Ticketmaster Says People Don't Like Service Fees Because We Don't Understand Them

from the I-don't-think-that's-it... dept

If you follow the music business, you probably already know about or follow Ticketmaster boss Irving Azoff's Twitter feed, which he kicked off earlier this month by calling two different reporters "jerks," and generally jousting with some of his critics. He went quiet for a bit, but caused a bit of a stir over the weekend by announcing (sort of) that Ticketmaster had "full disclosure pricing." Considering just how much hatred there is towards Ticketmaster's "service charges," this certainly picked up some attention.

The only problem? While the tickets Azoff pointed to highlighted prices that included fees (amusingly, the fees on the cheapest ticket markup the official ticket price by a whopping 50%) some quickly discovered that this wasn't, at all, what they expected. That's because despite the implication that these prices now showed you full fees, some noticed another $6.50 fee tacked on at the end. After people pointed that out, Azoff again responded by claiming that Ticketmaster simply can't show you all the fees until it knows how many tickets are being bought and what the shipping method is.

A few hours later, Ticketmaster launched a blog, where the first post tries to delve into this by suggesting that the problem isn't the fees, it's that you don't understand the fees. Yeah, really. This is incredibly tone deaf on Ticketmaster's part. People understand fees just fine. As Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired points out "each dollar that comes out of their wallets is identical." No one cares that Ticketmaster has to pay various third parties, such as "promoters, venues, teams, artists" out of those fees.

Years ago, we discussed a nearly identical situation with phone bills, showing how people were incredibly annoyed with massive unexplained fees, and the telcos insisted they were necessary to "recoup costs." But, as we pointed out, in most businesses you recoup the costs in the list price and don't break out fees. Otherwise, we'd have lots of companies doing this sort of crap: Want a pizza pie? It's just $3, but there's a $3.50 "crust fee," a $9.38 "oven fee," a $4.50 "service fee," and a $2.18 "cleanup fee." Plus tax.

That, of course, is ridiculous and would piss people off -- just as telco fees do and just as Ticketmaster's fees do. If Ticketmaster wanted to make people happy it would stop telling people they need to be better educated about fees -- a subject they don't care about -- and just offer straight up, all-in, pricing. If Ticketmaster has to pay a bit more to some third party because of this, well, why not figure out a way to bake that into the overall price. It's called forecasting, and most other businesses predict their cost of goods sold using various forecasting methods, and it seems rather silly that Ticketmaster apparently cannot.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:39am

    I picture the second half of the article all being in bold as Mike just losing it out of sheer frustration against Ticketmaster. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:43am

    Despite pissing off customers, fees are great. Whenever a company needs a new revenue stream, they only have to pull a new "fee" out of their ass. Credit card companies have learned this. So have the airlines. And let's not forget the fee masters, wireless carriers.

    Being able to pull new revenue streams out of your ass sure beats innovating with new business models and pleasing your customers.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:44am

    Let me just try closing the tags myself

    Maybe that will do it.

    Anyway, as stated, people don't care about an itemized list about how they are being screwed. They care about the bottom-line. Knowing where money is going does not make it reasonable and certainly wont make consumers okay with it. It's a non-sequitur.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    imbrucy (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:44am

    Mike is angry

    I know Ticketmaster's practices can be frustrating and all, but you don't need to get so angry as to bold the article Mike.

    /sarcasm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:51am

    Re: Mike is angry

    Damn those missing closed tags.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    retarded, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:52am

    this article

    way to just babble on and on about nothing. If you dont like the fact a business tries to make money for themselves and their clients * the people you go to see *, then boycott the bands and teams that use ticketmaster. Then after you're done whining about it, go slit your wrists for being so emo dramatic.

     

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  7.  
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    Matthew (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:56am

    Scapegoats

    They use fees as scapegoats. "Don't blame us - we don't want to charge you a buttscratching fee - we have to. The buttscratchers insist on it!"

    They imagine people will just shut up and pay up. Instead, people are doing the smart thing and saying, "Stop paying people to stand around, scratching their butts!"

     

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  8.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 11:56am

    Re: this article

    way to just babble on and on about nothing. If you dont like the fact a business tries to make money for themselves and their clients * the people you go to see *, then boycott the bands and teams that use ticketmaster. Then after you're done whining about it, go slit your wrists for being so emo dramatic.

    way to just babble on and on about nothing. If you dont like the fact that this site writes about what we find interesting * the content you are reading by choice*, then boycott the site that writes about that content. Then after you're done whining about it, go slits your wrists for being so emo dramatic.

    /couldnotresist

    Not that you'll recognize the irony, but it is amusing that you whine about what you falsely perceive as me whining in a much more dramatic way than anything I wrote. Amusement abounds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re: this article

    "/couldnotresist"

    Dork!! and to funny ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Fees

    The original price of the ticket covers the artist, promoter, etc. The fees Ticketmaster adds are above and beyond the expense incurred by the performer. Don't think for a minute that these fees have anything to do with supporting the artist.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Re: this article

    If you dont like the fact a business tries to make money for themselves and their clients * the people you go to see *, then boycott the bands and teams that use ticketmaster.

    The point is less "I don't want to pay that" and more "be upfront with what I'm paying." like mike said, you don't order a pizza for $3 and then get charged an over fee, a cleanup fee, and a service fee -- you buy a $12 pizza and you're done. Ticketmaster says a concert is $30, but then adds on service fees and lighting fees and venue fees -- just tell me the ticket really costs $52 and be done with it.

     

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  12.  
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    Ben (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    Post

    I get pissed off that they'll give me two ticketing options:

    1) Physical ticket via postal system for ~£3 or
    2) Electronic (PDF type) ticket which I print myself.

    How the fiddly f*ck does it cost £3 to distribute an electronic ticket!

     

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  13.  
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    Ben (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: this article

    At least you closed the tags this time Mike!

    {sarc-mark}

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    AJ, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    Trolls are hungry today!

    You guys are overfeeding the trolls... nothing worse than a fat troll.... except for maybe re-runs of Oprah *grimaces*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    RD, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    Re: this article

    "!way to just babble on and on about nothing. If you dont like the fact a business tries to make money for themselves and their clients * the people you go to see *, then boycott the bands and teams that use ticketmaster. Then after you're done whining about it, go slit your wrists for being so emo dramatic.

    way to just babble on and on about nothing. If you dont like the fact that this site writes about what we find interesting * the content you are reading by choice*, then boycott the site that writes about that content. Then after you're done whining about it, go slits your wrists for being so emo dramatic.

    /couldnotresist"

    (to original poster) Yes. Please do so. Especially the last part, do that right away. Please. Soon. Then we wont have to poison our eyes with your whiny drivel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    yourrealname (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    Fees

    I think everyone is missing the real point of the extra fees. The contracts are set up with various people, the bands, promoters, etc... to take a certain percentage of the price of the ticket. That way if for some reason an event undersells, they don't end up having to pay pre-set money to each person, they still only give them a percentage of the ticket sales, thus keeping the loss down for Ticketmaster if a band gets a poor draw. The extra fees added on are not included in the total that gets split with the other people. Ticketmaster keeps all that themselves. So not only are they screwing the customer over with extra fees, they're screwing the artists and everyone else over using fees as a way to do fancy accounting to prevent paying everyone else as much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    redrum, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:29pm

    "How the fiddly f*ck does it cost £3 to distribute an electronic ticket!"

    Awesome!!!

     

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  18.  
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    imbrucy (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Fees

    Then have the total price split in two with very clear labeling. Ex:

    Ticket Cost: 35$
    Ticketmaster Cost: 15$

    Total Cost: 60$

    Then people know exactly what is going to the artist, but still clearly know the full price up front.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Arelas, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    Math

    I can't tell if that was bad math or your were being funny.

    35+15+x=60?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Arelas, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Math

    "you were"...now I fail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:55pm

    oh we understand them - aka ripoffs

    not going to any concerts no more either...now what ya gonna do, lazy 50 copyright year artists

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    coldbrew, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Fees

    The reality is that these tactics leave Live Nation open to disruption, and all I see is opportunity. Go-to-market strategy is probably most important, but focusing on the customer's (i.e.the people buying the tickets) needs should be the overall strategy, which makes this more difficult because there are several stake holders to accommodate: venue owners, promoters, labels, and the bands. There are many startups looking at this issue.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Mojo, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    A big reason for "tack on" fees is to keep a low, attractive price you can advertise. You can push concert tickets at $50, but only after you've initiated the purchase are you presented with the "true" cost of closer to $75.

    Same with the telcos. Your wireless carrier will hook you with a low monthly fee of $39.95, knowing full well that they'll get more like $60 from you after they tack on the fees.

    That's why they do it.

    Wouldn't you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    DearMrMiller (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    De Facto Monopoly

    I know folks want to think that the artist/venue/promoter are innocent victims in all this but that's not actually the case. I'll explain:

    Ticketing is a de facto monopoly regardless of how you slice it. A limited resource where demand sometimes outstrips supply. Now as a artist/venue/promoter you of course want your tickets sold, so you give the biggest allocation to the largest and most reliable ticketing provider, which most of the time is Ticketmaster. In order to gain a larger allocation of tickets from the venue/artist/promoter what do you think agents like Ticketmaster bargain with? If you guessed by setting extra fees, you'd be correct. Most of the time during these dealings, side deals are cut so that the venue/artist/promoter/agent can profit further from the sale of this limited resource. Now Ticketmaster doesn't mind being the boogie man and takes the flack, that's their job and why venues/artists/promoters use them. So fees are in fact shared between the parties and are set by collusion between the agent and the venue/artist/promoter. With the extra and reliable income that Ticketmaster promises based on getting these allocations there is really no desire to promote competition. It's greed on all sides where Ticketmaster plays the bag man. Obviously if the venues/promoters/artists wanted something different which was fairer for the punter, they would do it. But the promise of extra gravy... well that's sometimes hard to resist.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Todd, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    Azoff again responded by claiming that Ticketmaster simply can't show you all the fees until it knows how many tickets are being bought and what the shipping method is.

    This exact same line of reasoning was used in a piece in the LA Times today by Verizon and AT&T. They claim you can't get a full quote without going through the entire 15 minute order process.

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20100824,0,1949781.column

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Fees

    Ticket Cost: 35
    TM Cost: 15
    Total: 50

    Where did you get $60 from? YOU WORK FOR TICKETMASTER DON'T YOU!!!!/bold

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    Re:

    Uh, no?

    Ever heard of long-term planning? I know that US investors discourage that idea, but most parts of the business world don't believe in cannibalizing future dollars for minor, immediate gains.

    There's a saying "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me". You trick people into paying higher-than-advertised prices once, and they will never trust your marketing again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Mike Kelly, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Ticketmaster (live nation, whatever) is evil

    I've passed up all concerts for the past 2 years because of their fees. 17 dollars and up pre ticket? Puh=leese. They are raping the people that buy tickets and complain that its tha artists. It not. Its ticketbastard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    mark, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

    Re: this article

    When the group that I am associated with moved venues (the old one closed down), we were forced to drop Brown Paper Tickets, which had decent fees, and go with Ticketmaster, which doubled our ticket price. Ticketmaster had a perpetual contract with the new venue so we were forced to use them. After losing quite a large number of fans, we looked at other venues, but Ticketmaster had all of them as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    so let me get this straight...not only am i cheap..im ignorant too?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Danny, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Fees

    I don't know if that was a mistake or not but that is exactly the type of Ticketmaster mathematics people are mad about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    I noticed you can't post comments at the Ticketmaster's blog site. Gee, I wonder why?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    "where the first post tries to delve into this by suggesting that the problem isn't the fees, it's that you don't understand the fees."

    So is that my fault for not being psychic or is that their fault for not adequately explaining the fees?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Mike is angry

    "I know Ticketmaster's practices can be frustrating and all"

    Sorry this is kinda off topic, but here is another tip. If you ever go to a gym don't ever sign anything and don't ever give them your credit/debit card number.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Ron Rezendes (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Fees

    He just left out the line item:

    Ticket Cost: 35
    TM Cost: 15
    TRYOTCF* Cost: 10

    Total: $60

    *Ticketmaster Rake-You-Over-The-Coals Fee

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 2:40pm

    I don't remember the last time, if ever, I used Ticketmaster, and even though they may not be the worst, they still suck due to their sheer size. Basically, I stopped going to concerts and other events monopolized by them, and they will never see a dime from me.

     

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  37.  
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    Karl (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 2:59pm

    Ticketmaster Says People Don't Like Service Fees Because We Don't Understand Them

    Breaking News:

    Ticketmaster's Mom Says Ticketmaster Is Not Fat, They're Big-Boned

    ...Incidentally, this is the first I've heard about artists and promoters getting a cut of the service fees. The way it used to work is that the band gets a flat guarantee from the venue, and the promoter/manager/etc. takes a cut of that. The ticketing fees would all go to the ticket agent.

    If that's not the case anymore, then why do tickets cost so much, even without the fees? That can't all be going to the venue...

    Then again, I haven't attended a show where tickets were sold by Ticketmaster in a very, very long time. I mean, the last time I paid a ticketing fee, it was around $3.00.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Re: De Facto Monopoly

    That's not entirely true. Often artists of a certain level cannot put together a tour without Ticketmaster/LiveNation. These organizations are pretty much monopolists when it comes to venues and ticketing in the US. Do a little research about what happened when Pearl Jam butted heads with Ticketmaster 15 yrs ago.

     

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  39.  
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    Russ (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 3:18pm

    Airlines

    Don't forget them.

    One of the reasons that teleco's and airlines do the fees rather than increase tickets is for search comparison.

    got to orbitiz, etc. and search for tickets, they will compare the list price, not the total cost.

    TM OTOH has a de facto monopoly in many areas and they add fees because they can. You want to see the event, then pay the piper. Where else are you going to go?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 4:09pm

    Re:

    Breaking News
    Hey, Karl is cool again!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    lavi d (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    Channeling Jack

    ...you don't understand the fees.

    "You can't handle the truth!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    Eugene (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Trolls are hungry today!

    But the trolls around this site are so incompetent! Unfairly beating up on them is cathartic (and incidentally helps enhance consensus) :D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Fees

    More Industry A$$counting at work...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    hans, Aug 24th, 2010 @ 6:43pm

    $1 Airline Tickets

    When recently hearing about airlines charging for carry-on baggage "because airlines are losing money due to cheap ticket prices", I came up with the idea that they could charge $1 for the ticket, and then tack on a variable "transportation fee" based on the destination.

    I wonder if I could get a business method patent on that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Aug 24th, 2010 @ 9:53pm

    Re: Re: De Facto Monopoly

    Wow, that sucks, they had to cancel their tour and 4 years later, go back to the devil...

    We need better judges.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 12:07am

    Re: this article

    I marked your post as insightful cause you chose your nick so fittingly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Yarg, Aug 25th, 2010 @ 1:48am

    TM fees

    Ticketmaster do not decide the fees, promoters do. That way they keep the ticket price down and put the blame for pricing on Ticketmaster rather than the promoters.
    And it works, most of these comments are anti-ticketmaster and none are anti-promoter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    drm made me into a pirate? (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 1:49am

    be forthright or be gone

    cost = X

    no one sane pushes the scheme

    cost = B + T + 1.4W + m + n + y

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    icon
    martyburns (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 2:26am

    Re: $1 Airline Tickets

    That is what they used to do in the UK. I once paid 1p for a flight London->Dublin and the fees were £14.99. I'm pretty sure they made that illegal a couple of years ago though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 25th, 2010 @ 6:21am

    Re: Fees

    If the original price covers the artist, promoter, etc., shouldn't it all be broken out too?

    80 cents for the ticket (paper?)
    50 cents for the artist fee
    $1 for the songwriter fee
    $15 for the record company fee
    $3 for the promoter fee
    ...then TicketMaster adds it's fees.

    So, concert tickets are really 80 cents!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 7:00am

    Re: TM fees

    There are ways for them to deal with the fees without deceptively tacking them on at the point of sale on top of the list price. That practice is what's being criticised, not the fact that the fees exist, and the ball's totally in Ticketmaster's court for that one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: this article

    Mike! Sense of humour! Wow... and I thought it had been worn out /long/ ago dealing with these numpties :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    Paying someone for 20 seconds at $540 an hour to press 'send'?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: $1 Airline Tickets

    The fees are usually government-fixed taxes to actually travel from A to B, no matter what the actual ticket price is, but there is some pressure to have to present the price as a fixed conglomeration, as is usually the legal requirement in the EU.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 10:04am

    Re: be forthright or be gone

    I always thought they used the formula E=mc^2

    Where
    E = Expense gouged
    m = mug value of band
    c = number of con victims persuaded to attend

    So the more conned mugs attend a bigger mug-attractor, the worse the gouging...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Observer, Oct 1st, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Re: this article

    Your moniker suits your post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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