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Ticket troubles debated

Published (4/29/2010)
By Nick Busse
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Lance Lanciault, right, director of legal affairs for StubHub, tells the House Commerce and Labor Committee about the demand for tickets to athletic and music venues during an April 27 hearing. Other ticket broker representatives to testify are Daniel Pullium, center, director of government relations for TicketNetwork, and Cortney Storsved, director of operations for TicketKing. (Photo by Tom Olmscheid)If you’ve ever been miffed about how hard — and expensive — it is to get tickets to a popular concert or event, you’re not alone. Members of the House Commerce and Labor Committee held an informational hearing on the subject April 27.

Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) said consumer frustration over the problem has been growing. Though he doesn’t expect legislative action this year, he advocates legislation that would require ticket companies to disclose how many tickets are available to the general public versus those reserved for special pre-sales and other promotions.

“If I was a consumer, and I know my odds of getting a ticket are really very minimal … then my expectation level is appropriate, and my disappointment level is lessened,” Atkins said.

At the hearing, lobbyists presented competing views of the problem.

Daniel Pullium, director of government relations for ticket reseller site TicketNetwork, said consumers don’t realize how few tickets are actually made available to the general public in some cases. He cited a recent Taylor Swift concert in which only 11 percent of the more than 14,000 tickets sold were available to the general public. The rest were distributed through pre-sales available only to select groups of people.

Pullium said ticket resellers provide a vital service to fans who may not otherwise be able to acquire event tickets. He said legislation that provides transparency in the market would help assuage consumer angst.

“We believe that information is crucial — that if consumers have access to that information, that they will be able to decide how best… to obtain tickets,” Pullium said.

Meanwhile, representatives from event venues and ticket companies blame sketchy practices by ticket resellers for raising consumers’ ire.

David Balcer, director of ticketing for the Target Center, said he frequently hears complaints about how and why tickets for events show up on re-sellers’ websites — oftentimes before tickets even go on sale.

“It leads a lot of customers to believe that the venues themselves are somehow in cahoots with a lot of these brokers,” he said.

Balcer said re-sellers often sell “speculative tickets” — tickets that are not yet available — and promise to find similar seats if the ones they want aren’t available.

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