On Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 10 a.m. a hearing will take place in Tennessee discussing the proposed Fairness in Ticketing Act (SB3441/HB3437). The bill — supported by Ticketmaster-funded Fans First Coaltion and the Tennesee Sports & Entertainment Coaltion (TSEIC), a group comprised of venues, management teams, and event promoters — is being touted as a way to protect fans from ticket resellers.
The bill calls for strict regulations on the resale marketplace requiring ticket brokers to register with the state and abide by slew of rules in an effort to create transparency within the secondary market.
Under the Fairness in Ticketing Act, a ticket would no longer be the purchaser’s personal property but instead become a “revocable license.” The bill goes on to state that “The license represented by the ticket may be revoked at any time, with or without cause, by the ticket issuer.”
This has raised concerns from consumer advocates, property rights activists and eventgoers across Tennessee. If passed, the bill will allow companies like Ticketmaster and Live Nation to impose restrictive ticketing methods upon consumers.
Nontransferable paperless tickets introduced by Ticketmaster have already caused plenty of headaches for consumers.With paperless ticketing, the purchaser must be present at the time of the event and bring along both a picture ID and the credit card used in the purchase in order to be allowed entry into the event.
Just last month, mounting frustrations from Radiohead fans made the news in England when Ticketmaster only offered tickets in the paperless format. Fans unable to attend, or wishing to give tickets to family and friends as gifts were out of luck due to the inflexibility of paperless ticketing. These fans aren’t alone.
Tennessee resident Ted Welch voiced similar concerns when he heard about the Fairness in Ticketing Act back in March. In a column titled “Take the Restrictions Off People and Businesses Who Want To Share Sports and Entertainment Tickets”, Welch asks that the Tennessee General Assembly review the bill carefeully before acting, stating “In business and in commerce, when I buy something I own it. Why should tickets be any different?”
In an interview with TicketNews® Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, explained that “[the] law is fundamentally un-fair to fans. It would restrict fans from giving away or selling their own tickets, giving Ticketmaster new powers to control transfers and collect yet another convenience fee.”
Fan Freedom Project president Jon Potter sees the bill as requiring transparency in the secondary market but not the primary. Potter states “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 primary market in general and artists in particular have come under fire recently for withholding tickets from general onsale and reselling them on the secondary market. In September 2012, News Channel 5 in Nashville reported that for his upcoming show in Nashville, Justin Bieber released just 1,001 tickets for general onsale, although the venue seats nearly 14,000. Tickets that were specifically reserved by Justin Beiber’s tour management appeared on the ticket resale site TicketsNow, which is owned by Ticketmaster.
A similar investigation by News Channel 5 uncovered documents for Taylor Swift’s September 2009 show in Nashville, that showed only 1,591 seats in the arena were left available for general sale. Over 11,000 tickets were spoken for before the public sale opened.
The prospective law in Tennessee would require secondary sites to be more transparent, but would not require transparency from venues, primary ticket sellers, or artists like Bieber and Swift. While Tennessee is on the brink of restrictive ticketing practices, others are fighting back.
In New Jersey, for example, the Senate Commerce Committee passed Bill 875, which aims to ban paperless ticketing. And on September 10, 2012, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in New York against Live Nation and Ticketmaster. The suit alledges the companies violated the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law of New York by offering solely paperless ticketing for numerous events spanning July 2, 2010 through January 26, 2012.