Today’s News: Ticketmaster Tries Transparency

24 Aug

Ticketmaster is changing the way they present pricing and fees in a bid to increase transparency and calm angry fans who are tired of being ripped off to see their favorite artists.  The announcement came as the first post on their new blog, Ticketology. Here’s what they have to say:

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.  We’ll try to do a better job in this space over the coming months of helping you understand our business, and how our fees compare to others in the industry (both in ticketing and ecommerce in general).  But the reality of the live entertainment business is that service fees have become an extension of the ticket price.  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 – and service fee rebates are our largest annual expense at Ticketmaster…

This practice changes today.  Over the next few days we are rolling out a new way of presenting pricing and fees on Ticketmaster.com.  Going forward, just like almost every other business in the world, we’ll tell you up front how much you can expect to pay for a certain ticket.  We’ll still break out the “face value” from the other fees where required, and we haven’t broken down per-order fees yet (although you will begin to see many of our clients move to truly all-in pricing, because they know it sells more tickets and makes you happier).  This user experience mirrors what you see across the web from leaders in their field – Amazon, Apple, Expedia, Zappos and more.  It’s not complicated, it’s just the right thing to do.

Good for them.  They understand that ticket service fees are the number one complaint among music fans, and they see that getting slammed with a 30% surcharge only after you’ve searched for tickets and entered your personal information makes people mad.  So why a system that, as Wired points out, doesn’t explain the exact breakdown of the fees, or updates the total fees when you want to buy multiple tickets? They have a theory:

By continuing to list the fees separately, Ticketmaster apparently wants to make the point that the “convenience fees” are split between itself and other parties, including artists, who must insist on high live music fees as other sources of income dry up.

No matter how you slice it, for Ticketmaster to list the components of any of its product’s prices has always been a ridiculous policy, and will continue to be for many shows.

Even the airline industry, which started charging separately for checking bags, eating food, and so on, doesn’t tack on extra fees for things you absolutely need in order to fly — like wings. Ticketmaster’s tickets, conversely, cannot be purchased without those fees (again, unless all the stakeholders/Ticketmaster clients agree to lump them in with the price of a ticket).

Ticketmaster boss Irving Azoff tweeted about it over the weekend: “New TM Full Disclosure Pricing!” We’re glad you’re excited about it, but all this means is that fans are going to know exactly how you’re screwing them over.  On a side note, his Twitter is hilarious – and reveals how little his company actually cares about its customers.  Yesterday, he posted this:

“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.”

“all in pricing will mean that print at home and order charges go away. tm cant control that”

So much for transparency, huh?  If Ticketmaster doesn’t know how many tickets they’re selling and how people want their tickets delivered, they have a bigger problem than a bunch of pissed-off customers.  BrandChannel hit the nail on the head with their headline: “Ticketmaster Tweets; Transparency Retreats.”  All Ticketmaster is doing is listing its total fees up front so that potential customers can see them without clicking all the way through, not explaining what the fees are for or how they break down.  They know their problem, but it appears as if taking these half-steps to fix it is just making people even more cynical about Ticketmaster’s motives.

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