Protect Ticket Rights has been pushing for reforms in the live event ticketing market for years. We advocate for fan-focused improvements that will make the ticketing experience (shopping, buying, selling, transferring, or giving away) less of a hassle.
The live events industry is experiencing one of the strongest and most profitable years ever. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by anti-consumer efforts driven by primary market participants. We are witnessing a desire by some industry players to exert as much control and influence over fans as possible. Large entrenched primary ticket companies would like to be the only ones able to sell or resell tickets. Venues are also putting their preferences ahead of the fans that fuel and make live events possible, the fans who fill their rooms and purchase not only tickets, but also merchandise, food, and beverages. Venues are wrapping themselves in the imprimatur of music artists to claim that that artists should be able to restrict resale, conveniently neglecting that resold tickets have already been purchased and the artist and venue have already been paid whatever price they initially set.
Virtually every for-profit player in the system – from team owners, concert promoters, artists, venues, and ticket sellers – has a “capture more of the market” agenda. In their zeal for more profit, they have set their sights on ticket resale. Even after consumers buy the ticket initially sold by the ticketer or venue, they want to control and profit from any resale of that ticket even though the ticket belongs at that point to the ticketholder. When a homeowner sells their home, he or she cannot complain what the next owner of that home does to the house or for how much he or she resells it for, and it’s just as ridiculous for primary market players to complain in a similar way about he or she who holds custody of an event ticket after that ticket has been sold. Polling confirms time and time again that ticketholders support laws that protect their ability to freely use, sell, or give away their tickets with zero incumbrance, interference, or intrusion from the original seller or event organizer. This is why ticket transferability laws must be protected, and expanded.
The ticketing system is unfortunately opaque and frustrating. While some industry participants support universal reforms that will fix what is broken and make things more transparent and fairer, many do not and stand in the way of passing beneficial legislation. 2023 could nonetheless be the year in which new laws and federal regulations are finally passed to protect consumers and make the marketplace for tickets fairer.
Before the pandemic, momentum for reforms had been building for years. This was, in part, kick started by a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on issues facing fans in the ticketing market. The regulatory pressure escalated in 2019 when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a workshop on online event tickets. Although COVID stopped the progress being made, uproar from fans around high prices from Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” for Bruce Springsteen tickets and the meltdown of Ticketmaster technology during Taylor Swift’s ticket sales led to a hearing in January 2023 held by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. At that hearing, Senators grilled Ticketmaster and homed in on how Ticketmaster’s market power led to consumer harm.
The Taylor Swift incident also led the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate “whether Live Nation is abusing its market dominance in the ticket industry” and whether it is in compliance with its consent decree that prescribed market conduct requirements when the government approved the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in 2010. Incidents such as the Wiltern Theater venue in Los Angeles in 2019 not letting in fans who bought resale tickets and the fiasco around Ticketmaster’s sale of Taylor Swift’s tour have highlighted that reforms in the ticketing market are desperately needed.
THE TICKET BUYER’S BILL OF RIGHTS
This year, Protect Ticket Rights was please to support and join the effort to pass the Ticket Buyer’s Bill of Rights, a set of principles endorsed by leading national and state consumer protection and event fan advocacy organizations.
The Ticket Buyer’s Bill of Rights serves a framework for ticketing legislation that can improve the live events ticketing market that serves millions of fans each year. The Bill of Rights features five pillars:
If you haven’t already signed the petition on the Ticket Buyer’s Bill of Rights website, please do so now. Lawmakers in state capital and in Washington, DC value and appreciate the viewpoints of the Ticket Buyer’s Bill of Rights as the only truly fans-focused voice in what is becoming an otherwise crowded debate among industry players – primary ticketing companies, artists management companies, venues - seeking more control and profit.
FEDERAL LEGISLATION THAT WE ARE WATCHING
BOSS and SWIFT Act
Federal legislation, known previously as the BOSS Act but updated to the BOSS and SWIFT Act after the Taylor Swift ticketing meltdown, was reintroduced in May by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). We have long supported this bill because it would make tickets more accessible and affordable, increase transparency in the ticketing market, while also protecting a consumer’s right to freely comparison shop and transfer their tickets if they desire. It is comprehensive legislation that would reform the entire ticketing industry – primary and secondary – and hold all players in the ticketing system to an equal, and more accountable, standard.
Each ticket seller would have to play fair, and transparently, and respect the rights of ticketholders. The BOSS and SWIFT act would push the live events ecosystem towards parity, rather than being dominated by a few select monopolists, by mandating disclosures of the total number and cost of tickets that will be offered to the general public. The bill would also require that fans are aware of the full price of tickets up front instead of being surprised by fees right at the end. It requires refund protection, ends deceptive speculative ticket sales by requiring clear and conspicuous disclosures so that consumers are aware of how such sales work, prohibits venues from discriminating against fans and denying their entry for buying tickets from sellers other than their own box office or ticketer, and more.
The Transparency In Charges for Key Events Ticketing Act, or TICKET Act, introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), is all about transparency. It would require ticket sellers to disclose the full price of the ticket, including fees, upfront. The Act would also mandate clear and conspicuous disclosure of “speculative” tickets, where a ticket is not yet in possession of the seller but where the seller will later procure the tickets and deliver them prior to the event and where the transaction is protected with a moneyback guarantee if the tickets are not delivered as promised. Speculative ticketing can be a valuable way for fans to buy tickets, but the harm with speculative sales is when tickets are not delivered as promised or if the consumer is misled into believing the seller already has the tickets and incurs travel or other costs prior to the tickets being delivered. Protect Ticket Rights supports this legislation, which would increase much needed transparency for live event enthusiasts.
Junk Fees Prevention Act
The Junk Fees Prevention Act, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is similar to the TICKET Act above in attempting to eliminate hidden fees in ticketing. Within this broader legislation are provisions related to tickets. Specifically, it will require all-in, upfront transparent pricing, disclosure of speculative tickets, and disclosure of deceptive ticket holdbacks where the venue or primary ticketer secretly holds back tickets to create artificial scarcity. The Act has received votes of support from Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, Consumer Reports, and other groups. Protect Ticket Rights is proud to support the Junk Fees Prevention Act.
Unlock Ticketing Markets Act
The Unlock Ticketing Markets Act, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), dropped after Sen. Klobuchar repeatedly grilled Live Nation President Joe Berchtold at a Senate hearing on the company’s failure to successfully distribute tickets to Taylor Swift’s tour. The bill would authorize the FTC to “to prevent the use of excessively long multi-year exclusive contracts,” a move that would allow competitors to gain some ground in the primary ticketing market. The Unlock Ticketing Marketing Act would prohibit long term (more than 4 years) ticketing exclusivity contacts with venues. Some independent venues have alleged that powerful companies like Live Nation threaten venues that they will not receive music tours promoted by the company if they don’t also agree to have its Ticketmaster division handle all of the ticketing. This is precisely the kind of bullying behavior that the DOJ consent agreement for Live Nation/Ticketmaster prohibits.
A handful of states are also working to solve issues in the live event ticketing market. Some states already protect ticket transferability (New York, Colorado, Utah, Virginia, Connecticut, and Illinois). Some of these states are considering adding provisions that may unknowingly aid live events monopolies to further entrench themselves. Thankfully, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado vetoed a flawed industry bill this year. While the bill had improved significantly from its original draft, it would have given permission to live event ticketing giants Ticketmaster and AXS, and music venues to deceive consumers when tickets go on sale by creating fake scarcity, all while turning a blind eye to illegal software bots that scoop up tickets before humans can instead of reporting their usage to law enforcement.
Some states have tried to pass legislation that would restrict the transferability of tickets that have already been purchased by ticketholders. Laws that restrict transferability are not written with fans as the top priority, they come from dominant players in the live events industry trying to further entrench themselves. Until there is federal legislation that protects fans’ rights, ticketing monopolies will continue to dominate and use their power to influence these state legislatures.
Ticketing Rights and Reforms
As Protect Ticket Rights evaluates these and potential future bills, we consider various anti-consumer practices that are underway by powerful players in the live events system. You can read more about them HERE and below:
Holdbacks and Slow Ticketing: This is a well-documented problem that has been investigated by the US GAO, New York Attorney General, and the City and County of Honolulu. It is not uncommon for up to half of the tickets for an event to be secretly held back from the public when tickets go on sale. This scheme was a huge problem for the Taylor Swift tour, as was documented by the Wall Street Journal. The Journal estimated that 94% of Swift tickets were held back for those with special or exclusive access. Yet while Ticketmaster initially claimed tickets had sold out, still today Ticketmaster continues to send out access codes for held back Taylor Swift tickets.
This deceptive industry scheme creates fake scarcity to induce a ticket-buying frenzy so that consumers panic, and in believing there are scarce tickets left, are compelled to buy now. Consumers without special or exclusive access to pre-sales are abused during the public on-sale of tickets, where they may miss work and spend hours in an online waiting room only to be left with intentionally opaque options. When the true inventory of tickets is not presented to fans, they are not capable of making the best possible purchase decision. Primary ticketers and venues refer to holdbacks as a "trade secret" which is laughable. Consumers deserve transparency around this deceptive industry practice.
Transferability: A ticket must be freely transferable at no additional cost to protect consumers’ right to freely use, transfer, resell, or give away their purchased tickets as they wish. Tickets should not be digitally tied to any one company’s propriety systems or app.
Invalidating Tickets Purchased from a Reseller or Ticket Marketplace: Venues are using ticket-scanning technology that can deny entry to ticketholders who purchased their ticket from a competitor to their box office or the contracted, “primary” ticketing issuer (most often Ticketmaster or AXS, but also smaller companies too). And they deceivingly tell media and lawmakers that fans with "fake tickets" are showing up at their doors and causing problems, when in fact these are valid tickets already sold by the venue or primary ticketer, which they invalidate or won't scan for entry simply because they were resold by the ticketholder outside of their fee-collecting box office or systems. They were already paid their price and fees, and discriminating against these fans is wrong, and misrepresenting these as "fake tickets" is downright disingenuous.
Resale Platform Exclusivity: Some sports leagues, teams and primary ticket platforms are requiring ticket buyers to use a designated resale ticket platform should they wish to resell their tickets with terms set and controlled by the team. This restricts the reseller and contradicts the free market, ending in tickets not being able to be resold.
Ticket-Buying Software (Illegal Bots): The use of computer software commonly known as “bots” and auto-dialing programs to rapidly buy up event tickets before fans have a fair chance to do so is detrimental to consumers and the overall tickets industry. Ticket bots are illegal under federal law, and Protect Ticket Rights opposes the use of bots and supports efforts to crack down on their use. We support proposals that would mandate the reporting of bot attacks to federal authorities.
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