Rage Against the (Ticketmaster) Machine

Not that this is anything new – I always leave a Ticketbastard transaction feeling enraged and sore in the asshole. The last purchase I made was for some late night NOLA Jazz Fest tickets; at $21.50 each, the total charge for four tickets was $143.90. That’s $57.90 in service charges, people. Today, two $35 tickets cost me $89.55.

First, let’s talk about the fact that a mega corporation controls the majority of ticket sales, whether it be by directly selling us the tickets, or by serving as the distributor or agent and selling the tickets that their clients (arenas, stadiums, theaters and the like) make available. This will never change because all the aforementioned venues generally receive “signing bonuses” from Ticketbastard so the corp can be the sole provider of tickets at these venues.

From Wikipedia (italics by me.):

… acquiring this exclusivity requires Ticketmaster to pay substantial "signing bonuses" to venues, sometimes millions of dollars. Although this practice can significantly reduce the profitability to Ticketmaster of these exclusive relationships, to date using these bonuses has enabled them to maintain venue exclusivity as a competitive strategy, though the future viability of this strategy is unclear as the Internet as the primary sales channel for tickets makes exclusivity a less attractive option for venues …”

From the same Wiki entry:

…Ticketmaster’s market share remains over 50 percent of total sales for tickets in the United States. Despite the ready availability of web-based ticketing software, Ticketmaster continued to see revenue growth in 2006 and 2007.

Looks like thus far, the company’s strategy is viable.

Let’s move on to the service fees.

What the fuck is a Convenience Charge? What is so fucking inconvenient and why the fuck do I have to pay for it? And how is it that it’s free for Ticketbastard to print and ship a pair of tickets to me by Standard Mail, but it costs $2.50 to e-mail me a PDF of my tickets that I have to print on my printer with my ink and my paper? And what about the tail end, last minute, you-are-about-to-plug-in-your-credit-card-number-before-you-see-it Order Processing Charge, an extra fee you’d miss if you weren’t paying attention?

What the fuck gives? When is someone gonna get some balls and sue these mother fuckers for all the bullshit service charges? I’m certainly on board. All I need is a good lawyer, some co-defendants and a millionaire sponsor (or several) up to the challenge. Who’s in?

Ticketmaster collects no part of advertised ticket prices. Instead it adds services fees to recoup its costs. Consumers often find these markups excessive, especially because there are many instances where no alternative purchase method is offered (allowing the purchase of tickets without incurring fees). This seemingly unfair business practice, along with a dearth of competitors, has led many to view Ticketmaster as monopolistic. However, alternative ticketing companies have entered the marketplace, alleviating Ticketmaster's perceived "monopoly" brand status for most consumers. But because most of their competitors use much the same pricing structure, ticket buyers often find little comfort in the presence of Ticketmaster's competition. Not all events generate the same consternation. Many ticket buyers have the option of purchasing tickets directly from venue box offices, thereby avoiding service fees from any ticketing agent. The typical fees in addition to a ticket's face value include:

  • Ticketmaster Service Charge

This is Ticketmaster's charge for the general service they provide and maintain. You will pay this charge no matter which way you buy the tickets through Ticketmaster (Phone, online or in person at a ticket center).

  • Building Facility Charge

This is determined by the venue, and not Ticketmaster.

  • Processing Charge

This is Ticketmaster's charge for processing your order and making the tickets available to you (mail, etc.) This is usually not a per ticket charge, but rather a per order charge.

  • Shipping, E-Ticket Convenience, or Will Call Charge

Ticketmaster charges a fee for ticket delivery, even if the ticket is in the form of an automatically generated virtual "e-ticket", which buyers must then print out themselves, at their own expense. Buyers may also be charged an extra fee to collect the ticket(s) from the venue. E-ticket convenience charges have been known to be issued even when purchasing a ticket directly from Ticketmaster box offices.

As an example of a fairly typical markup, a ticket to see Motörhead at Brixton Academy, London 2006, cost £25, plus £3.75 per ticket service charge, plus £4.95 postage and packing per order. In this example, the fees are approximately an additional 35% of the cost of the ticket. Tickets to see Feist in Vancouver in 2008 are $49.50, plus a $10 "convenience fee", plus a $2.50 "Building Facility Charge", plus a $4.35 "Order Processing Charge", plus optional express postage. More expensive tickets would have higher charges, but generally proportionately less relative to the total: tickets to see Pavarotti at Chatsworth House were selling for £85 for the ticket, £8 service charge per ticket, and £2.50 per order for either postal delivery or box office collection.

While 35% is typical, it can be considerably more. Take for example, a $25.00 ticket to see Symphony X at the Pearl Room, just outside Chicago, has a $7.25 service charge, no option for will call or printable ticket, and $14.50 as the least expensive method of delivery. With the final processing charge of $2.40, this makes the total $49.15. With not even a "building facility charge" at the Pearl Room, this is a 97% increase in the cost of the ticket.

Another charging practice is Parking Fees and excessive shipping. Although Ticketmaster reports this as being charged by the vendor, this is rarely the case. One example of this being a $25.00 ticket to a 2007 Dream Theater concert at the Fillmore in Detroit, MI including an $8.60 service charge, a $9.65 shipping fee (the ticket coming in an envelope with a 23.5 cent bulk stamp), and a $5 parking fee at a venue that doesn't have parking.

Warning: explicit language to follow.

I know, I know — we’ve heard it all before: Ticketmaster(bastard) sucks big fat donkey dick. But I feel the need to bring this matter to light again because I just finished purchasing my Modest Mouse tickets and am (as per usual) fuming over the service charges.

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