Many of you probably remember the press release last month when the Hurricanes published an article announcing their support of the "Fans First Coalition." This is a movement by "Stand With Fans" to try to keep event tickets out of the hands of brokers and scalpers and to make it easier for fans to obtain and purchase tickets.
That announcement reminded me of a similar group called the "Fan Freedom Project" which strives for fans, especially season ticket holders, to keep their rights regarding their tickets.
I have been asked by both groups, (separately) to write up an article in support of their respective organizations and to explain to readers what they are trying to achieve. That's not an easy task, when admittedly, I'm not 100% certain that I fully understand all aspects of exactly what both groups are trying to achieve, and even if they are on the same page. I thought that I better do some research before I blindly offered support for either cause.
The groups are similar in that they both supposedly want what is best for fans. But exactly how they propose to go about doing it, is where things get complicated.
First, let's look at the "Stand With Fans" Mission Statement:
- Ending Deceptive Marketing/Misuse of Artists Intellectual Property: Fans should not be tricked into buying tickets from resale marketplaces that are unfairly capitalizing on artist, league or team intellectual property such as their names, logos or other information.
- Full Disclosure: Fans should be able to purchase tickets for the events that they want to attend, either on the primary market or through fan-friendly resale. When doing so, fans deserve to know whether they are purchasing tickets at face value from the primary market, such as directly from the box office, or if they are purchasing tickets on the resale market, where they may be priced above face value.
- Clear Pricing Display: Fans should know exactly how much they are going to pay before completing their purchase. Service fees should be clearly detailed so fans understand, and agree to, the true and full cost of their tickets.
- Complete Disclosure about speculative ticketing: Fans deserve to know if the tickets they are buying are in-hand with the seller, if the tickets will ship by a certain date (i.e., season tickets), or if the tickets are speculative in nature (i.e., Section Seating).
I don't think anyone has a problem with that list, but there is one more item on their mission statement which gets a little fuzzy.
- Ensuring fair access to reasonably priced tickets: Artists, promoters, sports teams and/or venues determine how their tickets are sold, because they have taken the creative and financial risk to put on an event. They should be able to choose ticketing methods that help fans access reasonably-priced tickets. Artists, promoters, sports teams and venues should be able to limit scalpers’ ability to purchase large quantities of tickets with the express intent of reselling them and profiting from their sale.
The way that I read this is, since artists, sports teams, and etc. are putting on the event, they should call all the shots as to how to sell the tickets. In other words, if they say that Ticketmaster is the only legal outlet, then so be it. But if that happens, then Ticketmaster gets more powerful than they already are and can charge even higher fees.
(Coincidentally, Ticketmaster is one of the sponsors of the "Fans First Coalition".)
And when this premise is applied to season ticket holders, then the question arises, who actually owns that season ticket, the team or the fan?
According to Darren Rovell of CNBC Sports, some Major League Baseball teams right now are close to forcing their season ticket holders to use Ticketmaster when reselling tickets that they can not use. The Cleveland Cavaliers are telling their season ticket holders right now that they can not resell their tickets below face value.
The "Fan Freedom Project" is against such practices. They also say that Ticketmaster, along with some sports teams, want to institute a new policy called "restrictive paperless tickets". That policy would severely hamper a season ticket holder's ability to distribute, sell, or even giveaway their ticket.
For more information about that, check out this link: Restrictive Paperless Tickets.
The State of North Carolina is getting involved and there is a bill yet to be passed which is being supported by the "Fan Freedom Project." From what I can tell, it's promoting the right of the season ticket holder as well as free marketing of tickets, but it provides some new restrictions regarding deceptive practices.
There is a federal bill introduced as well: Bill HR 950
The Hurricanes presently give season ticket holders the option to use Ticketmaster as a reseller of their tickets, but for now it is totally optional. Could that change someday? Who actually owns the ticket after you purchase it, you or the artist or team? The debate is ongoing.
My opinion is that the fraudulent activity should be banned or outlawed, but some legit third party resellers like Stub Hub should continue to be allowed to resell. There need to be other outlets besides just Ticketmaster. I also believe that season ticket holders should have the right to do whatever they want with their tickets.
If you are interested in more info on this subject, Will Leitch (former blogger now with New York Magazine), Jon Potter, (Fan Freedom Project), Mark Weprin, (New York City Councilman), and Rovell discuss the issues in the following video.