting excessive fees and mandating transparency about hold back practices.

The issue of high fees that are often hidden until you are well into the purchasing process is pretty well-known and complained about. Hold backs on the other hand, are less obvious and more in the realm of a suspected, but not confirmed practice.

While companies like Ticketmaster and Live Nation regularly blame ticket resale or “bots” for the enormous spike in ticket prices consumers are paying, many believe that price inflation by hiding the true available supply through holdbacks is the biggest factor in that price surge, with the industry hoping to sell consumers and lawmakers on resale being the issue rather than their own deceptive practices.


Support for President Biden’s plan was also put forward by the National Association of Ticket Brokers, a trade group supporting ticket resale rights and consumer-friendly policy. Its statement specifically called out the “scheme called slow ticketing” used by Ticketmaster and Live Nation to hold back huge portions of tickets for most events without disclosure when tickets go on sale. Once the public is convinced that tickets are sold out, additional tickets are slowly released to the market, leading to a perceived yet artificial scarcity that convinces consumers to pay surged prices – referring to the process as a deceptive marketing practice.

Transparency and fair pricing may be a bigger issue in the attendance decision than we may realize. Among recent online reviews of my venue, comments about fair pricing and low fees appear multiple times.

It bears paying attention to public sentiment and how lawmakers move to resolve these growing concerns.

Perception of practices by some of the larger operators are so poor that suspicions may be raised about the entire event industry, painting everyone with the same brush. Engaging in relatively straightforward demand based or dynamic pricing practices may easily get lumped in with attempts at artificial manipulation, shunting tickets directly to resale markets and excessive fees.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


3 thoughts on “Keep An Eye On The Ticketing Uproar”

  1. The law in Germany (maybe the whole EC) is clear: fees must be shown at every step of the buying process.
    Everything else is to the detriment of the consumer…

    • Yes, that doesn’t surprise me. If you read the article, you might have noticed that at one time StubHub had a feature that showed the fees, but they removed it. I suspect it might have been because competitors listings without fees looked less expensive and were drawing more business — even if they ended up more expensive in the end.

  2. Personally, I like the old days when the ticket price was the ticket price—any fees collected by the ticket seller were taken out of the fixed price, not added on to it. We should simply ban add-on fees, which are a purely deceptive advertising of prices. Credit card companies make tons of money on that model, so ticket sellers should be able to also.


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