Artists Realizing It's Time To Offer Cheaper Concert Tickets Directly, And To Get Rid Of Annoying Fees

from the smart dept

Recently, we'd been discussing how the concert business for (non-arena) musicians was still doing well for some, but that everyone was getting more and more frustrated about fees and services charges added to ticket prices. We also wrote about how the band The Pixies went direct to fans with concert ticket sales, avoiding some of the annoying middlemen. It looks like more artists are starting to wake up and take notice.

Singer Joe Pug, who you may recall took part in our CwF+RtB experiment last year, and has been experimenting with more fan friendly business models for a while, is trying to do the same with a new $10 Tour. The idea is that all of the shows (with a couple of specific exceptions) on his next tour will cost only $10 -- and he's testing out selling at least some of the tickets directly with no fees at all, and if that goes well, will try to do so for other shows.

There is some precedent here. Corey Smith, who we've written about many times in the past, has used $5 tickets to many of his shows to help him build up his fanbase. In that case, the story went that this helped him connect with many more fans because at $5, it was easy for an existing fan to convince friends to go (or even pay for them to go), leading to many more people getting to see Corey live.

Still, what's most interesting to me is that more and more artists, like Joe, are recognizing how much people hate some aspects of the concert-going experience (mainly dealing with the middlemen who lump on all those fees) and realize that there's a really good way to better connect with fans: which is to cut out that middleman:
A few months back I bought tickets for a concert- which shall remain nameless- only to get manhandled by service charges and by their Newspeak cousins, "convenience fees". The actual price was nearly double the face of the ticket. Half of my money was going to the band I loved, the other half to horse-thieves. Reining in ticket fees has been notoriously difficult, even for artists of great influence. But in a small step, we negotiated to do SOME of the tickets directly through our website. We're going to try this for the Chicago show on 10/16. The first 50 tickets will be available exclusively at my website with zero fees. The amount charged to your credit card will be exactly 10 bucks per ticket. If all goes well we hope to roll out the no-fee ticketing for entire tours.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 2:51am

    If Only...

    we could get more bands to do this kind of thing, say Metallica.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    berick, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 3:17am

    Dylan does it

    Just saw this story..."Bob Dylan Beats Scalpers With Ticketless Show in San Francisco" http://www.spinner.com/2010/08/20/bob-dylan-beats-scalpers-with-ticketless-show-in-san -francisco/

     

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  3.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:25am

    Real Issue

    I feel like the real problem isn't that the music and movie industry is kicking and screaming into the 21st century, its the middle man industry that senses its impending demise. And they're handling it in the worst way possible.

    I have loathed Ticketmaster for years, and frankly have avoided some events because I refuse to pay their tax. Why do they still exist?

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:29am

    "we negotiated to do SOME of the tickets directly through our website"

    This won't work in the long run. It's only a matter of time before TicketMaster puts a stop to it. TicketMaster will demand from arenas and venues to stop it. And those places will have to comply.

     

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  5.  
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    abc gum, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:38am

    Re:

    How do they have the venue tied down, some kind of contract? Certainly that would expire at some point.

     

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  6.  
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    Chris, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:42am

    same as always

    No, ticketmaster will just get congress to pass a law to outlaw direct sales. Since we have the best congress money can buy, they shouldn't have to difficult a time of it.

     

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  7.  
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    Corey, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:04am

    Former concert freak

    I used to go to about 5 shows a year until the fees and places like Ticket King made it impossible. Now I am old school and remember lining up at 6 am to get tickets that went on sale at 10 am. Even then I usually was way back in line, but I at least had my chance. Now "ticket brokers" usually horde up every decent seat and then sell them at extremely inflated prices on top of the ticket fee inflated prices. I have reduced myself down to about a show per year or less. I'm not even sure who the bigger theif is these days Ticket master or the company that buys all the tickets and sells them off for huge profit for basically doing nothing.

     

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  8.  
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    reboog711 (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:04am

    Thank You Pearl Jam

    Thank you Pearl Jam for trailblazing this sort of thing against Ticketmaster in the 90s.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:05am

    Screw Ticketmaster. they make the band / venue sign exclusive contracts for each show. If you use Ticketmaster you cannot sell tickets yourself. Safeway loves it because it creates long lines at their store.

     

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  10.  
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    Danny, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:40am

    Re: Re:

    They have it tied down because TicketMaster is the RIAA/MPAA of ticket sales. They own enough politicians at the top that they can pretty much buy any legislation they want.

     

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  11.  
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    Danny, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:48am

    Re:

    And hopefully TicketMaster's whining will be stopped by artists start pulling out of shows that do sales through Ticketmaster.

     

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  12.  
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    DOlz, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:08am

    Now if we can just get movie theaters on board. It's absurd to be charged a fee to pre-buy a ticket. It saves the theater in labor costs and if you don't make the movie they still have your money.

     

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  13.  
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    Yogi, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:30am

    Re: same as always

    OUCH!

     

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  14.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:41am

    Re: If Only...

    You made me choke on my protein shake...man that hurt...

     

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  15.  
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    herodotus (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:44am

    "This won't work in the long run. It's only a matter of time before TicketMaster puts a stop to it. TicketMaster will demand from arenas and venues to stop it. And those places will have to comply."

    Why is this?

    Does Ticketmaster have some sort of legally enforceable monopoly on the sale of little pieces of paper used to get into concerts?

    Actually, I know they don't because there are numerous local venues here where you can avoid Ticketmaster fees if you buy the tickets at the venue's box office. I am just wondering how Ticketmaster became so ubiquitous.

     

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  16.  
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    smite, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:50am

    Fugazi

    As a local to Balto/DC, I've seen Fugazi several times (alas, more than a decade ago). Even back then, the band never charged more than $5 for tickets to their shows.

    It seems some bands were just born with integrity.
    :)

     

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  17.  
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    Michael Lockyear (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:33am

    Six of one and half a dozen of the other

    Both the Pixies and Joe Pugg used / are using a middleman ...Topspin.

    Topspin is not free. The musician pays between 5% and 20% per transaction, which varies based on the price of the item being sold. In addition, the musician must also pay credit card fees and bandwidth charges.

    The musician would (obviously)consider these transaction fees before setting the ticket price...either way the concert goer is going to pay.

     

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  18.  
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    Shawn (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Re: Six of one and half a dozen of the other

    I do not think most concert goers mind it if it is included in the price of the ticket. There is nothing wrong with using a middleman the problem comes when there is only one or two middlemen to distribute the tickets/music/etc. When the only games in town can tack arbitrary fees on to each sale and the consumer and the artist have no choice in the matter we get the ticketmaster livenation bullshit we have today. I don't think many expect artists/musicians to do all of the ancillary work that themselves- but finding new methods/players in the game is good for them and their fans.

     

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  19.  
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    interval (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    Yeah, he's right, Ticketmaster has exclusive deals with big venues in all the major cities. The way around this of course is to have the concerts at other venues, where possible. Ticketmaster's one weapon is city ordinances, you can't just set up and have concert where ever you like, odd impromptu rooftop jam aside. These bands will have to avoid the ticketmaster-tainted venues and get the smaller, non-tm ones. Could be difficult but still doable.

     

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  20.  
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    interval (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 8:14am

    Re:

    It was said above; lobbying and bribes.

     

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  21.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Re: Six of one and half a dozen of the other

    Topspin is not free. The musician pays between 5% and 20% per transaction, which varies based on the price of the item being sold. In addition, the musician must also pay credit card fees and bandwidth charges.

    I was wondering about this. Topspin takes a hefty fee for their services, so either they are going to be dropping their fees for ticket sales, the musicians are going to lose that much on each sale, or musicians are going to migrate to a ticketing system that won't hit them with fees.

     

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  22.  
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    outerlimitz, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:23am

    small fee's okay

    i don't mind paying 1 or 2 very small fee's. IE: 1 to 5 dollars on the ticket. but when people like live nation add a fee of $2,50 for E Printing? come one. Charge me to print the ticket out on my own printer?

    I just paid $68 bucks for 2 $24 tickets for Cinderella for the first of this month. Over $20 of it in fee's. And the entire transaction took place on line. Now if was $50 for the both of those tickets, i wouldn't have been so pissed.

    i remember back on the day, i could go see 2-3 bands for $25. The shirts were still a little pricey but that's where they were really making money. Some shows still have low prices. Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick tickets were $25. But the shirts were $45 each.

    Do away with the fee's, get a good show at a good price and let the bands make the money of the merchandise.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    NDA, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    Topspin charges a smaller fee for ticketing than it does other products, and its beyond reasonable. Look...someone who develops the platform, handles the transaction, backend and ecommerce deserves to be paid. It's just a matter of keeping it to a fair level...and a level that is relative to the value they add to the transaction.

    And while its true someone has to pay, the band KNOWS the fee in advance, and can incorporate it into the tickets, so that a customer that clicks on a $15 ticket pays exactly that amount. As it is under most of the current systems, a band that prices its tickets at $15 has no idea what the customer pays in the end, nor does the customer until the very end of the transaction. And it seems that fees of over 50% have become the norm.

     

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  24.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    And while its true someone has to pay, the band KNOWS the fee in advance, and can incorporate it into the tickets, so that a customer that clicks on a $15 ticket pays exactly that amount. As it is under most of the current systems, a band that prices its tickets at $15 has no idea what the customer pays in the end, nor does the customer until the very end of the transaction. And it seems that fees of over 50% have become the norm.

    How is this going to work with venues? In cases where the band actually stands at the door and collects the cover charges, then you can exclude the venue altogether (this doesn't happen often, but I have worked some venues where they don't take any sort of cut and I have been able to pass 100% of the cover to the band).

    In other cases, bands are given discounted tickets to pass out to fans. The fans still pay at the door. The venue gets the money and then turns around and either pays the band a guarantee or a percentage of sales.

    In venues that handle their own tickets, there may be a fee going to the venue. With the Topspin system, is the band buying tickets from the venue and then reselling them to the fans? Or has the band contracted with the venue, paying the venue rent of the space for the evening, and then selling the tickets directly to fans for whatever price the band wants to offer?

    I noticed that the Pug experiment was only for 50 tickets initially, so it looks like it's still in the trial stage right now.

     

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  25.  
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    Patrik, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Re: small fee's okay

    Why? So you can have a cheap ticket and everyone else can support the band by buying the merch? If it's one or the other, and ticket prices do come down, I assume that you PROMISE to buy merch at the table? (A $45 t-shirt, no less!) That's the world you want? That makes sense to you? You like the band, you like the music, you go to the show, you have the mp3s, just give the band some real support! Buy a record, and GIVE it to someone! You guys are the ones who are so keen on this "give everything away" model. Now step up and put your money where your mouth is. ($$$ Yes! All of it! I want ALL your money! Besides it's just a burden anyway. Your life would be SO much better if it wasn't complicated by money, so just give it to me. I could use it. I *PROMISE* to make great music for selling t-shirts with it.)

    That seems to be the attitude of most of the tech community. "Just play live shows!" Of course, they mean someone else should go to the shows, so the bands can afford to release the music that gives their devices and websites purpose. "...and sell merch!" Of course, I don't see these guys rocking a different band's t-shirt everyday.

    Musicians are rapidly waking up to these empty promises from "fans."

     

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  26.  
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    Craig (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Tickets

    Here in my home town we have an 'entertainment company' that is contracted to run the facility which can be used for hockey, concerts, etc., and they run their own ticket sales exclusively. That way, the fees that we pay are less because we aren't buying from legalized scalpers. That said, they still add on a fee, as a revenue source for them. I don't know what kind of profit this means for them, but "maybe" if they dropped that just to help fans enjoy a hockey game or concert for a few less dollars, they might get more people attending or at least spending more money while at the event. I just think that nobody has the guts to give it a try because nobody wants to fund the risk. Personally, the excess charges are part of my purchase decisions, and since the facility opened a few years ago, I have yet to attend a single event. Additionally, the complex was built with public money, so as a local taxpayer, I want the building to succeed as a venue, so my taxes don't have to prop up a losing business. So they got me both ways, I guess. :)

     

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  27.  
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    Doc Rich, Aug 21st, 2010 @ 5:56am

    Re: Thank You Pearl Jam

    Who you really should be thanking is The Grateful Dead.

    The Dead began selling tickets directly to their fans via mail order back in the late 70's / early 80's. They used to add a dollar or two onto the ticket cost which went directly towards paying the salaries of those who worked for their ticket distribution service leg, GDTS. They always kept ticket prices low, and usually were able to reserve some of the choicest seats in the house. I always wondered why more of the established bands (Springsteen, for example)didn't follow suit.

     

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