Looking at the possibility of having its hands tied in how it sells tickets, Ticketmaster Entertainment this week came out swinging in the debate over proposed new ticketing legislation in Saskatchewan, Canada.
In a rare opinion editorial, published in The Star Phoenix, Joe Freeman, senior vice president of public affairs and assistant general counsel for Ticketmaster, tried to explain his company’s business model, how ticket brokers allegedly hurt fans, and why the proposed legislation comes up short in protecting consumers.
Among other rules, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan and officials are looking at prohibiting the resale of tickets for 48 hours after they initially go on sale to the general public; primary ticket sellers, such as Ticketmaster, would not be allowed to link to secondary Web sites from the primary site; and reseller Web sites associated with an event’s primary selling site would also be restricted for selling tickets to the event in question.
While Saskatchewan may be a small market for entertainment, similar regulations are being considered in the U.S., under a proposal by New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., and anytime ticketing rules are being considered the whole industry watches.
“There are many misunderstandings about Ticketmaster. We do not: (1) own the tickets being made available for sale on Ticketmaster; (2) ‘hold back’ any tickets entrusted to us by clients; (3) provide preferential access to brokers or others accessing our website; or (4) “divert” tickets to brokers or resale websites, including our online resale site, TicketsNow,” Freeman wrote.
“To the contrary, we invest considerable resources to thwart unscrupulous individuals using automated software or ‘bots’ to unfairly access tickets. We pursue them in court and are in constant contact with law enforcement to ferret out and bring to justice these wrongdoers. Therefore we welcome Morgan’s proposal to outlaw bots,” he continued.
While the use of bots remains an issue for Ticketmaster, Freeman is quick to turn his argument toward ticket brokers, and how paperless ticketing can allegedly help consumers avoid brokers altogether.
“We continue to work closely with our clients to improve the ticketing process,” Freeman wrote. “We are proud to have provided 100 per cent paperless ticketing, where a fan’s credit card serves as the ticket, for Miley Cyrus’s ongoing U.S. tour, as well as for several thousand of the best tickets for concerts at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg — a program being adopted by leading venues across Canada.”
“Our paperless ticketing initiative was used for portions of Bruce Springsteen’s recent tour and will be employed for John Mayer’s 2010 tour, including his April 6 concert at the Credit Union Centre. Paperless ticketing enables performers and promoters to connect directly with fans and bypass brokers,” he added.
Under Morgan’s proposal, Freeman and Ticketmaster believe the company is being singled out, and that ultimately no primary sellers could host secondary ticket resale sites, such as its TicketsNow subsidiary. Ticketmaster also owns TicketExchange, a site that currently serves as the authorized resale site for dozens of professional sports teams, and where artists have been know to sell premium tickets and packages.
“We have launched initiatives such as barring the posting of tickets for resale before they initially are made available for sale (a potentially misleading practice many other online marketplaces allow) and, for select high-profile concert tours, listing the original face price of the resale listing and providing links back to the primary Ticketmaster site when tickets are still available for sale directly from the event provider. Ticketmaster has also barred the posting of paperless tickets for resale on TicketsNow (another high-risk practice allowed on other marketplaces),” Freeman wrote.
Ticketmaster launched these initiatives mainly to satisfy a complaint by New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram following the company’s debacle involving Bruce Springsteen tickets. But, Freeman believes that such initiatives would be thwarted by Morgan’s proposal, leaving consumers at risk.
“Morgan’s legislation would stop in their tracks consumer-friendly initiatives like these in Saskatchewan, and brokers across North America would celebrate as consumers are left vulnerable to the greater vagaries, risks and inconveniences of unauthorized third-party ticket resale and its often unreliable and insecure delivery methods that would continue to operate unfettered,” Freeman wrote, adding that he hopes Ticketmaster and Canadian officials can continue to work together to address consumer protection concerns.