Ticketing biz reacts to ‘all-in’ pricing pledge
Music companies and organisations have delivered their verdicts on Joe Biden’s announcement on ticket fee transparency.
The US president confirmed yesterday (15 June) that Live Nation and SeatGeek have pledged to adopt “all-in” ticket pricing, which will allow fans to see the full ticket price upfront, including fees.
Live Nation says it will begin providing all-in pricing experience this September for concerts at the venues and festivals it operates across the US.
“Live Nation is proud to provide fans with a better ticket buying experience,” says Tom See, president of LN’s Venue Nation. “We have thousands of crew working behind the scenes every day to help artists share their music live with fans, and we’ll continue advocating for innovations and reforms that protect that amazing connection.”
The company has advocated for all-in pricing to become law for many years, and joined with an industry-wide coalition earlier this year to promote FAIR Ticketing Reforms. Live Nation attended a forum at the White House yesterday hosted by Biden to discuss the move and other potential reforms.
“The president’s commitment to scrap junk fees is a huge step forward for a more enjoyable, more equitable live experience”
Biden, who called out “junk fees” in his State of the Union address earlier this year, was joined by representatives of firms who have made new commitments, as well as platforms that already provide all-in pricing as part of their business models, such as Dice and the Newport Festivals Foundation.
“The president’s commitment to scrap junk fees is a huge step forward for a more enjoyable, more equitable live experience,” says Dice CEO Phil Hutcheon. “Dice has always done upfront pricing and it leads to more fans going out more often, and ensures everyone can access the artists they love. It’s great for fans, artists and live venues.”
However, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which represents more than 2,000 independent concert venues, stresses the need for further reform in the sector.
“Upfront pricing should be the start of comprehensive ticketing reform that protects consumers from price gouging and deceptive practices by predatory resellers,” says executive director Stephen Parker. “Other needed reforms such as banning speculative tickets and deceptive websites would further protect consumers in the ticketing marketplace. We applaud the president for [yesterday’s] meeting and look forward to working with his administration and Congress to make comprehensive, bipartisan ticketing reform a reality.”
“Until Congress acts to eliminate excessive fees and secondary ticketing is carefully regulated, millions of consumers will still be the victim of predatory ticketing practices”
The National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), the trade group for hundreds of independent booking agents and managers in the US, shares similar thoughts, deeming the move an “important first step” on ticket fee transparency.
“NITO calls on all ticket sellers to clearly show fans the total price of a ticket up front but also provide an itemised breakdown so fans understand the ticket price set by the artist and the fees added by ticket sellers. Until Congress acts to eliminate excessive fees and secondary ticketing is carefully regulated, millions of consumers will still be the victim of predatory ticketing practices.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Live Nation, SeatGeek agree to all-in pricing
US president Joe Biden has announced that Live Nation and SeatGeek have pledged to adopt all-in ticket pricing, which will enable fans to see the full cost of their transactions upfront.
The move comes four months after Biden called out “junk fees” in his State of the Union address and nine months after he first called for the reduction or elimination of hidden fees, charges, and add-ons for concert tickets.
Live Nation has been a vocal proponent of all-in pricing: it was recently described as “the best consumer experience everywhere” by company president/CFO Joe Berchtold and rolled into LN’s Fair Ticketing Act, launched earlier this year.
Biden will be joined today by representatives of firms who have made new commitments, including LN, SeatGeek and Des Moines, Iowa-based venue xBk, in addition to platforms that already provide all-in pricing as part of their business models, such as Dice and the Newport Festivals Foundation.
“The companies that are making new commitments today will improve the purchasing experience for tens of millions of customers annually”
“The companies that are making new commitments today will improve the purchasing experience for tens of millions of customers annually,” says a statement from The White House. “These commitments are in response to the president’s call to action on junk fees in his State of the Union. For example, shortly after the State of the Union, Live Nation expressed interest to the administration in announcing a commitment to offer all-in upfront pricing through its Ticketmaster platform.
“Today, Live Nation is committing to roll out an upfront all-in pricing experience in September showing just one clear, total price for more than 30 million fans who attend shows at the more than 200 Live Nation-owned venues and festivals across the country. Ticketmaster will also add a feature to give consumers the option to receive all-in upfront pricing for all other tickets sold on the platform.”
Biden suggests the move is merely a “first step” and is continuing to call on Congress to pass legislation that mandates up-front all-in pricing for all ticket sellers.
“Today’s voluntary actions demonstrate that companies both big and small recognise the importance of providing consumers with honest, up-front all-in pricing, rather than tricking them with surprise fees at the end of checkout,” adds the statement.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
US lawmakers propose ‘Taylor Swift ticketing bill’
Two Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed new ticketing legislation dubbed the “Taylor Swift Bill”, requiring platforms to disclose the full price of tickets upfront.
Fox Business reports that Democrats Rep. Dan Carey and Sen. John Velis have put forward identical bills, called “An Act Ensuring Transparent Ticket Pricing” which requires ticket sellers to show the total cost of tickets, including fees and surcharges, before the buyer selects them for purchase.
“Disclosures of subtotals, fees, charges, and any other component of the total price shall not be false or misleading, and must be presented in the same size as the total price,” it reads.
Carey tells Boston 25 the proposal has become known as the “Taylor Swift Bill” following the fallout from last year’s Eras Tour presale, which led to an investigation into the market by the US Senate.
“We heard from a lot of fans who were just frustrated with the ticket-selling process”
“We heard from a lot of fans who were just frustrated with the ticket-selling process,” he says. “This would be one tool in the toolbox to help know the full price is right away, to see what portion is fees and what portion is the price of the ticket.
“I’ve heard from Bruce Springsteen fans, Taylor Swift fans, Beyonce fans, Patriots fans, all sorts of different folks who want to go to these different events and don’t want to be hoodwinked while they’re doing it.”
The bill, which is modelled on similar law in New York, is currently before the joint committee on consumer protection and professional licensure.
“What this bill is at the most fundamental level is a consumer protection bill,” adds Velis. “It enables folks to know their budget when they go in to buy these tickets and know this is the amount they’re ultimately going to be asked to spend.”
Ticketing reform has been an increasingly hot topic in the United States since last year’s Eras onsale
US president Joe Biden demanded a crackdown on “excessive ticket fees” earlier this year, saying hidden or unexpected fees “are not only costly to consumers, but they can stifle competition by encouraging companies to use increasingly sophisticated tools to disguise the true price consumers face”. The call prompted senators Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse to table the “Junk Fee Prevention Act”.
Ticketing reform has been an increasingly hot topic in the United States since last year’s Eras onsale, with Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently addressing high-profile furores over ticket prices and on-sales. LN has been a vocal supporter of all-in pricing, and launched the Fair Ticketing Act with the support of organisations such as CAA, UTA, Wasserman Music and WME.
Nineteen companies and associations operating in North America also formed the Fix the Tix coalition earlier this month to “collectively advocate for a ticketing experience better than the nightmare many fans and artists currently navigate”.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
US senators introduce Junk Fee Prevention Act
US Senators have introduced new legislation which would eliminate “excessive” ticketing fees for concerts and other events.
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse have announced the “Junk Fee Prevention Act” following calls from president Joe Biden during his State of the Union address.
Biden argued that hidden or unexpected fees “are not only costly to consumers, but they can stifle competition by encouraging companies to use increasingly sophisticated tools to disguise the true price consumers face”.
If passed, the new legislation would eliminate “excessive, hidden, and unnecessary fees” imposed on consumers and “ensure transparency” in industries such as ticketing by requiring the full prices of services to be provided upfront.
“Concealed surprise fees – nickel and diming Americans to distraction – must be stopped,” says Blumenthal. “Airline travel, concert going, common purchases – seemingly almost everywhere – consumers are compelled to pay hidden excessive charges.
“Our bill will help end this price gouging – forcing full disclosure upfront and restricting abusive fees. It will mandate basic common sense fairness and transparency, which consumers rightly demand and deserve.”
“Our Junk Fee Prevention Act would provide consumers with the transparency they deserve when making a purchase”
“Consumers are charged hidden fees when purchasing everything from flights to concert tickets,” adds Whitehouse. “Our Junk Fee Prevention Act would provide consumers with the transparency they deserve when making a purchase.”
Live Nation has backed president Biden’s call for transparency around ticketing fees last year. The company went on to launch the Fair Ticketing Act last month and has received support from the likes of CAA, UTA, Wasserman Music and WME in its calls for ticketing reforms. Among its recommendations are for all-in pricing across all ticketing marketplaces introduced nationally so that fans know the full cost of a ticket plus fees right upfront.
Ticketing fees have been thrust under the microscope of late after The Cure persuaded Ticketmaster to offer partial refunds for “unduly high” ticketing fees charged in the Verified Fan sale for the band’s upcoming North American tour.
The firm had come in for criticism during this week’s sale when ticket-holders posted screenshots online showing some fees exceeding the cost of the tickets themselves.
Neil Young has also weighed in on the dispute, posting under the headline “concert touring is broken” on his website.
“It’s over, the old days are gone,” he writes. “I get letters blaming me for $30,000 tickets for a benefit I am doing. That money does not go to me or the benefit. Artists have to worry about ripped off fans blaming them for Ticketmaster add-ons and scalpers.
“Concert tours are no longer fun. Concert tours [are] not what they were.”
“Ticketmaster unilaterally decides which tickets it advertises and sells as ‘Official Platinum’ based on a given event”
Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit has been launched against Ticketmaster in Canada, alleging the company “intentionally misleads consumers for their own financial gain”.
The case – filed by Montreal-based law firm LPC Avocat Inc – says a customer bought two market-driven “platinum” tickets for Drake’s upcoming 14 July show at the Bell Centre for C$789.54 (€533.70) each. However, it says that when Drake added a second show for the following night, the same seats could be purchased for more than $350 less.
As per the Toronto Star, the suit also claims that Ticketmaster knew Drake would be performing two shows at the venue, but “concealed this information” to “squeeze out” as much money as possible from fans buying tickets for the first date.
“Ticketmaster unilaterally decides which tickets it advertises and sells as ‘Official Platinum’ based on a given event,” reads the filing. “The result is that most, if not all, of the tickets advertised and sold as ‘Official Platinum’ are neither ‘premium tickets’ nor ‘some of the best seats in the house’ and are, in fact, just regular tickets sold by Ticketmaster at an artificially inflated premium in bad faith.”
Ticketmaster has not commented on the allegations.
Biden demands crackdown on ‘excessive’ ticket fees
US president Joe Biden is calling for a crackdown on “excessive” ticket fees for concerts and other entertainment events.
Biden proposed a “Junk Fee Prevention Act” as part of a meeting of the White House Competition Council this week, saying hidden or unexpected fees “are not only costly to consumers, but they can stifle competition by encouraging companies to use increasingly sophisticated tools to disguise the true price consumers face”.
According to the New York Times, the president is specifically asking Congress “to prohibit excessive fees, require the fees to be disclosed in the ticket price and mandate disclosure of any ticket holdbacks that diminish available supply”.
“Many online ticket sellers impose massive service fees at check-out that are not disclosed when consumers are choosing their tickets,” says a White House statement. “In a review of 31 different sporting events across five ticket sellers’ websites, service charges averaged more than 20% of the ticket’s face value, and total fees – like processing fees, delivery fees, and facility fees – reached up to more than half the cost of the ticket itself. A family of four attending a show could end up paying far more than $100 in fees above and beyond the cost of the tickets.”
“The president urges Congress to act now to reduce these fees through legislation”
The president’s plea to Congress follows his call for the reduction or elimination of hidden fees, charges and add-ons at a previous meeting last autumn. His latest statement comes just a week after Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold was grilled about the company’s practices by a US Senate antitrust panel following the Ticketmaster-Taylor Swift Eras Tour presale controversy.
During last week’s hearing, LN’s Berchtold expressed the company’s support for transparent ticketing fees. “We should mandate all-in pricing so that fans see the full cost of their tickets from the start,” he said.
“While antitrust enforcement agencies have the authority to investigate and address anti-competitive conduct in the industry, the president urges Congress to act now to reduce these fees through legislation,” adds the White House statement. “Specifically, the president is calling on congress to prohibit excessive fees, require the fees to be disclosed in the ticket price, and mandate disclosure of any ticket holdbacks that diminish available supply.”
“We stand ready to work with the president and Congress on many common sense ticketing reforms”
Ticketmaster has released a new statement, saying it “strongly supports ticketing reforms that will benefit artists and fans, prevent fraud, and clean up fraudulent practices in resale markets”.
“These basic steps should be the things everyone agrees on, including mandating all-in pricing and outlawing speculative ticketing,” add a spokesperson. “We stand ready to work with the president and Congress on many common sense ticketing reforms, while also speaking out against proposed legislation that would benefit scalpers over artists and fans.”
Live Nation backs Biden’s fee transparency call
Live Nation has backed US president Joe Biden’s call for transparency around ticketing fees.
At last month’s meeting of the White House Competition Council, Biden called for the reduction or elimination of hidden fees, charges, and add-ons for everything from banking services to airline and concert tickets.
He addressed the matter again yesterday (26 October), outlining steps he said “will immediately start saving Americans, collectively, billions of dollars” in unfair “junk fees”.
“Today’s actions are going to save consumers more than $1 billion each year. And that’s a lot of money back in people’s pockets,” added Biden. “And we’re just getting started. There are tens of billions of dollars in other junk fees across the economy, and I’ve directed my administration to reduce or eliminate them.
“Last week, the Federal Trade Commission started work on a rule to crack down on unfair and deceptive fees across all industries, fees that were never disclosed. And there was no way to avoid the fee, like processing fees for concert tickets.”
“We applaud President Biden’s advocacy for fee transparency in every industry, including live event ticketing”
Live Nation has now issued a statement in support of the president’s stance, while endorsing a law passed in New York this summer requiring ticket sellers to share all fees upfront.
“We applaud President Biden’s advocacy for fee transparency in every industry, including live event ticketing,” says the company. “Live Nation Entertainment advocated for the all-in pricing mandate passed in New York earlier this year, which requires face-value prices and fees to be shown upfront – and we support the FTC mandating this nationally.
“We operate ticketing marketplaces in 30+ countries around the world and have seen all-in pricing adopted successfully in many countries when mandated across the board. This only works if all ticketing marketplaces go all-in together, so that consumers truly have accurate comparisons as they shop for tickets.”
Shuttered venues in US bolstered by extra $1.25bn
Struggling concert halls in the US will receive additional aid, thanks to a $1.9 billion stimulus package passed by the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday (10 March) and signed into law by President Joe Biden the following day.
The new aid package, known as the American Rescue Package, includes an additional $1.25bn for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG), also known as the Save Our Stages Act, which was part of last year’s aid package.
However, a new amendment to the Save Our Stages Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, enables venue owners to apply for additional federal help – unlike the original act which prohibited them from applying for both a grant and a loan to protect their employees’ salaries.
“This change can save countless halls from bankruptcy, as the money will help them to last until the available funds are paid”
“This change can save countless halls from bankruptcy, as the money will help them to last until the available funds are paid,” said Dayna Frank, chair of the board of directors of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, in a statement.
Eligible venue operators can now apply for the new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP2) loans that closes on 31 March to help them stay afloat until the Small Business Administration (SBA) has set up the SVOG programme, which has yet to announce a launch date.
Thank you @SenSchumer for helping struggling music venues with the added lifeline in the American Rescue Plan expected to become law tmw. Your amendment can save countless venues from bankruptcy—immediate PPP2 funds will help them hold on until SVOG flows. https://t.co/xhsv244mxz
— NIVA | #SaveOurStages (@nivassoc) March 11, 2021
The $15bn SVOG programme/Save Our Stages Act for theatre operators and small venue owners was passed by US Congress in December 2020, as part of a wider $900bn Covid-19 stimulus package.
NY stadiums, arenas permitted to reopen
New York governor Andrew Cuomo will allow major stadiums and arenas to reopen with a capacity of 10% from 23 February.
The guidelines for reopening will be based on the testing pilot programme conducted by the NFL team Buffalo Bills at the weekend, in which 6,700 fans who presented negative tests, and agreed to contact tracing, attended the game socially distanced
In order for stadiums and arenas to reopen at 10%, all fans and staff planning to attend an event will need to provide a negative PCR test within the 72 hours prior. Fans must also be temperature checked upon entering a venue and will be required to wear face coverings while in attendance.
Indoor arenas must observe enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards, as well as socially distanced seating configurations. The permission applies to stadiums and arenas with a capacity of 10,000 or more.
The Barclays Center (cap. 19,000) in Brooklyn has already announced plans for their first event and will welcome fans back to the arena on 23 February for a basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings.
“While we continue to fight Covid on multiple fronts, we must also get this economy reopened intelligently and in a balanced way,” said governor Cuomo.
“While we continue to fight Covid on multiple fronts, we must also get this economy re-opened intelligently”
“Live sports and entertainment have long been engrained in the fabric of New York and the inability to hold events has only added to the isolation we have all felt at the hands of this virus.
“Thankfully, our pilot program to reopen Buffalo Bills games to fans was an unparalleled success and now we are taking that model and expanding it to other large venues across the state to not only reinvigorate local economies, but also help bring some fun and joy back into people’s lives as safely as possible.”
Cuomo has also announced that the state will host concerts for the first time in a year as part of the New York Arts Revival programme he announced in January.
More than 300 pop-up gigs will take place between 20 February and 6 September (Labor Day) at venues including the Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage, La Mama, and Alice Busch Opera Theatre.
The governor says the gigs will visit flexible venues with no fixed seating so event formats can be reconfigured to allow adequate social distancing.
In January, Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to US president Joe Biden, predicted that live performances could resume this autumn, depending on how widely the Covid-19 vaccine can be distributed by then.
Fauci suggested that if between 70% and 85% of the US population would have to be vaccinated, venues with good ventilation and proper air filters could open without social distancing – though some theatres may ask audience members to continue to wear masks.
US concert biz offers skills and staff for vaccinations
The major American promoters, venue operators and industry associations have formally offered their venues, staff and expertise towards the United States’ national Covid-19 vaccination effort.
In a letter to new US president Joe Biden (pictured), Live Nation, AEG Presents, Oak View Group, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and others pledge their resources towards the vaccination programme – saying the live industry, whose venues are empty and staff furloughed, is in a “unique position to help”.
Staff are “eager to help out and get back to work”, adds the letter, which is also addressed to Norris Cochran, the acting secretary of health and human services; Dr Rochelle Walensky, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Contro; Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease’s services division; and Bechara Choucair, the White House’s vaccinations coordinator.
“It’s human nature to come together in good times and bad, and our industry is committed to doing everything in our power to bring people together again, not just for events, but for every aspect of community that we have been missing,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation. “Live Nation has venues across the country that are capable of managing critical onsite elements of the vaccine rollout and we are eager to pitch in and be part of the solution.”
Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue Productions and president of NIVA, adds: “Since the pandemic shuttered our industry almost a year ago, our buildings and our co-workers have been paused, unutilised and struggling. These vaccines are our best chance at putting Covid-19 behind us, and our experiences organising events and managing crowds now put us in the unique position of being the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery.”
“We are the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery”
Other organisations offering their help are the International Association of Venue Managers; lighting company Bandit Lites; #WeMakeEvents North America; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; theatre industry association Broadway League; the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO); and musical instrument trade body NAMM.
Live venues are already playing a key role in the immunisation process internationally, with concert halls, arena and stadia, and convention and conference centres offering their services as mass-vaccination sites.
Venues are, according to a statement from the group, perfectly suited to doubling as vaccination centres, given that they are designed for queueing and crowd control, located near parking or public transport and have wide, clear interiors, as well as regulated/ticketed entrances and exits.
“The entire live event industry has stood still since March, 2020. We all stand united now, ready to assist in the safe, rapid delivery of the vaccine from a people-moving perspective,” says Bandit Lites chair Michael T. Strickland.
Agent Wayne Forte, president of Entourage Talent Associates and member of NITO’s executive committee, comments: “We are here to help. In fact, many venues are already working on the state and local level to implement vaccine programmes. Our industry owns, leases and/or has access to thousands of venues throughout America, most that are under mandated closures and sitting empty. Event venues make ideal community vaccination sites.”
US election: Venues turn into polling stations
Live Nation has announced plans to use more than 100 of its US venues as polling stations for the American presidential election on 3 November.
The concert giant says it is working with local authorities to examine the feasibility of using Live Nation-owned venues across the country as polling centres, with the Wiltern (1,850-cap.) and Hollywood Palladium (3,800-cap.) in Los Angeles, Emo’s (1,700-cap.) in Austin, Texas, and the Buckhead Theatre (1,800-cap.) in Atlanta already confirmed.
The Fillmore (2,500-cap.) in Philadelphia is in the “final stages of the vetting process”, it adds.
“Core to what we do at Live Nation is helping amplify voices on stage around the world, and supporting voting is another important way we want to continue making voices heard,” comments LN CEO Michael Rapino. “We’re honoured to work with such incredible partners and will do everything in our power to support and empower voter engagement among our employees and the public.”
The LN properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas
The company has also partnered with More Than a Vote, a non-profit organisation supporting black voters, and announced it will give its employees paid time off to vote.
The Live Nation properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas. They include Madison Square Garden in New York, the Los Angeles Forum, State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make mass gatherings difficult, we are excited to partner with New York City’s board of elections,” says Madison Square Garden’s Rich Constable, “and support our community by providing a large-scale venue in the heart of New York City that can accommodate social distancing and serve as a safe place for residents to exercise their right to vote.”
The US presidential election will be held on Tuesday 3 November 2020, pitting incumbent president Donald Trump against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.