Keep crony capitalism out of Georgia ticket market
by Jon Sinton
February 16, 2014 12:25 AM | 1838 views | 1 1 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jon Sinton
Jon Sinton
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If you go see a football game, a play or enjoy a Friday night concert, you are more than likely familiar with big ticket vendors like Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster dominates the industry and provides tickets for most venues around metro Atlanta and Georgia. When you purchase your ticket you go online, pick out your seats and make the purchase. Everyone assumes that once you buy the ticket, it’s yours, right?

In some states this is not necessarily true. Ticketmaster and other big vendors have made an effort to lobby for legislation restricting the rights of consumers to transfer, sell (at a fair price), or give away their tickets. They haven’t come to Georgia yet, but in Florida and Tennessee legislation was introduced last year to limit consumers’ ability to resell live event tickets unless it is on the venue or ticket seller’s authorized resale site. The website dictates the prices you can offer and adds fees to the transaction.

There are battles going on in Michigan and Massachusetts, too.

Imagine going down to your local car dealership to buy a new truck. You drive it for a couple months and decide it’s just not for you. You put an ad in the paper asking for what you consider to be a fair price. But instead of hearing from a fellow consumer, you get a call from the dealership. They tell you there was a law passed that requires you either to sell your truck back to them, at a price they determine, or to sell it through them, with a new set of fees and commissions tacked on. Such a notion defies common sense, free-market principles and consumer choice.

Ticket sellers, artists, sports teams and venues argue this is necessary to protect consumers and their purchases. Even if this was the case and this was not an attempt to gain further control over the ticket market, there are unintended consequences.

One such unintended consequence occurred when a father in Florida bought a VIP concert ticket to see Josh Groban at the Gwinnett Center for his daughter who attended college in Georgia. After the purchase, his daughter accepted an internship in another state and would not be in Georgia at the time of the concert. The family called Ticketmaster. They were told by Ticketmaster they could not get a refund and, because they were paperless, the tickets could not be resold. The only way they could use the tickets would be if someone at the same household address and with the same last name could come to will call.

“Upon telling them that I had the same last name but I lived in Ft. Lauderdale, and there was no way that I was going to fly to Georgia on a weekday just to go to a concert, we were told that was the only solution and that we could not put anyone else’s name at will call. So that was very upsetting to both my daughter and myself as we were out $471 for the tickets and we could not resell them ourselves, or even give them to her friends for free. Net result we were out $471 and nobody sat in two third-row VIP seats. Simply ridiculous,” said Robert T. of Florida.

Right now, Georgia law allows consumers to resell tickets even at a higher face value. However, Georgia law allows ticket vendors like Ticketmaster and its business partners in the live entertainment and sports industries to restrict ticket resale. In the last couple of weeks, at least two shows, one for Hiam at the Tabernacle and Jack Johnson at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, went on sale with restrictive, or credit card entry ticket sales. If legislation similar to what was introduced in Florida and Tennessee were to come to Georgia, the state would be picking winners and losers in the secondary market by codifying into law ticket monopolies instead of letting fans and the free market decide.

There are definite concerns about unscrupulous brokers that use automated software, AKA bots, to cut in line and purchase large blocks of tickets, but stopping these scalpers needs to be done in a less restrictive way. Ticket sellers and the live entertainment and sports industries should focus on stopping the bad actors and not treating regular consumers like criminals.

The big boys like Ticketmaster are leading the charge on a state-by-state basis to create a system in which they will own, from start to finish, the tickets to see games, concerts and any other event they control. In their ideal world, if you buy tickets from them but then need to sell your tickets because you get sick or change your mind, you wouldn’t be able to do so without using their resale site.

We call on our state leaders to take a stand against any legislation that takes away consumer rights, interferes with the free market and brings crony capitalism to the Georgia ticket market.

Jon Sinton lives in Marietta and is a serial media entrepreneur and immediate past chair of Common Cause Georgia.

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Jeff A. Taylor
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February 16, 2014
Thanks for pointing this out, Jon.

Lawmakers need to understand that metro ATL currently benefits a great deal from a relatively open ticket marketplace. Tickets actually get used and related money spent.

Chase in point, I used a California ticket broker via Seat Geek -- a smart phone app -- to buy and use $700 worth of Falcons tix. I also spent money on parking, eating out, and money at the Georgia Dome. If those tix are not available on the secondary market -- or the prices are effectively fixed and not permitted to reflect market demand -- that additional money does not get spent.

The original source of the tix is indifferent to whether the ticket gets used (unless they also own the venue, in which case they might) but venues, local biz, and local government does very much care. Those entertainment dollars are what they have spent millions chasing.

With Fulton and Cobb throwing boatloads of public money at the Falcons and the Braves, local leaders need to understand the dynamics at play. Ticketmaster et al will tell them that restrictive tix resell laws will help them fill venues and distribute tix "fairly."

That is a pernicious lie. The cartels want to use the law to try to stop what technology and the market have provided -- a robust entertainment culture in the ATL that seems to get better every year.
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