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Top 5 things wrong with the live music ticket system

May 21, 2007

1. Service Charges, aka IN-convenience charges. Yay, I’m going to see the Smashing Pumpkins for $25!!! Deal. Wait…2 tickets and the total is $78??? WTF???

Ticketmaster Service Charge “explanation” from ticketmaster.com:

“Face Value of a Ticket
The face value of a ticket is determined by the promoter, venue, or artist. Ticketmaster does not determine the face value of tickets.
Service Charge
This fee covers costs that allow Ticketmaster to provide the widest range of available tickets while giving you multiple ways to purchase. Tickets are available in many areas via local ticket outlet locations, our telephone reservation system and Ticketmaster.ie. Tickets can be purchased through at least one distribution channel virtually 24 hours a day. The service charge varies by event and is determined by negotiations with arena operators, promoters and others based on costs for each event.
Is the service charge always the same no matter where I buy my tickets?
No, the service charge will vary depending upon where you purchase the tickets. There is typically no service charge when you drive to a box office to purchase tickets. A service charge is applied when you purchase from the Internet, phone or ticket outlet and this charge may vary depending upon Ticketmaster’s local agreements with its venue, promoter and outlet partners.
Order Processing Fee
The order processing fee (when applied) covers the cost to fulfill your ticket request when you purchase the tickets online or by phone. This charge includes services like taking and maintaining your order on our ticketing systems, arranging for shipping and/or coordinating with the box office will call. It is applied to an entire order. Both the venue or promoter and Ticketmaster determine the charge on an event-by-event basis. In almost all cases, additional delivery prices may be charged based on the delivery method that you choose.
All taxes are typically included in the face value of the ticket.”

So, ‘ticketbastard’ alone is not at hand in screwing you. Let’s continue with this Smashing Pumpkins example. Shows are announced, price is $25. It’s a special kind of show, and the price seems reasonable. Tickets are ONLY available online. Come 10am on Sunday: hungover potential attendees constantly refreshing their pages until the lucky ones get through. That 3 minute time bomb clock allows us a small amount of time to determine whether or not we want to buy these tickets once we discover the outrageous service charges. More than likely, people just bought them, cursed ticketmaster, and went back to bed. The situation might have been a bit different if tickets were $40 with a smaller service fee. See what I’m saying? It’s a bit bait and switch-y.

And, by the way, getting a free 99 cent itunes song with each ticket purchase does not ease the pain.

2. Scalpers. I always shudder when I pass the homeless looking scalper crowd on my way to a show, spying some young, naive thing peeling money off her stack to buy an eticket. A) never let the scalper see how much money you have. B) never buy an eticket from a scalper unless you’ve walked up to the ticket taker to make sure it is real first.

Moving on, scalpers ruin the concert experience for many people. They take the space that could have belonged to an ecstatic fan who knows all the songs, and replace them with some schmuck with money who’s trying to impress someone. Not as fun to party with. There are many ways to defeat scalpers that are just not being implemented often enough. Nine Inch Nails offers 10% of the venue’s tickets to their fan club first, which, in the case of seated shows, allows for the ans to be up close. Now, I do not mean a stupid presale password. A fan club resale password is like still using dial up- it doesn’t work anymore. It gets sold on ebay and scalpers get their hands on it and then you’re done. I’m talking their own private ticket sale. Another method that mostly works is forcing tickets to be kept at will call, with a small ticket purchase limit (often just 2 tickets). The credit card used to purchase must be there to pick it up.

If I’m forced to buy from a scalper, I buy on ebay only. I can make sure that the seller is highly reviewed, and I can tell if they are a big operation or someone who actually just bought extra tickets that didn’t get used.

3. Misinformation. We pay damn good money to go to shows. So , I take issue with the fact that for the money that I am pating, the only information that I get in return usually is that I am going to see _______ headliner at _________ venue. Often, but not always, there’s a clear expression of when doors open and when the show is supposed to start, and who the opener is. We almost always do not get a schedule that tells us any more details, such as an estimated time the main act will come on. Many shows I go to do not well publicize any additional preliminary openers, and what that means for the schedule. It’d be nice to know.

4. E-tickets: Saves the ticket company’s money, facilitates the scalpers, and leaves no worthwhile piece of memorabilia. I hate e-tickets!!! At least make them look cute or something???

5. Frequent Shopper Programs, anyone? The constant consolidation of venues, promoters, and ticket companies have made or live music experience a ticketmaster, clearchannel, and verizon world. Can you cut me a break somewhere? Please, start some sort of frequency program for all of us that spend all of our extra bucks on your tickets. A little $10 gift certificate for every $200 I spend? A special offer- like a real one- not some $1000 Christina Aguilera ‘meet and greet’.

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