Ticketmaster Promises Better Transparency On Pricing

Ticketmaster has announced that for some venues, it will begin showing the combined ticket price (actual ticket + service fees) up front, and will allow a short refund window of three days. The company is still loathsome–on their blog, the CEO Nathan Hubbard chummily states that when it comes to service fees, “You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.” But these are still welcome changes to what’s almost always the worst part of attending a live event: dealing with Ticketmaster.

Don’t worry, Ticketmaster isn’t suddenly trying to rehabilitate its image. This just makes good business sense, says Hubbard:

All of the research we’ve done, and all of our conversations with fans like you tell us that the way we present these fees in the check out process is a huge frustration for you and hurts ticket sales. You just want to know UP FRONT in the buying process how much of your hard earned money you are being asked to pay for a given seat. If we are as transparent as possible with you sooner in the purchase process, you can make the decision about how much you want to pay to go to an event. The problem is that historically we haven’t told you how much you have to pay for a given seat until very late in the buying process. And our data tells us this angers many of you to the point that you abandon your purchase once you see the total cost, and that you don’t come back. The data also says (and this is the important piece) that if we had told you up front what the total cost was, you would have bought the ticket! So by perpetuating this antiquated fee presentation, fans are getting upset, while we and our clients are losing ticket sales.

The return policy will only apply to Live Nation Venues. The new ticket price policy should roll out to almost all events in the coming days with the exception of “a select few cases [where] our contracts with venues prevent us from making this change,” and for now at least it won’t include any “per order” fees like shipping charges–you’ll still have to get to the end of the transaction to see those.

“First Things First” [Ticketology via CNET News]

Comments

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  1. Megalomania says:

    So the guy decides to be a douchebag about the whole service fee thing and say that people don’t understand what they’re for… and declines to perhaps expand upon what they’re for and get rid of that frustration that he feels is misplaced.

    I’d love to see the explanation for paying to print your own ticket. Is there a union of ticket printers who have to get paid every time a ticket is printed?

    • craptastico says:

      we know what they’re for. it’s called profit. and when you consider the small service they provide it’s excessive.

    • Anonymously says:

      Actually, that union idea seems plausible.

    • coren says:

      If that were the case, then..let’s use an example. Say the ticket printer gets a dollar per ticket printed.

      50 dollar ticket, 49 goes to ticketmaster after the printer if I get it mailed.

      50 dollar ticket, plus 2.50 for me to print, and no money to the printer (or hell give him a dollar anyway) – still more money for ticketmaster. I really can’t fathom the reason there.

  2. deejmer says:

    I’ve stopped going to national acts mostly because of TicketMaster and their lame ass fees structure. I now just support my local music acts. I’d love to see TicketMaster fail as a result of a nationwide boycott.

    • poctob says:

      +1. I only go to the local events where I can get tickets from the box office.

      • LightningUsagi says:

        I tried doing that once…buying the tickets directly from the box office. Turned out that tickets purchased there were thru Ticketmaster as well, and I had to still pay all of the fees, including the ‘convenience charge’. I don’t know how me driving downtown and paying a parking meter so I could go buy tickets was more convenient than sitting in front of my computer and doing it, but whatever. I just don’t understand what the heck convenience is.

        • BurtReynolds says:

          Exactly. The fact that I am not offered an “inconvenient” alternative to Ticketmasters “convenience” charges just makes the extra money coming out of my pocket sting more.

          If a gas station offers full service for $3.00 a gallon and self-serve for $2.75 a gallon, you know where that extra $0.25 a gallon is going, and is in essence your convenience charge for someone else pumping your gas. That is fair and acceptable.

          Ticketmaster on the other hand charges $3.00 no matter how you get their product, and has the audacity to charge you extra for the ultimate “self-serve” of printing your tickets at home. Its disgusting. The fact these two anti-fan friendly conglomerates were allowed to merge and someone was convinced it didn’t result in a monopoly just makes buying tickets even more frusturating.

          Hey Nate. Hiding the extra charge and displaying the fees doesn’t make it any easier to swallow the fact you are paying $60 for a $40 ticket. And when I do decide to pay your exorbitant fees, why can’t I select the very seat I want to sit in? Its 2010, and if I see a show at a large venue, I should be able to try and buy Seat A in Row 23 in Section 100. If that seat isn’t available, i should be able to try Seat A in Row 24, not get auto-assigned Seat B in Row 23.

  3. George4478 says:

    I agree with what he’s saying. I have abandoned several ticket purchases for music and sporting events when my tickets became 50% more expensive in the last step before purchase.

    And I would really like to see the explanation for the “print your own damn tickets using your damn ink and paper” fee that would make me feel better about it.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Ticketmaster explained a few years ago that the charge/fee for printing your own ticket is that it pays for the scanners, hardware, software and all the other bullsh*t things that make it possible for you to print your own ticket.
      To me it’s incredible that they can say with a straight face that this charge/fee is somehow of benefit to you. Then what the H E double toothpicks are all the other fees for?

  4. jason in boston says:

    Pro Tip: Go to the venue and actually buy tickets at the gate. No ticketmaster fees that way.

    You are actually paying for the convenience of not having to drive up to the ticket window. What is worth more? Your time + gas + parking or the fees?

    • DariusC says:

      By that logic, Netflix should charge a 5 dollar rental fee on top of each rental as a convenience fee for you not having to drive to the store.

      Oh wait, that is when something is delivered to you… its backwards with ticketmaster.

    • TheWillow says:

      ProTip: Many concert venues are contracted with ticketmaster. Even if you go to the box office, you’re still paying the convenience fee.

      • jason in boston says:

        In the Boston area (even as far away as Worcester), I have yet to pay above the ticket price when I show up to the box office.

        Fenway Park, The Garden, The Wilbur Theatre, the Wang, House of Blues, Agannis, the Worcester Centrum, Great Woods, Verizon Pavilion. I have not paid above ticket price, even when paying for plastic. This may be YMMV for me, but maybe in other parts of the country this is true.

        I have to buy some LoiusCK tickets before friday and will do the same thing…noting what the actual price of the tickets are.

    • pot_roast says:

      Not always true, unfortunately. Some venues will even charge a “box office service fee” now. The fees they charge are a few dollars less than what Ticketbastard charges, of course, but just barely. I have seen several venues that do this.

    • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

      You would be absolutely correct if that’s the way it actually worked.

      Unfortunately, there are many venues that have licensed Ticketmaster to be their exclusive ticket provider, including in person at the box office, and the “convenience charge” still applies, even when I’ve used my gas, time, parking change, etc. and am standing directly in front of the box office.

    • jessjj347 says:

      Apart from the 5 replies sayings exactly the same thing…. I’d also like to add that if your local venue does not charge fees then it is worth your time/transportation cost if you’re buying several tickets. So, if you and 3 friends are going it’s worth it, but not if you’re just getting one ticket.

      Also, the venues do usually charge a “credit card fee”, so bring cash to avoid that.

      • coren says:

        For me, time when I’m not at work is time I’m making 0 dollars and 0 cents an hour and therefore I have no problem whatsoever saving 20 to 40 bucks (or more) by going to the venue. hell, 20 bucks an hour (and considering it’s only about 20 minutes of my time, that’s an effective rate of 60/hour) is more than I make now.

      • jason in boston says:

        I usually just get 2 tickets on the way from work if it is something that would be cool if the price is right.

        But for the christmas presents (Wilbur Theatre especially…I like live comedy), I will usually buy 5 or so shows. You can sometimes haggle with the prices with the manager selling tickets. I got 1 of the tickets for free.

  5. damageinc says:

    I go to a ton of concerts…thank god the local venue here rarely sells out (and announces if they are about to), and most of the time offers discount “drink tickets” for shows, where tickets are only $15-20 at the door and include 2 drinks. I only have to deal with Ticketmaster once or twice a year for the big name concerts and festival shows.

  6. HogwartsProfessor says:

    This is a load of crap. They’re still going to fee you to death and it’s still a huge ripoff, and they’re still the monopoly. I haven’t been to a concert in years, and it’s mostly because of them.

    The data also says (and this is the important piece) that if we had told you up front what the total cost was, you would have bought the ticket!

    WRONG.

    • dg says:

      I haven’t been to a concert or show handled by TicketBastards for DECADES because of the fees. I know precisely what they are for: Padding the wallets of the Pritzker Family (which owns TicketBastards).

      I don’t care when you show the fee, I’m not paying it. Figure out a way to get a cut of the gate from the venue, and stop with all the BS fees.

  7. toddkravos says:

    When Interpol cancelled their tour (because of that d-bag Bono and his medical issues)
    They refunded all but 28.00 of the total purchase price.
    Why? Because those asshats don’t refund service fees.
    How can they keep a fee for a service that I’m not using?

    Of course all that BS is in the minisule fine print they present to you during the ~4:30 checkout process. Buncha bollocks.

    • cosmic.charlie says:

      Chargeback. You bought something they didn’t deliver. Not your problem.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        If the contract specifies that the service fees aren’t refundable, a chargeback isn’t going to help.

      • George4478 says:

        He paid a service fee to get the tickets. He got the tickets. It sucks, but Ticketmaster fulfilled their part of the deal. So says their fine print terms and conditions.

    • theycallmeGinger says:

      Oh, that’s painful! I was very close to buying those tickets, too. They’re doing a local tour now because of the cancellation. It’s so much more worth it to see them at a small venue. If it’s not too late, you should try to catch them. Priceless. And I didn’t have to give TM a dime.

  8. cmdr.sass says:

    Except a $3 per ticket transparency fee coming soon.

  9. cmdr.sass says:

    Expect a $3 per ticket transparency fee coming soon.

  10. ColHapablap says:

    New federal law proposal: When selling an item, retailers must show the entire price that will be paid for that item up front, and cannot add additional fees later in the process, unless those fees are from an external governmental entity.

    Discuss.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      +1000.

    • johnva says:

      That would hit the airline industry’s horrible practice, too. Agree.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Most industries seem to think the “fee to death” approach is better than just raising prices. A plane ticket could just cost $500, but the airlines in particular seem to think that there is an advantage to saying the ticket is $150 and then listing out 7 fees totaling an extra $350 (exaggerated example). Same with car dealers trying to make you think the “doc fee” is mandatory. If it really is, just roll it into the price. Paying an extra $350 aside from the price of the car doesn’t make me feel better about it.

      I mean I even saw this approach at Robeks. Apparently orange juice went up in price, so they had a sign saying there would be an upcharge of some amount on smoothies with OJ in it. This would be fine if it was temporary, but I’ve seen that sign up for at least a year now. Just raise the price.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      What about shipping charges?

  11. pop top says:

    I’m glad that of the two national-level bands that I actually care about seeing, I get free tickets from one and the other plays at venues that don’t use Ticketmaster.

  12. Clyde Barrow says:

    “CEO Nathan Hubbard chummily states that when it comes to service fees, “You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.”

    Gee Nathan, why don’t you blog and tell us what these service fees are so all of us “idiots” can get it. lol.

    • cmenter says:

      What they mean is what’s described in their financial statements as follows:

      “Most written agreements provide for the payment of royalties to clients, which are heavily negotiated, in an amount equal to a mutually agreed upon portion of related per ticket convenience charges on all tickets sold through all the Company distribution channels and per order “order processing” fees on all tickets sold online or by telephone.”

      The fees charged by TM basically flow back to venue operators, out of which they pay artists and tour managers. This fee structure arises mainly from the preference of artists and venues, not Ticketmaster. Basically venues agree with TM that they will keep face values low, which is politically appealing, and recoup additional cash through fee royalties.

      So my problem with TM is less the degree of fees and more (1) the generally poor level of service to the public and (2) the degree of consolidation that’s been permitted in this industry. The fees are a non-issue for me because it wouldn’t really be any better if that part of the price was moved to the face value.

  13. Rocket says:

    These are the same guys who charge you $2.50 to print your own ticket, but will mail it to you for free.

  14. tape says:

    “You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.”

    We do understand what they’re for — ripping us off. There is absolutely no other explanation, for example, for the “print your tickets at home on your own printer” costing whatever it is ($4? I forget the exact figure), but yet having tickets mailed to me, which costs Ticketmaster for an envelope, stamp, and printing the ticket, is free.

    Your whole business model is based on taking something that already exists (tickets for events) and selling them for a higher price. Stop trying to pretend that you’re doing something more altruistic than that, because you’re not.

  15. econobiker says:

    Artists need to be allowed to auction off the concert tickets based on date and seating location and then harvest the difference between a base seat cost and the actual paid price.

    This would accomplish:
    Ticketmaster- gone
    Scalpers- gone
    Artists- better compensated in the digital market

  16. theycallmeGinger says:

    “our data tells us this angers many of you”

    This reeks of condescension. He’s either just figured this stuff out and is exclaiming his new found knowledge, or he has a really bad PR person telling him to placate his stupid customer base by talking to them like they’re idiots. When I read this, I imagine him going through a range of facial expressions, from excited/happy to sad/pouty, then back to happy. Like a caricature, not a real human.

  17. PunditGuy says:

    Ticketmaster made sense at one point, as the infrastructure for handling e-commerce was complicated. Now, however, every venue can have a server in their basement (or at Amazon, or at Yahoo, or at a million other hosting centers) to handle their own ticket sales simply. I’d rather be mildly ripped off by a local venue than mugged by Ticketmaster.

    • johnva says:

      I’m surprised that more venues don’t just dump them and pocket all of some reduced fees (or just higher ticket prices) themselves. That would be a win-win for everyone.

      • BurtReynolds says:

        I also don’t know why more artists don’t try to find work arounds or simply stand up to Ticketmaster and Live Nation. Pearl Jam tried,but last time I saw them it was a Ticketmaster ticket.

        Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden and the band’s manager were interviewed last week and talked about how no one can afford a concert ticket and how its a shame. Granted, when I saw his show the actual ticket price was reasonable, but it was still a Ticketmaster ticket at a Live Nation venue.

        The large bands with loyal followings could easily tell TM/LN to back off or to limit their charges to ensure the total price of a ticket is reasonable, but from what I can tell, zero have actually held TM/LN to the fire on it. Really, it might only take a few big acts turning their back on the “machine” to get the ball rolling. Maybe some other companies would be spawned to do low-fee internet based ticketing (maybe through a band’s website), which even smaller acts could take advantage of to the benefit of their fans.

        • johnva says:

          Like I said, it seems to me that what Ticketmaster offers is in no way a unique service. Anyone could duplicate what they do these days on a minimal budget. Simply sell the tickets yourself online (this could be the artist or the venue) and let people print them for free. Scanning of barcodes can be done very easily nowadays with off-the-shelf hardware, and combined with some sort of mobile Internet it would be very easy to write software to check the validity of the tickets (or you could just have each of the scanners download the valid ticket database into it in advance). It certainly wouldn’t cost anywhere near what Ticketmaster charges to do it.

          Then they could just eliminate the fees altogether, charge a LOWER overall price, and make more money by getting a bigger chunk of what used to be Ticketmaster’s cut. Why deal with a middleman who gets a chunk of the cash people pay to attend your event when that middleman doesn’t provide a useful service that you couldn’t easily run yourself? Someone should research how to do this and then sell a consulting service specifically to help these venues get started with cutting Ticketmaster out of the loop.

  18. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.”

    Oh, we know what they’re for. They’re your method of wildly abusing your monopoly position to extort utterly unreasonable amounts of money from consumers who have nowhere else to go to purchase tickets.

  19. kylere1 says:

    I have stopped attending any event that does not give me ticket options other than Ticketmaster/Livenation. If everyone else voted with their dollars you would see real change. Until then this is like talking about comparative religion with a fundamental xian.

  20. nonsane says:

    “You just want to know UP FRONT”
    YES, we want to know how much we are paying? How daft are you.
    Did they at any point think that people _enjoyed_ the extra fees?

  21. 420greg says:

    The bands have some say in this. When I go to see my favorite band (Social Distortion), they have a clause (the pearl jam clause) , that there has to be at least one outlet to buy tickets for face value. It is usually the venue. But sometimes a local record store.

  22. odhen says:

    Most of the shows I go to where I actually buy tickets early are through etix.com. They charge a fee, but it’s nowhere near the ridiculous percentage of ticketmaster. It’s maybe 2-3 dollars on top of a 15 dollar ticket, and even that’s sometimes still cheaper than paying at the door the night of.

  23. Mcshonky says:

    The CEO is a ass.
    ……the CEO Nathan Hubbard chummily states that when it comes to service fees, “You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.”

    Isn’t it TM’s job to explain the fees so we understand what we are paying for.

    I NEVER buy tickets online.
    living in NYC I go to the venue and get them direct.
    Cheaper.
    Goods in hand immediately after financial transaction.
    Easily resold or given away if I can’t make the event.

  24. coren says:

    The 3 day policy is something they’re carrying over from Livenation, and it’s worded in such a way as to lead consumers (and their agents) to believe that you can return shit up to a week before the event (which I’m fighting with them over right now)

  25. Mr.Grieves says:

    “You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for.”

    Yeah yeah, I bet buddy. Charging me a fee to print a ticket off MY PRINTER, screw you. I hate ticket master but it is the only way to get tickets for concerts around here.

    And with this story, “Ticketmaster has announced that for SOME venues”, why only some? Why not all? Slimey bastards trying to get good press but it’s all political backtalk.

  26. Geekybiker says:

    I wouldn’t mind paying the fees if they were reasonable. Say $5 at most a ticket. However the cost of running a website + CC fees etc is such a tiny fraction of what they charge. Profit isn’t a dirty word, but there are limits.

  27. ElizabethD says:

    I don’t give a *&@# about itemizing the extra charges. I hate that the extra charges are so ridiculous. Ticketmaster makes me craaaazy.

  28. AugustaCassiopeia says:

    I like how they skip the fact that their fees are as much or more as the actual tickets themselves.
    THATS what pisses people off….pffft morons…

  29. skapig says:

    Here’s how it works:
    – The base ticket price almost all goes to the promoter of the event. A small percentage is payed on this end for the service (yep, they get paid on both ends).
    – All of the convenience and service charges tacked on go to Ticketmaster and are payed by you the consumer. Bottom line is that these net them big bucks for minimal cost.

    It’s not unreasonable that they expect some kind of service charge, but they have long since entered the realm of insanity. The costs for a transaction are: printing, hosting, credit card fee, maybe postage, and organizational overhead. Even padded with some profit, it should be nowhere close to what they charge.

  30. RancidPolecat2 says:

    The amount of the charge is irrelevant. Their entire business model is based on a lie – that they are providing a service to the concert goer (they’re not). They provide a service to the concert promoter/organizer/venue and are charging you. When you pay to go see a concert, you’re paying to reserve a seat. The ticket is just a receipt. How many other businesses charge the consumer for a receipt?