Fix The Tix Coalition Makes Bold Demands To End Exploitative Ticketing Practices

A little over a month ago, I wrote about the newly formed Fix the Tix coalition which is urging the US Congress to pass legislation to protect ticket buyers from exploitative ticket pricing/manipulation, ticketing scams, and use of bots to purchase high demand tickets.

Last week they released the details of what they are pushing Congress to enact. It is pretty much everything ticket buyers and venue operators have been praying for.

In addition to restrictions on just plain gouging, the plan calls for the end of speculative ticket selling by requiring sellers to legally have physical or virtual ownership of tickets.

● require that resellers and ticket resale platforms legally obtain each ticket and have each ticket in possession, virtually or physically, prior to placing it on sale.
● require that the ticket resale platform has written proof that a reseller possesses a ticket to sell.

Similarly, they ask that attempts to make a ticketing site masquerade as official outlet of a venue be made illegal.

● make illegal the use of deceptive URLs, search engine optimization, or advertising that improves the visibility of secondary sites over primary sales platforms and makes fans believe they are buying tickets from the venue or artist.
● require secondary ticketing resellers and platforms to clearly and conspicuously disclose:
○ a notice that it is not the primary ticket issuer and venue;
○ that a ticket may still be available from the primary ticket seller and link back to the primary ticket seller;
○ the original face value and fees of each ticket; and
○ a certification that the event ticket offered for sale is in the possession of the reseller or secondary ticketing platform.

Note, I haven’t listed everything they are asking to occur in each of these situations. Check out the full document for more info.

As you might imagine, they are also insisting on full transparency for fees up front during the purchasing experience.

In terms of privacy and safety, they are asking the secondary market sellers be required to provide venues with the contact info of ticket purchasers so they can be reached in case of emergency or rescheduling. But they also insist that secondary market buyer information be protected and not used for sales and marketing without purchaser permission.

As mentioned, Fix the Tix also want to prevent tickets from being snatched up by bots and to ensure secondary ticket sales are made at or near face value on a one on one basis rather than by corporations to individuals:

● ensure that artists, working with venues, determine how to get tickets into the hands of actual fans.
● prohibit companies that operate both primary and secondary ticketing platforms from forcing tickets sold for more than face value to only be resold on their platforms.
● encourage ticketing platforms to operate exclusive, no-fee, fan-to-fan exchanges of tickets as long as they are not exchanged on those exclusive platforms for more than the face value (or the original total cost) of the ticket.
● prohibit companies that are primary sellers and secondary resellers from offering secondary resales on the same web page or display where the primary seller also offers tickets for primary sale.

Boy, This Seems To Be The Month For Ticket Pricing Conversations

You may have seen that the AMC movie chain decided to implement tiered pricing for their theaters with higher prices for preferred seating and lower pricing for less desirable front row seating and wheelchair spaces.

“The mega-exhibitor, which has already introduced sightline seating in select markets, is betting movie-goers will pay more for a better view of their favorite Hollywood titles, as do patrons of music and sporting events.”

They are testing this pricing out in select markets so I popped over to the site Lincoln Square 13 in NYC to see what the chart looked like. Below are the recliner and regular seating arrangements for the new Magic Mike movies. The tan seats are the premium priced seats, the blue are the discounted seats and the white are regular price.

I should note that the recliner seating chart is for the 7:45 showing and the regular seating chart is for the 9:15 showing. I looked at the 6:15 screening chart for the regular seating and there are only a handful of seats sold. It may be that time is not really convenient, but it seems like a lot of folks in NYC are willing to pay extra for recliner seating plus a premium on a Monday night. And I assume AMC realizes 7:45 is probably more convenient and makes sure the screening with the recliners is available so they can make a little extra money.

That said, another Hollywood Reporter article on the same subject noted that Paramount worked with theaters, including AMC to lower the ticket price for the movie 80 for Brady, just days before AMC unveiled this new premium seating plan.

” For years, some distribution executives have argued in favor of variable pricing, whereby tickets are lowered depending upon a movie’s target audience. In this case, Paramount presented evidence showing that older demos are more sensitive about ticket prices.

But no sooner had 80 for Brady opened over the Feb. 4-6 weekend to a pleasing $12.7 million then did AMC reveal Feb. 7 that it is implementing a hefty $1 and $2 price increase for many seats…The news quickly put the 80 for Brady initiative on the back burner since AMC’s plan goes in the opposite direction by introducing higher costs.

This has created a bit of a philosophical tension between the two approaches-varying price based on target audience vs. vary prices based on seating location. Paramount says it won’t have final numbers for another week or so, but preliminary data shows that admissions were higher for 80 For Brady than its other release, Knock at the Cabin. The latter ended up making more revenue than the former the first weekend of February, but by Monday Brady exceeded it in revenue.

There has been some criticism from some like actor Elijah Wood who says that these pricing schemes will exclude lower income families from an activity that has been relatively democratic.  Others are concerned that complicated pricing will provide an incentive to stay home and stream.

Hollywood studio executives, however, are concerned about the moviegoers who aren’t as eager to pay more, or who already have doubts about resuming their moviegoing habits. Notes one distribution source, “my biggest worry is that all of this pricing becomes too complicated.”

What Profits A Man To Gain Riches, But Lose His Ardent Fans

I was not keeping close tabs on the topics President Biden was expected to cover in the State of the Union so it was a coincidence that yesterday’s post was about exorbitant add on fees on the same day he was addressing that issue.

It is probably less of a coincidence that another article from TicketNews came across my feed today reporting what I alluded to in the last lines of yesterday’s post. A Bruce Springsteen fanzine decided to call it quits after 43 years due to Springsteen’s decision to engage in dynamic pricing and slow release of inventory practices.

But for Springsteen, who built much of his reputation on the appearance of being a man of the people rather than interested in exploiting his fans for as high a value as he can capture, the reputational damage has been significant. The Backstreets closure is merely the latest, and highest profile, chapter of it.

“There’s no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years,” reads one part of Phillips’ message to readers. “Six months after the onsales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.”

Part of the issue is that some of Springsteen’s public statements seem to dismiss the concerns of his fans. The fact that ticket prices have dropped from $4000 in the initial roll out to $450-$1000+ with $61 seats available for some shows, does seem to indicate demand pricing theoretically works.

However, the article suggests that the damage is done and younger artists need to be cognizant of the current environment.

What will be interesting is whether or not younger artists – many of whom don’t have decades of good will from their fans to squander – will see what dynamic ticket pricing and openly fleecing your biggest fans can do to their future interest in your work and think twice about embracing the Ticketmaster/Live Nation model of “slow ticketing” going forward.

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.