Euphemism of the Month: Fairness in TicketingPosted: March 19, 2013
While there are some positive aspects of the so-called Fairness in Ticketing Act working its way through the Tennessee state legislature, it is disappointing to see Tennessee Performing Arts Center CEO Kathleen O’Brien embrace the bill so wholeheartedly in a Tennessean op-ed this morning. Railing against a ticket “resale market rife with bad actors” who “make lots of money at the expense of real fans,” O’Brien wants us to see TPAC as part of a coalition working to give consumers “transparency and protection and the opportunity to buy the best tickets at face value prices.” These are lovely goals, but ones that the bill will do very little to accomplish.
The legislation (SB609/HB1000) does have some salutary features. Requirements that the resellers (be they ticket brokers or online marketplaces such as StubHub) disclose on their websites the face value and exact location of seats offered for sale, and say whether or not tickets are actually in their position and ready for delivery, strike me as eminently reasonable. Regulating the industry by having brokers register with the state may also be an improvement, although the requirement that a registered broker “maintain a permanent office or place of business in this state” seems a tad twentieth century.
As originally introduced it was a terrible bill, but the bill may be shedding some of its worst parts. A Senate committee last week approved an amended version that omits absurd provisions in the original bill eliminating ticket holders’ property rights and giving venues and original ticket issuers (such as Ticketbastard) unbridled power to monopolistic control over the resale market. A House committee takes up the measure later this week.
Even with the worst parts amended out, the bill still does nothing to meet the promise by TPAC’s O’Brien that it will help fans obtain the best tickets at face value prices. As news reports have amply documented, event promoters and ticket issuers not only don’t object to scalping, they are at times in cahoots with scalpers. The industry trumpets paperless ticketing as the answer to scalper bots that scarf up all the good seats when a show goes on sale, but most fans see paperless ticketing as an enormous inconvenience that makes it very cumbersome to do what you want with the ticket you buy. Lobbyists for the secondary ticket industry (StubHub and brethren) point out that that if Ticketmaster really wants to lessen the impact of bots on ticket buying, as they righteously claim, then they could easily inform authorities and request prosecution under an existing Tennessee law — but they never do.
On both sides of this issue we find well-funded corporate interests pretending that this is really about consumer protection, when it’s actually about the protection of each side’s business model. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The legislation as amended in the state Senate would inject some consumer-friendly transparency into the secondary ticket market, but does nothing to dilute the excesses of event promoters and original ticket issuers whose claims to be looking out for fan interests ring hollow. A horrible bill is apparently being amended into a weak bill. Even if it passes, you still won’t get those highly sought tickets you want at face value unless you happen to be very very lucky on some given Saturday morning at 10:01 am.
A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.