Fan Freedom Project Questions Pro-Ticketmaster Coalition's Motives
Consumer advocates, property rights activists and live-event fans across Tennessee who oppose legislation supported by Ticketmaster have raised serious concerns and questions about the motives of a statewide coalition that is supporting the ticketing giant in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Sports & Entertainment Industry Coalition (TSEIC) released a statement on Monday calling on Tennessee lawmakers to pass a Ticketmaster-supported bill that thousands of Tennesseans, consumer advocates and property rights activists strongly oppose because of blatant anti-consumer and antitrust provisions, according to Fan Freedom Project.
If passed, the Fairness in Ticketing Act (HB 3437/SB 3441) would deem tickets as “revocable licenses” that “may be cancelled at any time, with or without cause, by the ticket issuer.” The bill would also codify the practice of restrictive ticketing methods, opening the door for Ticketmaster and sports teams to force consumers to exclusively use their resale sites to transfer tickets.
“We agree with the TSEIC that fans deserve protection and transparency to help them make better purchasing decisions on the resale market, but it's obvious that we need comprehensive reform that also addresses the primary ticketing market,” said Jon Potter, president of Fan Freedom Project. “The TSEIC's unwillingness to hold the primary market to the same standards of transparency that they're calling for in the secondary market is reason to believe that they are more concerned with corporate economic self-interests rather than the fans.”
The high-profile group consists of more than 60 artists, venues and entertainment organizations, most of which have contracts with Ticketmaster or its parent company, Live Nation.
The legislation, which was introduced in March, is being reviewed next Tuesday, Nov. 13, by members of the bill's study committee. Consumer advocates and fans are hopeful that Tennessee's lawmakers will look to other states for examples of balanced, pro-consumer legislation that aims to solve ticketing problems. New York, for instance, recently passed legislation requiring ticket issuers to give consumers the option to purchase traditional, transferable tickets for events at which restrictive tickets are being sold.
“As we've stated all along, we agree with the bill's supporters that consumers deserve protection from deceptive ticket practices, and we look forward to having the opportunity to work with them and the legislature on ensuring that consumers have a fair shot at buying tickets,” said Elizabeth Owen, former director of the Tennessee Consumer Affairs Division and current consumer advocate for Fan Freedom Project. “But this bill is a Trojan horse placed by Ticketmaster, concert producers and teams to sneak restrictions on fans' rights into law and monopolize the ticket resale market. To disguise it as pro-consumer legislation backed by hometown country music stars misstates the facts and underestimates the intelligence of consumers and legislators in Tennessee.”
TSEIC claims that this bill is good for consumers; but public statements from the group about the bill and why they support it are misleading, according to many. Chris Grimm, communications director for Fan Freedom Project, released the following analysis in response to claims made by the TSEIC on Monday:
TDEIC MYTH #1: Scalpers routinely purchase some of the best seats the second they go on sale by using illegal “bot” software for the sole purpose of reselling tickets to make a profit. In using “bots,” scalpers cut in line ahead of fans and deprive them of the chance to purchase tickets at face value.
THE FACTS: As we witnessed in a recent investigative report from Nashville, venues and artists hold back up to 90 percent of allotted tickets for any event, and even resell tickets to their own fans at inflated prices; but they continue to blame bots for instant sellouts. Furthermore, Tennessee already has a law that prohibits the use of bots; but it is rarely enforced. Ticketmaster and its partners can easily identify bot offenders for any given show, as we also witnessed in a separate investigative report from Nashville; but they choose not to pursue these offenders because they don't want the public to know about the appalling number of ticket holdbacks.
TDEIC MYTH #2: Many ticket resellers do not disclose essential information to consumers, preventing them from making informed purchase decisions. Currently, resellers do not have to disclose whether they have the tickets in hand, the face-value ticket price, the location of the seats or that they are a ticket reseller.
THE FACTS: Fan Freedom Project and other consumer groups support provisions in the bill that would require more transparency from ticket resellers to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. What the Coalition and Ticketmaster don't want to address is comprehensive reform that would create as much transparency in the primary market as it does in the secondary market. Announcing how many tickets are available to the general public after ticket holdbacks, for instance, would help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.
TDEIC MYTH #3: Preserve consumer-friendly ticketing methods by ensuring that fans have the best shot at the best seats at face-value prices, and preserve the rights of artists, sports teams and venues to use the ticketing methods they choose.
THE FACTS: Ticketmaster and its partners use the term “consumer-friendly ticketing methods” as a euphemism for restrictive paperless tickets – a method that is anything but fan-friendly. By being able to use restrictive ticketing methods, Ticketmaster, teams and artists are taking away fans' rights to do what they want with their tickets. Ultimately, this is an attempt to eliminate competition in the secondary market by forcing consumers to buy and sell unused tickets exclusively on their resale websites, such as ticketsnow.com.
About Fan Freedom Project
Launched in February 2011, the Fan Freedom Project is supported by more than 100,000 live-event fans, including more than 5,000 Tennesseans, and is backed by leading consumer and business organizations such as the American Conservative Union, National Consumers League, Consumer Action, the Institute for Liberty, the League of Fans, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and Net Choice.