When thousands of Swift’s admirers were unable to obtain tickets for her summer stadium tour, some diehards paid up to seventy times face value to see her live. This indignation prompted congressional hearings and state legislation to better protect consumers.
Swift’s 10-month U.S. tour has concluded, as have the reforms that consumer advocates and industry groups had hoped to pass this year. The U.S. Senate has thus far failed to advance a proposal. The Democratic governor of Colorado vetoed legislation at the urging of consumer groups.
In California, home to iconic recording studios such as Capitol Records and influential clubs such as the Whiskey A Go Go and Hollywood Bowl, a robust array of legislation has been watered down to a single bill banning hidden fees, something New York and Connecticut have already done and the majority of major industry players have already committed to doing on their own.
“Is that it? That’s all we’re going to do? California, the nation’s leader in so many consumer protection issues, and we’re going to do nothing? Robert Herrell, executive director of the California Consumer Federation, stated. “This is embarrassing. It’s not sufficient.”
The delayed progress in altering how tickets should be sold and resold demonstrates not only the tenacity of industry opposition, but also the regulatory difficulties in a technologically disrupted market. No longer must one wait in line at a box office to determine which seats are available and how much they cost.
Almost all tickets are sold online and distributed to mobile phones and other devices today. Frequently, consumers do not know how much they will pay until just before they press the purchase button, when fees and charges, which are sometimes nearly as much as the ticket price, are added.
According to consumer groups, venues frequently do not indicate how many seats are available for a particular event, but instead release tickets in increments, causing consumers to spend more out of a mistaken dread of missing out.
The Rise of Speculative Sales and Counterfeit Venue Websites
Some evil actors use software to rapidly purchase large quantities of tickets for resale at inflated prices. They will even sell tickets before they are in their possession, a practice known as “speculative ticketing” that consumer advocacy groups deem hazardous and unreliable. Some even imitate venue websites so consumers believe they are purchasing tickets directly from the venue.
Sharp disagreements between venues, ticket merchants, consumer groups, and artists have complicated consumer rights issues that initially appeared straightforward.
In an effort to clamp down on “the secondary market to sweep the inventory, inflate the price, and price gouge our fans,” artists and venues want to limit how fans can resell tickets.
Consumer groups argue that purchasers are free to do whatever they wish with their tickets, including upselling. The Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, vetoed a bill earlier this year in part due to this disagreement, despite the fact that the bill contained consumer-friendly provisions such as the prohibition of concealed fees, price increases, and speculative ticket sales.
Consumer organizations in California have primarily targeted Live Nation Entertainment, the company that owns Ticketmaster and controls the majority of ticket sales and venues in the United States for touring music artists. However, the debate is expanding to include artists, prominent men’s professional sports teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco 49ers, and independent venues with a capacity of 1,000 or fewer, including over 600 in California alone.
Julia Heath, president of the California chapter of the National Independent Venue Association, remarked that the majority of individuals are discussing “how this is an attempt to target Ticketmaster and Live Nation.” In actuality, they are aiming at them, but they are striking everyone else as well.
The most contentious issue was whether teams, venues, and artists should be permitted to restrict the resale of tickets by supporters.
This year, a bill that would have permitted teams, venues, and artists to restrict how fans resell tickets failed to pass the Assembly due to opposition from consumer groups. The bill’s author, state senator Anna Caballero, vowed to conduct a hearing on the matter once the legislature adjourns.
A resolution introduced by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman would prohibit venues and performers from restricting resale. The measure would have also required venues to disclose the number of available tickets for an event in order to prevent “holdbacks.” Ultimately, the measure was amended to remove both of these provisions in response to significant opposition from the industry.
“It’s been very challenging. From the outset, there was a strong and concerted effort to lobby against this measure,” said Friedman, adding that she was disappointed the bill was not stronger.
Industry organizations are also dismayed. Heath, who represents independent venues, referred to the legislation as a “do-nothing bill.”
“Many of our concerns have been addressed, but we see this as a missed opportunity,” she said. Currently, there are issues in the ticketing industry that must be addressed.