TRENTON – A coalition that includes venue operators and recording artist managers has launched a campaign in opposition to states that want to restrict use of paperless tickets.
The coalition hopes to fight for the right of performers and venues to use paperless tickets as a means to fight scalpers who drive up ticket prices.
“I don’t know when it became cool to rip people off,’’ said coalition treasurer Randy Levy.
Through the use of a web site they intend to launch, Standwithfans.org., and through lobbying efforts in Congress and in states where legislation is under consideration, the group hopes to prevent the growth of restrictions on paperless tickets or restrictions on demanding ID at will-call windows.
The venue operators and managers are part of a group calling itself Fans First, whose organizers include Ticketmaster, the nation’s largest ticket seller. Fans First said it wants to protect consumers from ticket resellers who double, triple, or sometimes quadruple the face value of a ticket, or sometimes fraudulently sell tickets the reseller does not even possess.
They argued Monday that the use of paperless tickets in which the primary seller holds onto the ticket documentation will help protect consumers from unscrupulous ticket resellers or scalpers.
In New Jersey, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D-20), Union, introduced a bill earlier this year that would address several issues regarding the secondary ticket market.
Among other things, Lesniak’s bill would remove ticket-resale price limits; prevent venue operators from making initial sales to themselves; and would require venue operators to “code’’ tickets so that they can be traced back to the original point of sale.
On the issue of paperless tickets, Lesniak’s bill would prohibit ticket sellers from issuing “paperless tickets” in an electronic form that isn’t readily transferable to a subsequent purchaser.
It’s that term “readily transferable’’ that is the battleground in some quarters. Lesniak’s bill would hand control over to the consumer and let that person use the ticket as they see fit: Attend the event or resell the ticket.
The issue, gaining traction nationwide as concerts often remain a steep purchase in a down economy, comes down to a battle over who controls the resale of a ticket, the consumer or an outside agency.
Underscoring the complexity of the matter, LiveNation, parent of Ticketmaster, owns its own secondary ticket division, TicketsNow, yet is involved with this new coalition to battle other ticket resellers.
“It’s not a perfect world,’’ said Levy, president of promoter Rose Presents in Minneapolis, Minn., where he said that state recently fought a battle against ticket sellers who wanted to prevent the use of nontransferable tickets.
But, he said, “It takes big pockets to fight big pockets.’’
Other coalition members include its president, Michael Marion, general manager of the Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Ark.; Jordan Feldstein, manager of such acts as Maroon 5 and Barenaked Ladies; and Jared Paul, manager of such acts as Hilary Duff and Smashing Pumpkins.
The coalition lists approximately 100 members, including about 60 venues around the nation.
The organizers acknowledged that tickets for concerts are expensive as it is, but at least purchasers should know they are dealing with a reputable, primary seller, and not with a secondary seller who marks up the ticket beyond the means of many customers.
Another coalition, Fan Freedom Project, http://fanfreedom.org, argues that what fans want is complete transparency in the ticket business, so they know, for example, if a performer has held tickets back that they intend to resell themselves.
“Fans feel like the ticketing industry keeps them in the dark,” said Jon Potter, the organization’s president, in a prepared statement, “And they’re right. Every week we see fans try to buy tickets during the public on-sale, only to have events sell out in 30 seconds. What fans don’t realize is that hardly any tickets were available in the first place.”
“The sharply restrictive nature of paperless tickets is still vastly unknown to consumers,” Potter said. “We are trying to educate fans on the realities of this ticketing scheme.”
Marion of Fans First maintained, however, that with paperless tickets, venues and artists have an opportunity to fight unscrupulous resellers.
“The ability of people to afford reasonably priced tickets is being compromised,’’ he said.
The organizers of this coalition said they will use lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and in states where legislation is proposed to get their point across. They hope to use the web site to generate fan interest and support.