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Ticketmaster's new blog: 'We get it -- you don't like service fees'


Ticketmaster is the company everyone loves to hate, and today it acknowledged as much. Quietly, the ticketing behemoth that's now part of Live Nation Entertainment launched a blog, making a very real effort to finally put a consumer-friendly face on the largely automated, fee-heavy operation. 

In a post attributed to CEO Nathan Hubbard, the company admitted the following: "We get it -- you don’t like service fees. You don’t like them mostly because you don’t understand what the heck they are for." Hubbard doesn't totally break down the allotment of the fees, but reiterates some of what is already known. He wrote, "Most of the parties in the live event value chain participate in these service fees either directly or indirectly -- promoters, venues, teams, artists and, yes, ticketing companies."

So fees are not going to go away, but Ticketmaster is making an effort to let customers know what kind of financial commitment they'll be making the moment they come to the site. For years, Ticketmaster waited until a potential concertgoer was nearly done with purchasing a ticket before unveiling the fees, which typically add a minimum of $10-$15 to the price. 

Now, at least for most events, prospective buyers will see a portion of the fees as soon as they select the tickets. So, for example, let's say you want to see Nick Cave's Grinderman at the Music Box @ Fonda (you should). A drop-down menu tells you that the $30 is actually $40.30. It's not until one clicks through the site that the fees are broken down, with a $2.50 facility charge, which goes to the venue operator, and a $7.80 "convenience charge," some of which goes to Ticketmaster, the promoter, credit card companies and artists. 

Yet the actual cost of the ticket still isn't $40.30. 

The final price comes to $47.30, thanks to an additional "order processing fee" and the $2.50 charge to print your own ticket. All told, fees add $17.30 to a single $30 ticket. In instances where the promoter owns the venue, the latter is double-dipping of a sort. The Goldenvoice-run Fonda comes with a $2.50 faculty fee, and Live Nation's own Palladium tacks on $1. 

Company chief Irving Azoff acknowledged some of the shortcomings of the new features on his Twitter page. He wrote, "can’t boil all fees down to a per ticket fee until we know how many tix are bought and shipping method chosen, so it has to happen later."

Hubbard went on to write on the company's blog: "The problem is that historically we haven’t told you how much you have to pay for a given seat until very late in the buying process. And our data tells us this angers many of you to the point that you abandon your purchase once you see the total cost, and that you don’t come back. The data also says (and this is the important piece) that if we had told you up front what the total cost was, you would have bought the ticket!" 

TICKET_BREAKDOWN As a potential solution, Azoff would like to see all-in ticketing for all concerts, meaning the price is fixed from the start. He's been a champion of the policy, and has been utilizing it for certain Eagles dates (Azoff manages the Eagles). Azoff tweeted that "all in pricing will mean that print at home and order charges go away." 

Still, what comprises the cost of a concert ticket remains a bit of a puzzle. Going before Wall Street investors earlier this year, the company noted that the average face value of a ticket in 2010 is $55.65, and artist fees amount to anywhere between $34 or $47 of that total. 

All-in pricing doesn't mean tickets will become cheaper -- only that fees won't continue to be tacked on. Yet customer service is a bit of an art, and there's no doubt one feels better about a purchase when one isn't suddenly hit with an extra $17. 

Last week, for instance, I purchased a pair of tickets to the Arcade Fire's upcoming concert at the Shrine. I used the band's presale, which directed me to CrowdSurge. My $49.50 tickets came with a $5.22 service fee. I was pleased that the service fees seemed relatively reasonable, and I was curious to compare it to those from Ticketmaster. 

Ticketmaster had a higher service fee, coming in at $10.50. Ticketmaster also added pricing tiers, and with some Arcade Fire tickets offered for $45, the cost with fees was said to be $55 from Ticketmaster's pull-down menu. That would be in line with what I had paid -- seemingly. 

My ticket, prefees, was $49.50, and let's look at the total cost of Ticketmaster's $49.50 face value ticket. Once order processing and shipping fees were tabulated, such an Arcade Fire ticket from Ticketmaster tallied $68 -- a full $13 more than my presale cost from CrowdSurge. With Ticketmaster still infusing additional fees into the final state of the purchase, what Azoff trumpeted as "full disclosure" might be a bit of a stretch. 

-- Todd Martens

Images: Screenshot from Arcade Fire's Tickemaster page, and a screenshot from Live Nation's presentation before Wall Street investors. 

Comments () | Archives (13)

i never understood why I'm charged $2.50 to print my own tickets using my own ink, my own paper and my own printer, while there's no fee to have them mailed to me through USPS - where it actually costs ticketmaster 44 cents

Mr. Azoff you are an advocate of all in pricing. Why so the very thing that consumers are compaling about service charges you can burry and increase those service charges so no one sees them. Futhermoer the Eagles did not sell out becuase of high ticekt prices yet if I went to the box office to buy those tickets it still had your burried in fees. Why should there be a charge at the box office as well? The reason you wnat all in prices is 2 fold first you want to burry your outragiouse service charges so no one can see them any longer and the complaints stop (Other comapnies as illustrated in this article have proven the same service can be provided cheaper) and seoncdaly you want to collect additional fees from the sales of tickets at the box office even if the comsumer is willing to drive there and purchase there own tickets. So call it like it is. Stop trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer. what you really want is to hide your fees while at teh same time collect additional revenue.

I've stopped complaining about the add-on fees and have just stopped going to concerts. Used car dealers are more forthcoming than Ticketmaster in their pricing structures these days. Azoff's all-in concept would be a big improvement - it's worked well for scalpers for a lot of years, so why shouldn't the legit side of the ticket biz co-opt the idea?

Not attending big concerts hasn't been at all detrimental to my cultural aesthetic; on the contrary, it's opened my horizons to a lot of up and coming artists in a broad range of musical categories and some interesting venues. Besides, it seemed like whenever I ordered tickets online, they'd always be behind members of a basketball team or in front of people who insist on talking thoughout the entire concert. Adding all the additional charges to attend a performance you can neither see or hear is just rubbing salt in the wounds.

I always try to avoid ticketmaster and buy tickets at the venue, even if it means driving. Ticketmaster nickel and dimes you to death with fees. NO thanks.

I recently purchased and $18 ticket - final price $33.75 - wtf???

tix master sucks. period.

tix master sux, period

I will not buy tickets anymore if the vendor uses Ticketmaster. CEO Nathan Hubbard can try to hide the fees, but it won't wash with me. I will not have anythng to do with Ticketmaster.

I used to go to concerts but I get so fed up with paying a lot of money to a faceless corporation like ticketmaster that I just quit going to concerts. The customer does all the work ordering a ticket yet you still have to pay some BS services fees. Ticketmaster needs to go away and the world will be a better place

"And the industry STILL can't figure out why they're going bankrupt..." -- me

This confession has meant nothing.

I like LiveNation, they support my sport. I hope they can help out TM. I try really hard not to purchase anything from TM if possible. Much of what was said in the article rings true.

I was ripped off by Ticket Master. I paid $225.00 for a Prince concert last month. When I took the ticket with bar code from a print out to the entry gate I was told that the barcode had already been used and my ticket was bogus. I called Ticket Master the next day and they basically told me you loose. We won't give you a refund unless you have proof from the Forum box office that it was bogus. That night I went to the box office with my bogus ticket and they t0ld me there is nothing they can do. No letter from the Forum was possible. No letter according to Ticket Master no refund.. they should be boycotted and taken to court..


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