Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard, who recently blasted StubHub on Twitter over StubHub’s support of paperless ticketing legislation and the consumer advocacy group Fan Freedom Project, has come out swinging at the company again for the “propaganda campaign” he believes StubHub and other secondary ticket market companies are promoting against restrictive paperless tickets.
In a story posted Thursday, March 17, by the technology publication Wired.com, Hubbard criticizes StubHub for taking a “fan-unfriendly” approach in its fight against restrictive paperless tickets. StubHub’s parent company eBay, consumer groups and fellow third-party secondary ticket exchange TicketNetwork have lobbied several state politicians in recent months on behalf of legislation that would force Ticketmaster and other primary ticket companies to offer fans the choice of transferable tickets, whether paperless or traditional. Legislators in Connecticut, Minnesota and North Carolina have recently discussed such regulations, and two U.S. Congressmen have also introduced a similar bill at the federal level.
“I am incredibly disappointed in how they are approaching the paperless issue,” Hubbard told Wired.com. “I think it’s fan-unfriendly, and I think it works against the interest of the fan. It’s just unfortunate that StubHub and some of the scalpers have decided to take the industry backwards with a propaganda campaign.”
StubHub and others have not argued that paperless tickets are bad — they have all voiced support for the technology — but they believe that what is bad is the use of restrictive paperless tickets, which are not transferable or only transferable through a specific resale channel. Ticketmaster is the main purveyor of such paperless tickets, and in the cases where they have allowed transferability they have set price floors or ceilings on the amount for which the tickets can be resold. Ticketmaster maintains that the use of paperless tickets is a decision an artist, team, promoter or venue makes.
“StubHub fully supports innovation and technology; we are simply opposed to anti-consumer uses of technology,” Glenn Lehrman, spokesperson for StubHub, told Wired.com. “We welcome the use of paperless tickets that utilize bar codes and smart phones instead of paper. But when new technology is used to solely benefit primary ticketing agencies, venues and owners and harm individual consumers, the public and our legislators should be wary.”
Some legislators in Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina and other states are framing the issue of paperless tickets as a consumer protection matter, because they want to see fans have the right to do whatever they want with the tickets they buy.
“I think that the central issue here is about whether a ticket is a private property right or a lease. I’m saying that it’s not absolutely either, that it’s in the middle,” Minnesota state Sen. Chris Gerlach said during a legislative committee meeting last week. “However, I believe the owner of a ticket has a property right interest, and if they want to give or sell that ticket to somebody else, unfettered, for whatever the price they can agree to and have a meeting of the minds over, then that should be allowed and should not be aced out by restrictions. The bill doesn’t eliminate [paperless tickets], it just says you can’t use that technology to restrict the transfer of that ticket.”
Hubbard said he believes a “vibrant” secondary ticket market can and should co-exist with the primary ticket market — Ticketmaster has its own TicketExchange and owns TicketsNow — and paperless tickets are one component of it. Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation is also planning to roll out a dynamic pricing model this year, which will allow teams and venues to set ticket prices on the fly based on various criteria. That and other initiatives, such as launching a data analytics division, are all part of the company’s plan to grow and become more fan friendly, while also trying to move the industry forward.
“Part of the point of the merger was that between our artist management division, our concert promotion division, and our e-commerce division, which is Ticketmaster; when you put those things together, you ought to be able to accelerate the rate of change,” Hubbard told Wired.com.
In the face of such potential changes, Lehrman said that paperless ticket transferability will help ensure that fans have a chance at finding bargains.
“Transferability is a critical component to keeping the ticket market open and efficient. Indeed, nearly half of tickets on the secondary market are bought and sold for face value or less,” Lerhman told Wired.com. “Recently, $100 Redskins tickets sold for less than $1 when the weather was bad and the teams were out of the playoffs. And fans buying these low-priced tickets pay for parking, eat and drink at the stadium, and purchase hats and pennants. Every fan should have the option of paying a lot of money for a sold-out game or a very little money for a less popular event.
“Primary ticketing agencies like Ticketmaster utilize paperless ticketing under the guise that it gives real fans the opportunity to purchase premium, sought after seats, but that’s just putting lipstick on the real problem, which is why aren’t those seats available in the first place. Unlike StubHub, primary ticketing companies aren’t transparent with their inventory. There is no public manifest, and no way of knowing how much inventory is being made available to the public and how much is being held back for the artist, venue, promoter, label, fans clubs, etc. An investigative report last year in Tennessee found that only 13 percent of tickets to a Taylor Swift show were actually made available to the public. If you want to find blame for tickets selling out in seconds, it’s not the prevailing use of Bots as Ticketmaster claims, it’s the lack of transparency,” Lerhman added.
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.