High ticket fees leave students weighing options

Jody Michael

Ticketmaster’s service charges cause competition

The Kent State Ticketmaster office, located in the M.A.C. Center, builds fees into the base cost of the ticket, unlike other Ticketmaster offices. Rachel Kilroy | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Credit: DKS Editors

Sophomore psychology major Kandis Kole attended Lil Wayne’s concert at Blossom Music Center on Aug. 6. Unlike most of those in attendance, she was able to get into the show for free.

“I don’t have to buy tickets for shows at Blossom Music Center because I work there,” Kole explained.

This allows Kole to avoid not only the increasing prices of concert tickets, but also the service fees companies like Live Nation and Ticketmaster add to the cost of the tickets they sell. She has taken advantage of this opportunity numerous times for concerts at Blossom that she’s wanted to see, but she doesn’t have such luck at other area venues like Quicken Loans Arena or the Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City.

“If I didn’t get in for free, I would most likely not go because of the high prices of tickets,” Kole said.

Ticket prices have been rising for years now, but the ticket industry giants have recently taken advantage of their exclusive rights with certain events and venues to drive up both ticket prices and the service fees that get tacked on.

Why it’s so expensive

There are important purposes for the fees. Former Ticketmaster CEO Sean Moriarty said the fees allow the company to pay employees as well as venue staff and cover the equipment, promotions and other various expenses.

“There’s a thousand different things that go into the operating of a business like Ticketmaster,” Moriarty said, “whether it’s scanners, printers, servers or the actual stock the tickets are printed on, or the thousands of agents that work in our call centers.”

However, many artists, sports teams, and even members of Congress have voiced their displeasure at the fees being higher than necessary. Adding to the scrutiny is a planned merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation that would create a vertically integrated company, which would result in more efficient production, but could also prevent competition in the concert industry. Congressmen feel such competition is needed to keep prices down.

“Our concerns are heightened by the fact that Live Nation recently entered into the ticketing business to compete with Ticketmaster. This needed competition will be lost if this merger is completed,” wrote Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl in a February press release. “What does Live Nation’s decision to merge with its competitor rather than fight it in the market tell us about any company’s ability to compete with Ticketmaster? If Live Nation can’t compete, who can?”

How to avoid fees

As digital music sales limit the profit artists get compared with CD revenue, service fees keep some people from being able to spend money on concerts that are more important to the music industry than ever.

Luckily, there isn’t such an issue with the Kent State ticket office because all the fees are included in the ticket price

“Our tickets are also sold through Ticketmaster,” said Joe Carr, the Kent State athletic ticket office manager, “but we have no control over their fees.”

Carr said the simple method to avoid all of the extra fees is to stop by the ticket office located in the M.A.C. Center.

If getting tickets directly from the box office isn’t possible, the fee to have tickets mailed is $3, compared with Ticketmaster, which requires its customers to pay credit card companies a “convenience fee” and even a charge for printing tickets at home.

While the Kent State ticket office can only save students money for university events, there are ways to avoid fees when dealing with other companies.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is the majority owner of Flash Seats, a digital ticketing service. Veritix, one of the newest companies to make a splash in the ticket industry, is the maker of the “patented Flash Seats technology” that allows fans to attend events without the need to carry an actual ticket.

After fighting out of its deal with Ticketmaster, Quicken Loans Arena will now use Veritix as both its primary and secondary ticket marketplace. So fans attending an event at The Q can buy digital tickets from Flash Seats, enter the arena by swiping a credit card or driver’s license and not have to worry about lost or counterfeit tickets.

Using Veritix also means no shipping costs with the digital tickets so the system saves fans money. It also eliminates the worries about scalpers because tickets are safely re-sold on the Flash Seats Web site.

“Veritix’s Flash Seats technology is a win-win for fans, artists, teams and venue operators,” said Veritix CEO Sam Gerace, on the Cavalier’s Web site. “Flash Seats provides our clients with the ability to understand their fan base and provide a superior level of marketing and customer service. Venue operators, teams, artists and the fans all enjoy a superior level of convenience, control and security.”

The Q’s deal with Veritix and Flash Seats begins on Oct. 1. It is one of an increasing number of clients, including the Pepsi Center in Colorado, the Toyota Center in Texas and even colleges like Texas A&M and Boise State University.

When all else fails

If the only way to purchase tickets to an event is through Ticketmaster, there are still ways to avoid some fees. Matthew Paulson of American Consumer News provides a reminder that heading to the box office avoids the convenience fee, the order processing fee and the TicketFast printing fee.

“You won’t be able to avoid all of the fees,” Paulson said, “but you’ll at least be able to throw out the ridiculous convenience charge by purchasing your tickets directly from the venue.”

Should tickets have to be purchased online or by phone, the order-processing fee is a per-order charge, not per ticket. Fans going to an event with a large group of friends or family can have everybody get their tickets all in one order and have a smaller fee to split.

Other ticket companies have their own pros and cons.

StubHub.com was created to allow fans to avoid scalpers, but charge buyers a 10 percent service fee and sellers 15 percent of the ticket cost. Also, buyers pay $4.97 for delivery, even if the tickets can be printed at home.

Live Nation charges $13.50 on top of every ticket it sells. It has a “No Service Fee Wednesdays” program where fans can purchase tickets to certain events online on Wednesdays without a ticket charge, but a disclaimer on the company’s Web site states that “parking and other fees may apply.”

With several companies selling tickets for most events, each with different fees on top of the face value, fans will just have to do some comparison-shopping to find the best price.

Contact news correspondent Jody Michael at [email protected].