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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.”

 


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Ticketmaster grilled by senators over Swift onsale

Live Nation’s Joe Berchtold has defended Ticketmaster’s practices in a US Senate antitrust panel spurred by the fallout from the presale for Taylor Swift’s stadium tour.

Swift shifted more than two million tickets – a new record for an artist in a single day – for her AEG-promoted 52-date The Eras Tour, but the sale was marred by reports of “significant service failures” and lengthy delays on Ticketmaster’s website, leading to today’s (24 January) near three-hour bipartisan panel investigating a “lack of competition in ticketing markets”.

In his opening statement, Berchtold, Live Nation’s president and CFO, said the firm had invested more than $1 billion to improve the Ticketmaster system since the companies’ 2010 merger.

“Much of this was on technologies to eliminate fraud and to get tickets to fans instead of ticket scalpers using bots, a prime example of which is our Verified Fan service,” he said.

“We hear people say that ticketing markets are less competitive today than they were at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger [but] that’s simply not true… The Ticketmaster of 2010 did not face the level of competition that we face today… Ticketmaster has lost, not gained, market share since the merger.”

“There are problems in the ticketing industry. The recent onsale experience with Taylor Swift… has highlighted the need to address these issues urgently”

Berchtold moved on to address the Swift ticketing controversy from last November. The Eras Tour attracted “historically unprecedented demand” as 3.5m people pre-registered for Swift’s Verified Fan presale, 1.5m of whom were later invited to participate in the onsale. However, the Ticketmaster site struggled to cope with the traffic after being swamped by bot attacks. Seatgeek (which took on $238m in private equity investment in August) experienced similar technical issues ticketing five of the Swift dates.

“There are problems in the ticketing industry, problems we believe can and should be addressed through legislation,” he said. “Many are the direct result of industrial scale ticket scalping that goes on today – a $5bn industry and concerts alone in the United States, fuelled by practices that run counter to the interests of artists and their fans.”

He continued: “The recent onsale experience with Taylor Swift… has highlighted the need to address these issues urgently. We knew bots would attack that onsale and planned accordingly. We were then hit with three times the amount of bot traffic that we’d ever experienced. And for the first time in 400 Verified Fan onsales, they came after our Verified Fan password servers as well.

“While the bots failed to penetrate our systems or acquire any tickets, the attack requires to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret. We apologise to the fans. We apologise to Miss Swift. We need to do better, and we will do better. Ticketmaster learned valuable lessons from this onsale.

“In hindsight, there are several things we could have done better. And let me be clear that Ticketmaster accepts its responsibility as being the first line of defence against bots in our industry. It’s an ever-escalating arms race. But in this forum where we’re here to discuss public policy, we also need to recognise how industrial scalpers using bots and cyber attacks to unfairly gain tickets has contributed to this awful experience.”

“We should mandate all-in pricing so that fans see the full cost of their tickets from the start”

Berchtold called for “categorical prohibitions” on “fraudulent ticket practices, including deceptive URLs”, along with spec-selling. “We should mandate all-in pricing so that fans see the full cost of their tickets from the start,” he added. “We share your goal of making live entertainment industry better for artist teams and fans alike.”

The panel also heard from witnesses including SeatGeek co-founder Jack Groetzinger, JAM Productions president Jerry Mickelson, singer/songwriter Clyde Lawrence, Sal Nuzzo, SVP of the The James Madison Institute, and Kathleen Bradish, the American Antitrust Institute’s VP for legal advocacy.

Asked directly whether they considered Ticketmaster to be a monopoly, Groetzinger, Mickelson and Nuzzo answered “yes”, and Bradish said the company was “certainly acting like a monopoly”, while Lawrence said, “I’m not sure.”

In response, Berchtold argued the ticketing business “has never been more competitive”. “We believe that fact is demonstrated by every venue renewal [having] multiple credible offers in a bidding process,” he noted.

The session was announced by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee of the senate judiciary subcommittee on competition policy, antitrust and consumer rights. Days earlier, Klobuchar had written an open letter to Live Nation chief Michael Rapino, expressing “serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry”.

“The solutions are there for the taking. Some of them are small things that can be done right away”

The letter came just weeks after a coalition of American consumer, artist and lobbying groups launched a Break Up Ticketmaster campaign, claiming that artists and venues are being exploited by the company. However, several industry commentators were quick to point out that unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets had little to do with Ticketmaster’s relationship with Live Nation.

In her closing comments, Klobuchar suggested the strong turnout reflected people’s desire to see live concerts.

“We are very interested in actually doing something and not just throwing popcorn,” she added. “The solutions are there for the taking. Some of them are small things that can be done right away. Some of them are things that the Justice Department might order as either part of their oversight with the consent decree, or new investigations, or new outcomes – some of which have been discussed here. Some of them are things that we can do right here.

“Of course, we’re always going have some some disagreements… But there is general agreement on some of these ideas when it comes to pricing and transparency and the like.”

 


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Ticketmaster Mexico installs new director

Ticketmaster Mexico has announced the appointment of Ana María Arroyo as its new director, replacing the long-serving Lorenza Baz.

Arrayo, who comes from a digital background, will be tasked with accelerating the firm’s technological transformation, as well as clamping down on illegal ticket resale sites, reports Forbes Mexico.

“The change in the leadership of Ticketmaster opens a new stage of leadership, which reaffirms our determination to improve the experience of fans, event promoters, venues and commercial allies, as well as ensuring the quality of our service,” it says

Ticketmaster also pays tribute to Arrayo’s predecessor’s “achievements and contribution to the evolution of the ticket industry in Mexico” over 30 years with the company, praising Baz as a “benchmark of professionalism to follow”.

Baz’s departure comes a month after Ticketmaster Mexico was absolved of blame for the controversy at Bad Bunny’s concerts at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, which saw 2,000 fans denied entry.

More than 4.5 million people had registered for the 120,000 available tickets for the 10-11 December shows

Ticketmaster says more than 4.5 million people had registered for the 120,000 available tickets for the 10-11 December shows.

The firm cited “an unprecedented number of fake tickets” and problems with the ticket-reading system for the incident. Federal consumer protection office Profeco initially accused Ticketmaster of overselling tickets for the concerts, but has since walked back the claims.

According to Mexico News Daily, Profeco head Ricardo Sheffield now accepts the issues were caused by failure of the venue’s ticket-scanning devices due to patchy internet access. He added that video footage showed empty spaces where the fans locked out with tickets would have been seated.

The fallout was such that Mexico president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called on the Puerto Rican rapper to give a free concert in the capital’s central Zócalo plaza.

Last year saw Bad Bunny usurp Ed Sheeran as the highest-grossing touring artist in a calendar year, generating $435,388,660 for 81 shows in 2022, according to Pollstar data, surpassing the $432.4 million box office takings of Sheeran’s 94 ÷ (Divide) tour dates in 2018.

 


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TicketPlan teams with See Tickets in US

Ticket insurance and protection specialist TicketPlan has partnered with See Tickets to provide a refund insurance solution to customers in the US.

The link-up was secured via TicketPlan’s long-standing relationship with Florida and Pennsylvania-based GoReady, a leading provider of travel insurance in the States.

“We are delighted to be providing See Tickets with a refund insurance solution in the USA via our partnership with GoReady and we are all incredibly excited to be working with one of the US’s fastest growing live event ticketing companies,” says Ben Bray, Ticketplan’s relationship and development director.

Established in 1999, TicketPlan enables ticketing companies, venues, events and other organisations to provide an added value service to ticket buyers and develop a new and incremental source of revenue.

“We’re happy to work with the TicketPlan team to offer added protection for ticket purchases”

“We are big fans of See Tickets’ client-friendly approach,” says GoReady CEO Jason Schreier. “GoReady is proud to add its benefits and services to that already outstanding equation.”

UK-based TicketPlan expanded into the Polish market in 2019, having already established its presence in the Dutch, Danish and Italian markets, and announced a partnership with UK ticketing firm and live events website Skiddle last summer.

“Fans have been asking for a solution to protect themselves when the unexpected happens in a ‘no refund’ world,” adds Boris Patronoff, See Tickets Group COO and CEO of See Tickets North America. “We’re happy to work with the TicketPlan team to offer added protection for ticket purchases.”

 


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NEC Group unveils new senior commercial team

NEC Group Ticketing & Arenas has unveiled its new senior commercial team.

The Birmingham-based team is spearheaded by commercial director, ticketing and arenas Andy Price and leads on business for the group’s premium hospitality provider Amplify and national ticket agency The Ticket Factory, as well as programming Utilita Arena Birmingham and Resorts World Arena.

“Despite the ongoing challenges our industry faces, performance has been extremely positive for the commercial division this year”

“Despite the ongoing challenges our industry faces, performance has been extremely positive for the commercial division this year, most notably with The Ticket Factory who have had an extremely busy year,” says Price. “As we look to drive future growth, it’s important we harness the experience we already have in the business and I’m excited to see its impact on revenues as we move into the new year.”

The new-look team incorporates three internal promotions. Ben Sharman becomes head of venue programming after bringing a string of major live events to the business, including the Concert for Ukraine, which was delivered with just three weeks’ notice last March.

In addition, Noel Edwards is stepping up to ticketing director and will be responsible for establishing The Ticket Factory as one of the UK’s leading ticketing agents.

The team is completed by Gareth Coleman, who will continue as ticketing general manager, and Nicky Burgess who was appointed as head of sales (premium & groups) last year.

PHOTO (L-R): Ben Sharman, Gareth Coleman, Noel Edwards, Andy Price, Nicky Burgess

 


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AXS to launch in Australia

AEG-owned ticketing company AXS is opening an Australian office early in the new year, backed by Frontier Touring.

The firm will reportedly launch the operation next month, promising to shake up a domestic market currently dominated by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster and TEG’s Ticketek.

“We feel like there’s an opportunity for a third major player to come in, but we don’t want to just come in and do business the same old way,” US-based AXS CEO Bryan Perez tells The Australian.

“We think that there’s a new and better business model out there, where ticketing may be a little bit more non-exclusive and open.”

AEG announced a strategic JV with Australasia’s Frontier Touring in 2019, which saw the two companies merge their operations in Australia and New Zealand.

“We think the time is right to help AXS come into Australia and, if nothing else, shake it up”

“We’ve been frustrated by the ticketing landscape for probably five or six years,” adds Frontier CEO Dion Brant. “We think the time is right to help AXS come into Australia and, if nothing else, shake it up.”

LA-headquartered AXS is the official ticketing partner for over 350 premier venues, sports teams, event organisers around the world. It has additional offices in the US in Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas and Denver, alongside European bases in London and Sweden.

AEG took full control of AXS from co-owners TPG Capital and Rockbridge Growth Equity in 2019 and rolled out its resale solution in the UK in April of the same year. It has been the official resale ticketing partner for AEG in North America since 2018.

 


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Japan mulls ID card plan for concerts

Concert-goers in Japan could require government-issued ID cards to attend gigs under plans being considered by the government to help combat ticket touting.

According to Japan Today via Yomiuri Shimbun, the country’s minister of digital affairs Taro Kano has told the cabinet’s digital agency to open talks with event organisers to encourage them to require ticket-holders to present their My Number Card when buying tickets, and again when entering venues.

The card is typically used as a form of identification for pension, tax, and other government functions, and the requirement would confirm the fan attending the show was the same person who bought the ticket.

However, critics of the proposal say it would make it impossible to purchase tickets for the 40% of residents who are yet to apply for a card, and would also rule out those without smartphones.

The move would also lock travellers and short-term visitors out of live entertainment events unless organisers set up separate protocols

In addition, the report notes the move would also lock travellers and short-term visitors out of live entertainment events unless organisers set up separate protocols.

Arama Japan recalls Japan’s previous attempts to curb touting, including the introduction of facial recognition technology and the launch of campaign group Tenbai No (Resale No) in 2014, backed by 116 music acts, 24 events, and four music organisations. Tenbai No took out full page ads in two of Japan’s biggest newspapers, which read: “We are against the high-priced reselling of tickets, which is depriving music of its future.”

In the same year, it notes, a woman was arrested after allegedly making 10 million yen (€70,500) profit by scalping tickets for boy band Arashi.

 


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Italian Supreme Court backs TicketOne appeal

The Italian Supreme Administrative Court (CdS) has ruled in favour of TicketOne in its appeal against a €10.9 million fine for alleged abuses of its dominant market position.

The original 2021 ruling by the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) had previously been dismissed and the fine annulled by a Lazio court in March this year.

It followed an investigation into the market leader’s parent company CTS Eventim and related to complaints by venue operator Zed Entertainment, which accused TicketOne of “an abusive strategy of an exclusionary nature” involving complex deals, contracts and acquisitions.

The dispute first became public in 2019 when a handful of Italian promoters, led by Zed’s Valeria Arzenton, alleged unfair competition on the part of Eventim-owned Friends and Partners (F&P).

“The CdS found that the ICA had in fact failed to examine sufficiently the applicants’ defence of the existence of a lawful purpose pursued by the acquisitions”

Arzenton accused CTS Eventim/F&P of trying to strong-arm promoters and artists into ticketing contracts with TicketOne at the expense of non-Eventim operators – a claim strenuously denied by CTS Eventim, TicketOne, F&P and sister companies D’Alessandro e Galli, Vertigo and Vivo Concerti.

According to the CdS, reports Lexology, the contested practices – in particular the acquisitions and related exclusivity clauses — “may plausibly be objectively justified” and do not necessarily result in an unlawful restriction.

“The CdS found that the ICA had in fact failed to examine sufficiently the applicants’ defence of the existence of a lawful purpose pursued by the acquisitions,” it adds.

However, last month’s judgement suggests the matter is not yet closed.

“The CdS confirmed that the retaliatory conduct and boycotts implemented against other operators such as Zed, may in fact constitute abuses of dominance requiring further investigations by the ICA and possible revision of the fine initially imposed on CTS Eventim – Ticketone,” it adds.

 


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International Ticketing Report 2022 out now

The latest edition of the International Ticketing Report (formerly the International Ticketing Yearbook) is out now, accessible in print, via a dedicated mini site and as a digital magazine.

Since it was first published in 2015, the ITR has been the only global guide to the live entertainment ticketing market.

The seventh instalment features in-depth profiles of the top 40+ live entertainment markets around the world, as well as insights and information from the most important companies in each market.

The Report also offers features on ticketing tech, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and an in-depth interview with Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich.

“2022 has seen one of the busiest periods for ticketing companies ever”

“With most countries joyously greeting audiences in venues once more, 2022 has seen one of the busiest periods for ticketing companies ever,” says the Report’s editor James Drury.

“And despite the challenges this pressure brings, the sector has been responding with ingenuity. Every year there are new tech and hot topics to discuss, and as always we’re taking an in-depth look at them. In this edition, you’ll discover some of the companies that are finding creative solutions to some of the industry’s problems, while we take a special look at NFTs and what their growing popularity means for promoters and ticketers alike.”

This year’s ITR is available in print, digitally, and on the dedicated year-round mini-site. IQ subscribers can read the digital magazine here, or access the mini site here. To purchase a print copy of the report, please email [email protected].

Ticketek hires Danny Hannaford as UK GM

TEG-owned ticketing firm Ticketek has announced the appointment of Danny Hannaford as its UK general manager.

Hannaford, who brings more than 13 years’ experience in ticketing operations, and was most recently in charge of ticketing strategy & digital delivery for London’s The O2.

He previously led ticketing for Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo and multiple special event projects at AEG Presents, as well as heading up Global Live.

Hannaford also launched and headed up Twickets Australia and was the lead on global ticketing operations at Dice.

“In addition to Danny’s extensive ticketing knowledge he has a demonstrated track record of digital transformation and innovation”

“Danny is an experienced and accomplished ticketing executive who will lead our UK team with commitment, integrity and passion,” says Ticketek MD Cameron Hoy. “In addition to Danny’s extensive ticketing knowledge he has a demonstrated track record of digital transformation and innovation and I look forward to his contribution to our global ticketing leadership team.”

Ticketek became one of the five divisions that comprise TEG Europe, alongside TEG Live Europe, TEG Venues, Propaganda and Ovation, after Australasian live entertainment powerhouse TEG consolidated the company’s UK-based operations into a single entity.

“I am delighted to be joining Ticketek UK and have the opportunity to work with a business that thinks differently about ticketing,” adds Hannaford. “I am really looking forward to and joining a great team that is already delivering impressive growth in this market.”

 


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