There is much conversation about how the ticketing world applies fees when consumers are shopping for tickets. Fans loathe the process of adding massive fees at the end of the ticket-buying transaction – so-called “drip pricing” or “junk fees” typically add between 20-40% of the initial advertised price. But if everybody hates them, why do they persist?

As part of it’s “Your Money Briefing” series, the Wall Street Journal examined the process and how it works on consumer psychology:

ticketflipping provides valuable tools for ticket resale professionals

The good news for consumers is that such fees are looking likely to become a thing of the past in live event ticketing. President Biden has latched on to the issue, asking for legislation or other action that would mandate both “all-in” ticket pricing (where the full price is shown at the start of the transaction, inclusive of fees), and disclosure on “holdbacks” – when large numbers of tickets are hidden from public knowledge during the sales period to give the impression that an event is sold out, or close to sold out, in order to keep prices high.

Very few ticketing companies have raised any issue with the first part of that – “all-in” ticket pricing is an easy enough switch if everybody else does it. But currently only a handful of companies have actually gone through with it – TickPick, MEGASeats, and Ticket Club most prominently. Others – including SeatGeek, StubHub and Ticketmaster – offer consumers the option of switching on “all-in” pricing while they search, but some (most notably Vivid Seats) still don’t allow consumers to view the all-in price until personal or payment detail has been entered.

Ticketmaster and SeatGeek also made headlines after appearing at a press conference with President Biden touting plans to switch to an “all-in” model soon, but it appears that both are simply going to continue allowing consumers to select to view tickets inclusive of fees, rather than switch to true “all-in” pricing.

Holdbacks are a different issue entirely. Event promoters and the ticket companies they use have resisted calls to be transparent about ticket availability with all their might. Much of the current pricing systems for primary ticketing companies relies on the slow release of tickets, from presale periods through general sales, and well beyond that point. In this system, typically less than half (often far less) of tickets are actually sold at first, with the rest diverted to other channels entirely or simply kept back to fuel the perception that supply is low (or gone) and keep prices high.

This has been dramatically evident with the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, when fans were told that the massive stadium run was fully sold out to the extent that they didn’t even hold a general sale last fall. But tickets have been steadily offered to consumers who registered their demand during the initial sales period, including after the shows have started. Zach Bryan’s tour, which deliberately avoided Ticketmaster as a public relations tactic, has also pretended shows were sold out for months, only to release large amounts of tickets right before show dates.

Due to these deceptive holdback practices, fans are led to believe that they are lucky to get a ticket at all when they surface at the last moment (at full price or even “dynamically” priced well above the initial “face” value that had been advertised), rather than the market naturally moving up or down to a real value established by actual demand without manipulation.

With Biden’s call for “all-in” pricing and holdback disclosures, several lawmakers have introduced legislation at both the local and federal level to address these urgent consumer issues. The BOSS and SWIFT Act includes reform for both issues among its proposed changes, as does the Junk Fee Prevention Act. The TICKET Act would bring “all-in” pricing but no reform for holdback transparency.

It is largely due to holdback transparency that the promoter and venue side of the business is pushing back against the BOSS and SWIFT and Junk Fee Prevention Act proposals. They are hoping to move legislators more towards strict regulation of ticket resale rather than anything that would impact how they currently do business.