General Question

dalepetrie's avatar

What do you think would be a fair percentage to pay in service charges and fees over and above the face value of a concert ticket?

Asked by dalepetrie (18009points) December 4th, 2008

I get pissed every time I buy a concert ticket from Ticketbastard. Today, a $37 concert ticket cost me $52.96 ($2 facility charge, $9.40 convenience charge, $3.87 order processing fee and $0.69 in additional taxes). That’s 43% over and above the cost of the ticket. There is NOTHING else I can think of that we would put up with this for.

Imagine if you negotiated the price of a used car for $10,000, and they said, OK, you also have to pay a $540.54 fee for the cost of storing your car in the dealership until you came along and bought it, a $2,540.54 charge for the convenience of being able to come to this dealership and get the car, a $1,045.95 fee for the salesperson’s time to sell the car to you, and $186.49 in additional taxes, total $14,313.52.

One time I wanted to go to a show that was $20, I went to Ticketbastard and it would have cost me $31.20, a 56% markup. I knew that show wouldn’t sell out so I got my ticket at the door for $20 (a 0% markup, thank you very much). Because they charge these high flat fees for “convenience”, “facilities” and “processing”, it ends up that the cheaper the ticket, the higher these fees end up being as a percentage of the sale.

Now I know this might sound like a rant, but seriously, I’m curious if you think there’s a better way. So, if you were to start up a competitor to Ticketmaster, how would you make money off the sale of tickets while making your pricing structure seem more fair to the consumer?

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23 Answers

cwilbur's avatar

I think if I were competing with Ticketmaster, I’d take a percentage of the sale price.

The venue says “The ticket price should be $40”; the sales agent (the new Ticketmaster) charges $40 to the end user, no “service fees,” no “facility fees,” no “order processing fee,” no “Internet sales fee”—just the $40 that is on the face value of the ticket. Then the sales agent takes 10% or whatever, and hands the rest on to the venue.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I have a love/hate relationship with ticketbastard. Its like ok this is nice and all that i can just get the tickets online,but all the fees are rediculous. I mean if im buying 1 ticket or 20 there really isnt much of a difference in work done on their end so why do i need to get charged a convenience/possessing/whatever the fuck else fee for each ticket. Im so sick of going to shows and feeling like i bought an extra ticket from all the fees they charged me for two tickets. Its like i buy on for ticketmaster -_ -

<shakes fist at ticketmaster>

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

There is no mark-up that I am comfortable with unless I am buying for a show out of my local area and I am unable to go directly to the venue to buy the tickets. Then, I will pay the convenience charges. If you don’t want to pay the fees go to the venue and buy the tickets at the box office.

dynamicduo's avatar

Oh Ticketmaster, such an interesting company. It’s really because of their prices that I don’t go to major shows often. I much prefer a nice smaller place anyway, less chance of an asshat who’s drenched themselves in perfume which causes me great headaches.

Hopefully the reduced economy will hit these and other price gougers (I’m looking at you, text messaging fees), forcing them into slashing prices to entice people to buy. The only reason Ticketmaster can get away with it is because it has the monopoly and people aren’t willing to not go to the shows. If it had a competitor, it would sure as heck not be run the way it is now. Oh free market.

dalepetrie's avatar

I guess what precludes me from going to the venue to buy the tickets is that I have to work when they go on sale, and as such, if the show is a sellout risk, I feel I have to buy them online if I want to go at all (and I will NOT pay a scalper). I’m not adverse to paying for this service, I know TM gets no money from the face value of the ticket, and I know they have significant costs…just think of all the people it takes to ticket an event, and all the overhead costs associated with that.

Really, I have two big prolbmes…one is the “convenience charge” and one is the “order processing fee”. Basically this is where TM makes all their money. The facility charge, well that’s the venue, the venues USED to just take a cut of the face value, but if they want to enumerate the charges, fine, I’ve got no problem with a couple bucks a ticket, I understand that.

And I expect that TM should be able to cover its costs AND make money. And I guess in theory I’m not too adverse to the idea of charging a flat amount vs. a percentage. In other words, let’s say it’s determined that Ticketmaster spends $3 per ticket for every ticket sold on average in overhead costs, and let’s say Ticketmaster wants to make $5 per ticket on every ticket they sell. Then fine, charge an $8 order charge per ticket, even if it’s only a $5 show (do they have these anymore?), that’s at least fair. But it would make more sense to build that into the ticket price. Either that or if you want to look at it in terms of what percentage they could charge instead of how much each ticket cost, you could crunch the numbers that way and say that if we charge 20% on each ticket, we’ll make $5 a ticket on average and pay all our overhead, OK, that looks and seems more fair as well, and again you can either enumerate it or build it into the ticket.

The problem comes in that these convenience charges start off way too high and only get more and more pricy as the tickets get more expensive, but it’s not a straight percentage and doesn’t seem to bear on reality in any way. And it ends up making the up front cost your brain calculates when you start to figure it out seem completely out of whack with the final bill. And then they now have started implementing this per order charge, which is ridiculous to have per ticket AND per order charges. Now, I’m going alone to this show, but I’m paying $4 just for placing the order…if I bought 8 tickets and went with 7 other people, I’d still pay $4.

I guess as I see it, if I were selling this ticket, I think I could make money by adding $8 to the ticket (you can get there by $3/ticket overhead + $5 profit, or by taking a little more than 20% and adding it to the cost). Make the ticket face value $45. The $2 facility charge, I get that. But even if they charged $53 for the ticket, just face value, I wouldn’t see a $37 ticket price up front and a $53 price when I check out.

The problem is that TM has exclusive agreements with the venues, and the courts have decided that neither the artists nor the concertgoers are the proper plaintiffs to sue the ticket agent, they say the relationship exists between the ticket agent and the venue. Well, if the venue has an exclusive agreement with the ticketer, why the hell would either of them sue the other to keep the ticket prices down for the consumer? Pretty sweet deal they’ve got going if you ask me.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Another thing that always drove me crazy about ticketmaster. It is free to have the tickets shipped to your house if you buy them early enough, but theres a 2 dollar charge to have them emailed to you. WTF?!! that seems totally ass backwards. Shouldnt the email be free?

dalepetrie's avatar

@uber – couldn’t agree more, you have to pay MORE to print them yourself, thereby saving them money on printing, supplies AND mailing! WTF indeed.

tinyfaery's avatar

You’d think with the advent of the Internet and super nifty computers the process should be faster and cheaper, but I’m sure the costs of running a buisness (overhead, wages, etc) have gone up as well if we don’t pay the ridiculously high fees, people could lose their jobs. This is another example of my axiom about America: we are truly the land of the middle man (or middle person to be accurate).

Trustinglife's avatar

Dale, what show are you going to see?

Zaku's avatar

What’s the “service” I’d be paying for? I can think of little reason why it would be a percentage of the ticket cost, other than the money-mindedness of the people involved, which to me has little or nothing to do with fairness. More like fareness.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Trustinglife – Going to see Slipknot in January, today was the presale I got a pretty good ticket too

@Zaku – I do see it as a service and do think it has value, someone has to take those phone calls, someone has to maintain the servers, the tickets have to be physically printed and mailed, and there needs to be some sort of program to take tickets out of circulation when they are purchased, someone needs to collect the money, pay the credit card companies, pay for the phone bills, and send the artist and venue their money for the event. It takes a mind boggling number of people to do any sort of customer service, not to mention their work equipment (computers, phones, etc.) the building they work in, etc. So yeah, there’s a cost to this, and yes, they are providing a service in that they are producing that little piece of paper that gets you into the show and makes sure you have a place to sit when you get there. I think to tinyfaery’s point, a LOT of this could be more automated, which would mean people lose jobs and such, but I really have to think that out of every $1 they collect in fees for a ticket, more pennies go to profit than to expense. If not, I think they’re doing something wrong.

Knotmyday's avatar

Pretend you’re a roadie and sneak in the back; no hassle. Just carry something heavy and don’t get caught

dalepetrie's avatar

I’ve never gone the fake roadie route…I don’t have the balls to pull that off.

But one time I did run into the drummer for one of my favorite bands…they happened to be playing a club in the building next door to the building I worked in. I shouted out to him and he invited me on the tour bus to meet the rest of the band. The bass player put me on the invite list to get into the show that night. After the show they let me on the bus again and hung out with one of the other bands.

El_Cadejo's avatar

What band?

Knotmyday's avatar

Please say it was Styx…

dalepetrie's avatar

Oh no, it wasn’t Styx, this band’s not even a “household name” kinda band, just one I’ve been a huge fan of for close to 20 years. They’re called Enuff Z’Nuff, and their big “claim to fame” was a couple top 40 singles in 1989 (“Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing”) which had admittedly HORRIBLE music videos (picture big hair, spandex and neon day-glo colors, the kind of stuff that got made fun of big time on Beavis and Butt-head). They’re a hard rock outfit out of Chicago who were written off when glam rock died, because they were associated with the genre (in reality they were more of a hard rock band with heavy Beatles influence than a “glam metal” band, but when they got their record deal in ‘89, glam was what was popular so the record company made them throw on some lipstick and try to curry favor with Poison fans). I’d recommend their music to anyone who likes melodic hard rock or to anyone who is a big fan of the Beatles, Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello or Queen. They have several songs posted on their myspace page if you’re interested.

They have put out something like 16 albums and those of us who consider ourselves fans are really big time into them and they’ve “almost” gotten a break many many times, but bad luck just kind of seems to follow them (they almost had a song on the Jerry McGuire soundrack and the Home Alone 2 soundtrack, but both were cut at the last minute…two key members of the band have died over the years…and of course they have been inextricably and unfairly tied to a form of music which lost all credibility the minute Nirvana hit the scene). Several high profile celebrities and musicians can be counted among their fans (Paul Stanley, Robin Zander, Paul McCartney, Howard Stern, David Letterman, Clive Davis, Vince Neil, Slash, and Robert Plant among others).

Anyway, I’ve been a big fan since their first album and I’ve followed them through the many ups and downs of their career. Right now they’re still making new music, but they’ve kind of adopted an “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” attitude towards their association with 80’s glam metal. So, even though they took the makeup off in 1991 when they released their 2nd album (a positive masterpiece and the favorite of every fan, “Strength”...an album that prompted Rolling Stone to predict incorrectly that they’d be the next big thing), a lot of the shows they’ve been playing in recent years have been 80’s revival kinds of shows, like Rocklahoma the last couple years, or the show where I saw them in 2003 in Minneapolis. Their then drummer (not the original drummer, but the guy who’d been in the band longer than the original drummer), Ricky Parent, was the guy I saw walking towards the bus, and I just hollered to him that I’d been a fan since the first album. He was a really great guy (I say was literally as he died of cancer in October of last year).

The band was in a weird place at the time, their lead singer had decided to stop touring with the band to kind of focus on a solo career, plus the fact that he had personality conflicts with the guitarist, and he just had a hard time playing to small crowds when in the earlier years they were playing arenas opening for some of the biggest bands of the day. The whole thing kind of started when one day the singer had a conflict and couldn’t show up for a gig, so the aforementioned guitarist stepped in to do the vocals, and as it turned out he sounded fantastic…if you closed your eyes you wouldn’t know it wasn’t the real singer…or so I’d heard, but I was skeptical. The singer was half the songwriting team, and he continuted to write and record music with the band, but he just didn’t go on tour with them.

Which is why I didn’t have a ticket to the show when they came to town. Honestly, I’d always wanted to see them live, and I’d made many, many attempts, but it had never worked out for me. I bought a ticket to a frickin’ Nelson concert in 1991 because they were supposed to open, and they didn’t show. Then for a period of several years, they’d come to the Twin Cities, and they’d play a show at some local club, but there would be no publicity for it, except for one ad in the free local alternative weekly, and about 5 times in a row it seemed to be that ONE week when I didn’t pick up the paper until the day after. Like the paper comes out on Wednesday and they’d do a show Thursday, and I wouldn’t get a paper until Friday…if they’d advertised the week before or if I’d picked up the paper a day or two earlier I’d have known. Then there were two years where I went to Chicago on vacation, and it just so happened that these guys, who are FROM Chicago, played in Minneapolis when I was in Chicago. So I’d missed nearly a dozen opportunities to see them live and I was pretty excited to know that they were playing this club in the next building over from where I was working.

But then I’d heard the guitarist was doing vocal duties, and I thought that this was not the way I wanted to see them. I thought that even though I actually had an opporunity to catch this show, I was going to skip it, because it wasn’t what I wanted my “first time” seeing them to be like. But I was still pretty excited to see their tour bus parked alongside the building I worked in (though I didn’t know for sure which of the two tour busses was theirs). So, I walked by the bus once on the way to lunch and once on the way back, but didn’t see anyone. Then in the afternoon, I went out for a break and that’s when I spotted the drummer. So, he brings me on the bus and tells the bass player (the other of the 2 founding member and the other half of the songwriting team with the no show singer) that I’d been a fan since the first album. So he shakes my hand and asks if I’m going to the show.

I told him I wasn’t…made some excuse about either my wife or son being sick (I think it was partially true) and I was just planning to head home, and he said he’d put me on the list just in case I could make it. Well I thought I couldn’t pass that up. They were on a 3 band bill with Pretty Boy Floyd opening and Faster Pussycat headlining. I got there just in time for Enuff Z’Nuff’s set, and hung around for a couple of Faster Pussycat’s songs, but I’d seen them twice in the 80s, once opening for Motley Crue and once opening for Kiss, and their schtick hadn’t changed in 15 years, so I left. On my way out, I spotted Ricky (the drummer) again, and waved and he had a couple of babes on his arm, but he waved me in anyway.

So I got in, and apparently Enuff was sharing a bus with Pretty Boy, as a couple of the people from PBF were hanging out on the bus with assorted hangers on. The bass player for PBF, Dish, introduced himself, and his girlfriend “Filthy Divine” who was actually from Minneapolis. Ricky disappeared into the back with the two babes he’d had on his arm and I didn’t see any of the other guys from Enuff that night.

Surprisingly if anything the whole on the bus experience was very low key, just like a few people hanging around chatting about minutea. All in all though it was a hell of a night, because when I heard the guitarist step in on vocals, let’s say I’d been mighty skeptical up until the second he opened his mouth, and he converted me instantly.

Only other time I met a rock band, was a show in 1990, (one of the other two aforementioned times I saw Faster Pussycat play). This was a Kiss concert, and both Faster Pussycat and Slaughter were opening for them, well I was there with this girl from school who was very much a wild party gal. She wanted to see if she could get us backstage (she was eventually successful in getting herself backstage, but not me…same thing happened a few months later when we went to see AC/DC together…she managed to get one backstage pass). I was never dating her, so I didn’t care what she had to do to get backstage, but I wouldn’t have put anything past her. Anyway when we were in the back at the musician’s entrance, Slaughter came out and chatted with those of us hanging out back there.

As an addendum to my Enuff Z’Nuff story, that guitarist who had kind of usurped the singer has now either quit or been fired from the band and the original singer is back as a touring member of the band (in theory, they have yet to mount a tour). They’ve recorded a new album with Jake E. Lee on guitar (best known for his days with Ozzy), and I’ll buy it IF it’s ever released…they’re working on it. I imagine when it does come out, they’ll be in town, and if I know about it, I’ll be there, even if I have to pay ransom to Ticketbastard to get in.

dalepetrie's avatar

Even as a psycho fan, I’ll agree, it epitomizes everything that was wrong with the 80s. Were it not for the fact that in 1989 I did not have access to MTV, I too probably would have written these guys off. Instead I bought the albums and was blown away again and again and again.

Zaku's avatar

@dalepetrie – Ok, yes, selling a ticket is a sevice that has an associated cost, but I’m comparing the price of the ticket with or without some external 3rd party vendor like TicketUniverse or whatever. Seems to me the traditional case has the overhead of an event taken into account in the ticket price. So buying the ticket from someone else for convenience could either cost more, or involve some other deal between the production company and the 3rd party vendor. There are many ways to look at it, and the model you describe does not match how I tend to think about it. Especially if the “service charge” for selling me a ticket (which often involves using a database-driven web site to create a data record that has me needing to use will-call anyway) makes even less sense than a flat fee.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Ive always wondered why ticket vendors dont sell tickets directly online. I mean they wouldnt even have to print a ticket or anything, just give you a conformation code or something to bring to the show. Zero overhead.

edit nevermind i figured it out, they probably get extra money from ticketmaster with the deal they have worked out

dalepetrie's avatar

I agree Zaku, I just know for a fact though that Ticketmaster doesn’t get anything out of the face value. It begs the question why they don’t build it in, I think they could charge just as much and patrons wouldn’t get so pissed even though they’d be paying just as much in fees.

I wonder if uber’s idea will take off some day. There’s both a bus company and an airline now that do all their ticketing online and you can get transportation dirt cheap because they have no customer service, no ticket agents…everything is done on line, etc. This bus company runs trips to Chicago from a number of cities, and they are able to sell tickets as low as $1. I would suspect if the venues wanted to invest in the technology, they could put the death nail in the coffin of Ticketmaster.

Zaku's avatar

Yep, it’s all arbitrary meaning attached to a negotiation between people, which becomes a game of perceptions for everyone involved. Online sales do tend to make sense and reduce the need for humans spending their time having conversations about simple transactions.

As a customer, though, looking at a ticket price that actually costs more to use an online service to buy, I generally balk at even $1 or more extra total cost, and do whatever’s cheapest.

dalepetrie's avatar

I agree, I don’t want to pay more for the same thing I can get somewhere else. Only deal would be, for example at this show, “technically” I could have gotten a better deal by going to the box office. But I was working 15 miles from the box office, so I could not. Also, this was a pre-sale, so I got a VERY good seat, whereas if I’d waited until the public onsale Saturday I probably wouldn’t have gotten as good a seat, unless I’d showed up an hour before tix went on sale, and it’s about 10 degrees here right now, and I need to be home all day Saturday as I have a contractor coming in. So, I had to pay about $13 for what truly was ‘convenience’ if I wanted to ensure I could see the show. That’s how they get you…I’m as price conscious as they come, but if it’s a choice between seeing the show and having to pay more than I should vs. not seeing it at all, I’ll pick the former.

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