FTC Proposing Transparency Rules For Ticketing Fees

A couple hours after I made my post about an article addressing the problem with “drip fees” in the UK and the psychology that reinforces their use, I saw that the FTC is proposing new rules to address junk fees, which are the same as drip fees in the UK.

FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement that “by hiding the total price, these junk fees make it harder for consumers to shop for the best product or service and punish businesses who are honest upfront.


A new rule with more precise language can do a better job with specifics, the agency argues:

It is an unfair and deceptive practice and a violation of this part for any Business to offer, display, or advertise an amount a consumer may pay without Clearly and Conspicuously disclosing the Total Price.

….and now this new proposed FTC rule could force other businesses in different industries, from airlines to hotels, to follow suit

If successful, the new rule could put an end to bait-and-switch tactics, which consumers have told the FTC that they’re constantly experiencing. Consumers have also said they often don’t know what certain fees are for.

Other articles about the proposed rule include examples of some of the arcane abbreviations associated with added fees that people couldn’t decipher. It was noted that the rule wouldn’t get rid of all the added fees resulting in cheaper prices, but it would force businesses like concert venues, hotels, and airlines to disclose full prices upfront.

As I mentioned in my post last week, the rule will need to be written well to eliminate loopholes which will allow for the addition of fees not covered by the rule. It should also be noted that hospitals have been required to provide transparent pricing for common procedures since 2021, but a recent study revealed only about 1/3 of hospitals are in compliance. So there needs to be real enforcement of the rules as well.

Artists Need High Quality, Accessible Marketing Resources

Last week, my regional booking consortium organized its first Zoom conversation for marketing staff to share questions, ideas and just generally converse. I lurked around for most of the conversation with my camera off, popping in to comment on occasion. One of the topics of conversation was around marketing and promotional assets that artists provide.  The quality of video and images is an increasingly important topic given the role social media plays with both show promotion and associated sharing.

When I was at a booking conference last month, a panelist mentioned that they look at two things when evaluating whether to book an artist. The first was whether the tech rider was within the capacity and the second was the quality of their promotional assets.  While there was some people in the Zoom meeting last week who said their every use of promotional materials was being closely scrutinized by a tour, far more others complained by the dearth of quality images and video.  Many artists have video which is poor lighting, framing and sound quality.  Still images and logos are often small and can’t be resized without severely bitmapping.

Someone on the call shared an article from Capacity Interactive about how to make static key art more engaging  by adding some subtle animation, using the animation to do some storytelling and provide information.  Obviously, you need to get permission from a performer before adding any animated elements, but I thought that this was a good way to cope with the lack of good materials and catch some attention.

Later in the afternoon, the venue managers and programmers met and some of my enthusiasm deflated a little. One of the topics of conversation was some accessibility legislation that is set to roll out in Colorado in summer 2024. Under those rules we need to pay attention to things like how accessible our websites and ticketing systems are for screen readers. This will mean making sure images have robust descriptions for alt text and videos have captioning. One venue manager said they are already telling renters that logos are not sufficient to represent their shows given the amount of detailed description the law will require.  In this context, I realized the animated key art idea might not pass muster.

While they might not entirely encompass current 2023 standards, Drew McManus did a whole series on web accessibility on ArtsHacker in 2019 which will provide a good start. Bonus: A post on all the lawsuits and accessibility plug-in scams to watch out for.

Sunk Cost Psychology Reinforces Added Hidden Ticket Fees

A survey found that in the UK, 93% of event ticketers add “drip fees” on to transactions.  As you probably suspect, those are the undisclosed added fees that pop up as you go through the purchasing process.  They appear in more than just event ticket transactions. Though in the UK, event ticketers had added the fees at double the national average.

Drip pricing occurs when consumers are shown an initial price for a good/service (known as the base price) while additional fees are revealed (or “dripped”) later in the checkout process. These “dripped” fees can either be mandatory (e.g., booking fees) or optional (e.g., seat reservation on a flight). This practice means that consumers may be “baited” into choosing a product because of its (low) base price, yet possibly have to pay a much higher price to complete the purchase as consumers do not become aware of dripped fees until they have already started the checkout process.

As the article notes, one of the challenges to getting rid of the fees is that no one wants to be the first to provide the honest total price up front for fear of losing out to their competitors. If you see a flight for $99 and another for $250, the psychology of sunk cost will keep many people from abandoning a transaction in favor of the more honest airline after realizing the $99 ticket is $300 after fees because they have already spent a fair bit of time choosing seats, putting in address and credit card information.

Seeing that there is little benefit to being honest about the cost up front, many companies will resort to advertising a low price and then having add on fees for every choice you make.

Essentially what is required are rules to force people to reveal fees up front, or no one will do it. The danger is that unless the rules are particularly well-written, there are always opportunities label added fees in a way that slips through the cracks and then the whole practice starts over again.

Frank Lloyd Wright Didn’t Want A/C In Dallas Theater He Designed

I came across an interesting story about the only theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The 400 seat Kalita Humphreys Theater, constructed in 1959,  is one of the Dallas Theater Center‘s spaces, apparently one they primarily used prior to the 2009 completion of Dee & Charles Wyly Theater about two miles away.   The Kalita, as it is referred to in the story, is in need of some major repairs, many of which are outlined in the story.

The parts of the article which are most interesting to me are the influences, both good and bad, the famed architect had on the space. Tommie Ethington, who wrote the piece marvels at the intimacy of the space where you no more than 13 rows from the stage and the optical illusions created by windows, lack of right angles, and curve of the stairs.

Wright’s vision:

It involved eschewing the traditional setup, with a proscenium stage—in which audiences stare straight ahead with a single, framed view—and instead creating a circular, revolving stage that joined the actors and audience in a more unified space.

However, his vision was not always conducive to easily operating a theater. Wright would apparently have rather have staff move things by hand and audiences sweat than to install elevators and A/C.

Wright wanted windows at the back of the auditorium, but Baker worried they would interfere with stage lighting. Wright vehemently opposed a freight elevator, insisting that sets and props be wheeled up subterranean ramps (an elevator was secretly installed without Wright’s knowledge). Wright even went so far as to suggest no air-conditioning, a thought immediately dismissed by Texans who knew better.

According to his daughter Robyn Flatt, the first time Baker saw the plans for the theater, he told Wright they simply would not work. “Wright was furious,” she says. “He threw my dad out of [Wright’s home] Taliesin West and told him he could walk back to town.”

The city of Dallas technically owns the Kalita so funding for renovations will require their involvement to some extent. Political will is also involved in other respects in the form of Texas’ Drag Ban which is both noted in this article and in a Washington Post article that suggests Dallas Theater Center’s makes the mounting of the Rocky Horror Show at The Kalita a political act.