Make Some Noise!
When fans stand up, Big Tickets backs down.
Jam Band Battles Ticketmaster Over All-In Pricing
String Cheese Incident, a heavy-hitter in the Jam Band scene, is taking on Ticketmaster over drip pricing, the practice of adding surcharges and “convenience” fees on top of the face-value price of a ticket. As reported in yesterday’s New York Times:
One Friday afternoon recently, about 50 fans and friends of the band String Cheese Incident took $20,000 in cash to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles to take a small stand against the system — in this case, Ticketmaster.
With money advanced by the band, each person had enough to buy eight tickets at $49.95 apiece for the group’s show in July. Once all tickets were in hand, almost 400 of them, they were carried back to String Cheese headquarters in Colorado and put on sale again through the group’s Web site — for $49.95.
“We’re scalping our own tickets at no service charge,” Mike Luba, one of the group’s managers, explained in an interview last week. “It’s ridiculous.”
String Cheese Incident, a jam band with a solid if under-the-radar following, wants to offer tickets to its whole summer tour without the service fees, now ubiquitous, charged by Ticketmaster and other vendors. To do that it is going through much more rigmarole than almost any group would bother with, but feels strongly that the effort is worthwhile.
Fans are increasingly frustrated by drip-pricing, which obscures the true cost of a ticket until the final point of purchase and can increase the cost of a ticket by as much 30 – 40% over “face value” once all the hidden fees and surcharges are accounted for. The solution, which String Cheese Incident elegantly presented to their fans via this stunt, is “all-in pricing,” where the total cost of the ticket is presented to ticket buyers upfront.
All-in pricing is an important consumer protection, and one that would drastically improve the ticket-buying experience for fans. But there’s more going on here than a battle over all-in pricing.
Those surcharges are how Ticketmaster, promoters and venues make a lot of their money, and they are deeply entrenched in the industry’s business model. Ticketmaster/Live Nation is able to use this unfair pricing structure over artists’ objections because of their monopoly control of the concert industry– a monopoly they now want to extend to the secondary market by restricting tickets so they can only be transferred or resold on Ticketmaster-owned sites.
Ticketmaster and String Cheese Incident have spent the better part of a decade fighting over the band’s ability to sell their own tickets (in fact, the band sued Ticketmaster in 2003 for greater control over their ticket sales – and won).This is what it looks like when artists stand with fans against the unfair, monopolistic practices of the ticket industry.