Faced with rising expenses and stagnant membership growth over the past couple of years, the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) has decided to temporarily waive its initiation fees for two months in a bid to lure in new brokers.

For all of this month and September, the group’s fees, normally $975, $1,300 or $1,625 per company for a year, are being completely waived, which means that members who join during that period will not be billed until January, 2010. The NATB, the national trade organization that represents the interests of the secondary ticket market, has not aggressively publicized the move, but a popular subscription-based online broker message board has details about it under an item concerning an NATB 15th anniversary celebration and membership drive.

Joining the NATB has never been an easy endeavor because the group sets its standards high in an effort to keep its membership and public reputation strong. To be considered, prospective members must fill out a lengthy application and receive support from current members. The fee waiver will not affect that process.

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Currently, the NATB boasts about 185 paid members, more than half of which pay the $975 annual rate.

In recent years, as the secondary ticket market has become more mainstream, an increasing number of business and legal issues have cropped up for brokers, as politicians and state and federal officials increasingly wade into the broker world. And, such attention has led to an explosion of the group’s annual expenses.

According to an official with knowledge of the group’s expenditures, annual costs are exceeding $500,000 per year, which goes toward lobbying and public relations efforts, administrative costs, and more than $100,000 to NATB legal counsel Gary Adler. The group is taking in just over $200,000 annually in dues, and it relies on donations and assessments to make up the difference. The Washington, DC-based lobbying firm Venable LLP supplies lobbying services, and that firm alone is paid more than $12,000 per month, TicketNews has learned. The NATB’s annual Las Vegas conference and trade show basically breaks even, but it may have lost a couple of thousand dollars this year, the official said.

NATB president Ken Solky, owner of LasVegasTickets.com, was travelling back to his office from a trip to Chicago and could not be reached for comment.

15 for $15 with Napster!The NATB’s annual fee structure is determined based on the size of a company, with brokerages of one to three employees normally paying $975, companies with four to six employees paying $1,300 and companies with seven or more employees paying $1,625. Members were assessed legal fees this year beginning at $500 for the smaller companies and going up from there, but a few larger brokerages made five-figure donations toward legal fees this year, in part to fight the proposed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

“They’re obviously looking to expand membership so they can raise more cash to fight the new laws,” said Steve Lichtman, an NATB member and owner of Prestige Entertainment. “Waiving fees will mean getting new members who will hopefully see the value in being in the NATB and then will ultimately pay fees.”

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Lichtman added, “With Ken Solky now at the helm of the NATB how will it be possible for the new members not to recognize the value he brings to the table?”