Ohio Probing Hannah Montana Ticket Sales

Ohio State Senator Eric Kearney suspects that ticket sales for the Hannah Montana concert are being manipulated.  Stand in line, Senator.  We couldn’t agree more (see my blog post from November 21 – “Did you score Hannah Montana tickets?”).  We commend Senator Kearney’s request to the Ohio state attorney general to investigate this issue.

Senator Kearney has requested that the Ohio ticket industry be examined to determine why so many of the hottest shows and sporting events seem to be sold out before tickets even go on sale.  We, of course, have our theories – including drummed-up hype created by the concert promoters to create the kind of mass hysteria we see around the Hannah Montana concert.

Last week, new dates were added to the tour for January and parents are once again going through the dance of trying to get tickets for their kids.

If Ohio can make some headway on this issue, perhaps changes can be put in place that will enable concert-goers to pay a fair price for a show they want to see, without all the drama.

Did you score Hannah Montana tickets?

The show of the year (at least for
10-year old girls) is upon us. Were you
able to get those most coveted Hannah Montana concert tickets? If not, figuring out who to blame may be as
elusive as getting the tickets in the first place.

For parents out of the concert scene,
this new Internet-induced world of ticket sales has been a real
eye-opener. Ticketmaster, the company
responsible for selling the tickets in the first place, is placing the blame
solely on a technology company named RMG and the ticket brokers that use their
technology. RMG’s technology enables
these brokers to jump to the head of the line and snag the majority of tickets
to hot shows.

Clearly, this technology and the ticket
brokers that use it are making the process less fair for families looking for
tickets; however, focusing solely on new technology will not solve
anything. Unfortunately, the state
attorneys general who are now investigating this issue are following
Ticketmaster’s lead and not looking into the much deeper issues involved.

With music sales slumping, concert
promoters are using every trick possible to create “hype” for upcoming concert
tours. According to Billboard Magazine,
“given production considerations and ‘holds’ for fan clubs
and other constituencies, the actual number of tickets that may be available to
the general public for a given show may be only a few thousand, even if
the listed capacity of the venue is 18,000 or more.” Much like an empty nightclub keeping a line of
potential customers waiting outside, these promoters are focused on building
hype through manufactured scarcity.

To make matters worse,
Ticketmaster has done relatively little to police its site and implement new
technologies that ensure fair ticket sales. If they had taken the necessary to steps to stay ahead of RMG’s
technology, parents may have had a better chance of getting one of the few
tickets actually sold through Ticketmaster.

So, what’s a parent to do? Many have turned to the secondary ticket
market, a place that gives fans another option for purchasing the tickets they
couldn’t get through Ticketmaster. But
many ask, at what price?

Like any other open market system,
supply and demand drive price. Some tickets may command prices that are well
in excess of face value, however, what is often overlooked is that 40% of all
tickets resold on the secondary market are sold for less than face value. In the
end, the online marketplace is a fair and convenient way for consumers to
access tickets if they were unable to get them directly from Ticketmaster or
are looking for lower prices on less popular shows.

Much can be done to improve the
fairness of the current ticket system. Promoters can ensure that more than a few thousand tickets are available
to the general public, and Ticketmaster can do more to prevent ticket brokers
from getting an unfair advantage. It
may not put Hannah Montana tickets in your hand this time around, but there’s
always the next tour.

Steve DelBianco
Executive Director of the NetChoice Coalition

Rockies' Fans Victims of Denial of Service Attack

8.5 million fans who tried to purchase Colorado Rockies World Series tickets yesterday when through the team’s website were denied.  According to the Colorado Rockies, fans were victims of external malicious attacks but computer experts say a more likely explanation was a denial of service attack that overloaded the system.

Online ticket re-selling… the rest of the story

The Washington Post had an interesting story over the weekend about the increasing popularity of online ticket re-sale sites. But the Post article overlooked an important part of the story. There is a big difference between the arrangements some teams have made to help fans sell their tickets conveniently online and the rules that other teams are trying to impose that threaten fans with loss of their season tickets if they try to sell them anywhere but on a site controlled by the team. Some teams apparently understand that fans should have the right to sell their unused tickets wherever they want and at whatever price the free market determines. Other teams apparently want to control the re-sale market and, of course, make sure they get their cut of every transaction. Online ticket re-sale sites and safe, reliable, and by far the most efficient way to establish fair prices for tickets that fans need to sell. As the Post article points out, more and more states are getting rid of their outdated “anti-scalping” laws. It’s time for the teams to get with the program and stop trying to intimidate season ticket holders and other loyal fans.

MLB getting into the ticket re-sale business

In a nod to the growing strength of Internet ticket exchanges, Major League Baseball has entered into a five-year revenue-sharing agreement with StubHub. Under the deal, all 30 team Web sites and MLB.com will direct fans who want to sell their tickets, or buy tickets from other fans, to Stubhub.com.

Richard Clarke, the former top counterterrorism adviser to the White House, told a hacker conference in Las Vegas that the threat of online data theft is becoming worse as criminals grow increasingly sophisticated at pilfering information from companies, government agencies and consumers. Clarke told the conference that basic flaws in the Internet’s infrastructure need to be remedied in part through government and international intervention.

The House Judiciary Committee has voted, against the Bush administration’s wishes, to shield journalists, including advertising-supported bloggers, from having to reveal their confidential sources in many situations. By a voice vote, and only after the politicians spent nearly two hours airing various misgivings, the committee approved an amended version of the Free Flow of Information Act sponsored by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Mike Pence (R-IN).

Ticket scalping laws may be on the way out in Massachusetts

A key legislative leader in Massachusetts is drafting a bill that would do away with the state’s antiscalping law, allowing tickets to sports events and concerts to be resold at any price as long as the seller is licensed and offers consumer protections. Representative Michael J. Rodrigues,  chairman of the Legislature’s Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee, said his proposal would bring Massachusetts in line with other states that have already scrapped their ticket scalping laws.

A group of big-name brand owners has teamed up to form CADNA: the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse. Members include Yahoo, Dell, Verizon and Marriott. According to a CADNA statement, "the coalition’s goals are to pursue Congressional legislation that would increase the statutory damages set forth by the existing Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and to work with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to introduce an international anti-cybersquatting treaty."

More FBI privacy violations

An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in an earlier Justice Department report that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

More professional sports teams are trying to compete with commercial websites in the business of re-selling tickets. The Cleveland Cavaliers, for example, give season ticket holders the option to forgo paper tickets and simply swipe their credit card or driver’s license when they enter the arena. But if they want to resell their seats they have to go a team-endorsed website cavs.flashseats.com that charges the buyer a 20 percent fee.

Near miss in New Mexico

The New Mexico Legislature has been considering a bill (HB 1000) that would significantly expand restrictions on ticket resale, even as more and more of us are enjoying the convenience and choice of buying and selling tickets online.

In a letter earlier this week I reminded the New Mexico House Judiciary Chairman Al Park that today’s ticket marketplace differs dramatically from 1983 when the state’s current ticket scalping law was enacted. Going online to buy and sell tickets to entertainment and sporting events is a lot safer and more convenient than dealing with street corner scalpers.

The online ticket exchanges operated by eBay, StubHub and Yahoo prove every day that consumers can trust online transactions. These leading online services aggressively enforce safe trading policies and have proven to be ideal partners for government officials responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws.

It now looks like HB 1000 is dead for this session of the Legislature, but looking ahead to next year, rather than expand New Mexico’s antiquated ticket scalping law, I urged Chairman Park and his colleagues to repeal existing restrictions and allow a safe and convenient secondary market for event tickets to develop.

That's the ticket, Minnesota!

Some hopeful news from Minnesota for anyone concerned about unfair restrictions on the re-sale of tickets online.

A bill making its way through the Minnesota legislature would repeal the state’s anti-scalping law and bring greater choice, convenience and competition to the growing secondary market for tickets to entertainment and sporting events.

When Minnesota’s anti-scalping law was passed way back in 1963 the marketplace for tickets was very different. The Internet didn’t even exist. Repealing this old law would permit more online trading and open new possibilities for consumers looking to buy or sell tickets online.

An free and open market for tickets would benefit buyers and sellers alike. On Internet ticket exchange websites, tickets for some events sell for more than their face value. Others sell for a lot less. In fact, many if not most, tickets end up selling for less than the original purchase price, including those "convenience" fees we all hate to pay.

State governments should be wary of exaggerated concerns about consumer protection. These are often just a smokescreen for attempts to stifle competition. When it comes to consumer protection, online marketplaces like Yahoo Classifieds, eBay, and AOL Classifieds earn the trust of consumers hour after hour and day after day. These sites aggressively enforce safe trading policies, and they have proven to be ideal partners for state regulators responsible for enforcing real consumer protection laws.

Consumers everywhere in the country deserve the choice and convenience of an open online marketplace for sports and entertainment tickets, a marketplace free from outdated anti-scalping laws and other unnecessary restrictions.

Boston Globe Officiates Patriots vs. StubHub, Misses Encroachment Penalty

The legal battle between the New England Patriots and the online ticket broker StubHub  spilled onto the editorial page of the Boston Globe last week. In their December 27 editorial, the Globe rightfully called for repeal of a Massachusetts law regulating ticket resale prices. Unfortunately, the Editors missed a penalty call on the Pats for forcing fans to resell tickets only through the team’s exchange.

The legislature should allow the free exchange of tickets, but it must also stop the Pats from unduly restricting the property rights of a ticket owner. Consumers should be able to resell their tickets anywhere, whether by posting a note at the office or online with StubHub. The Patriots deserve a penalty for blatant "encroachment" on basic consumer rights.

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