Just over two years after repealing its anti-scalping laws, Minnesota is looking to alter its ticketing legislation for the second time.
During the spring, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill with stronger ticketing regulations, which included measures to improve transparency on or before tickets initially go on sale.
The new provision took effect on August 1, but already there have been some complaints that the rules don’t have enough teeth.
“The initial seller of tickets shall make available for sale all tickets under control of the initial seller in the manner and under terms directed by the provider of the event or venue,” the new law states. “The initial seller shall not, unless authorized by the provider of the event or venue, divert tickets from the initial sale to the general public to be sold in any other manner or under any other terms.”
It continues, “No person or entity, with intent to defraud, may sell or offer for sale a ticket that is invalid, counterfeit, altered, or otherwise not genuine.”
The new law is partly designed to deal with artist, promoter and venue holdbacks, large groups of tickets that are withheld from the general public before tickets go on sale. These tickets are often withheld for fan clubs, credit card promotions and VIP packages, and they can dramatically shrink the number of tickets that initially go on sale to the general public.
Minnesota State Rep. Joe Atkins, who co-sponsored the new bill, has reportedly received complaints from constituents that they have been shut out from various “onsales” for shows in the state, for which some are saying brokers are responsible. Atkins even told Minnesota Public Radio that he believes some brokers may be continuing to use “bot” software, which has already been outlawed in several states and which Ticketmaster has fought for years. Bot software allows users to bypass captchas and other online safeguards, which in turn gives the users the opportunity to purchase large blocks of tickets quickly.
While there may still be some brokers using the software, so many states have banned it that such usage presents a major risk to their businesses and most brokers have already abandoned using it.
Atkins’s office did not return a message seeking comment, but he is seeking to ban the use of bot software in the state, and he is reportedly scheduled to meet with Ticketmaster representatives at some point soon to discuss that and various other ticket issues.
To illustrate how significant holdbacks can be, for an upcoming U2 concert at the University of Minnesota, 30,000 tickets, out of 58,000, are already being withheld for students (10,000) and season ticket holders (20,000), according to Minnesota Public Radio.
“We are not the bad guys,” ticket broker Brian Obert, co-owner of Minneapolis-based Ticket King, recently told Minnesota Public Radio. Obert and other brokers vehemently deny that brokers are the cause of fans not getting tickets when they initially go on sale.
“When you are dealing with a really small pond and there are thousands and thousands of fishing lines getting thrown into the water at same time, but there is only handful of fish, a lot of people are going to get shut out, and their first reaction is to point the finger at us [ticket brokers],” Obert said.