NASHVILLE, Tenn.--()--The following is an opinion editorial provided by Ted Welch, of Ted Welch Investments, regarding the “Fairness in Ticketing Act” that was introduced last week in the Tennessee General Assembly:
As is the case with many American businesspeople, I invest each year in a variety of sports and entertainment tickets that are shared with clients and business associates. I find that spending time with others at concerts or sporting events is a great way to network and share the fun.
Of course, there are occasions when I give the tickets to others without attending myself, and other times I have resold tickets that were not otherwise being used. But my ability to freely share tickets or resell them is being threatened by an effort led by Ticketmaster and its partners to eliminate these choices.
Initially these threats were only in the marketplace, as Ticketmaster began introducing “restrictive paperless ticketing” here in Tennessee and nationwide. But last week, legislation was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly that raises the stakes and seriously threatens the freedom of all ticket buyers, especially the several thousand local businesses and families who purchase season tickets.
Here is how restrictive paperless ticketing works: You pay admission costs through Ticketmaster using your credit card. You never receive actual tickets because it is a purely electronic transaction. But here is the rub: You personally have to be at the event to use the “tickets.” To get into an event, you must be physically present and show both the credit card used to buy admission and a photo identification to get your guests into the event.
This means that if I were unable to attend due to illness or a conflict of some type, or if decided to give tickets to friends or associates, none of my guests could attend without me there. If I want to sell unused tickets, I would be unable to do so without paying yet another fee to Ticketmaster. In Tennessee, reselling tickets is perfectly legal; but this system takes away our ability to do so.
The ticketing system is becoming more common in Tennessee. There were three concerts in Nashville this month that used paperless admission, and one had been planned for Memphis. There are some parts of the country where it is used more frequently, and some professional sports teams have joined in. The San Francisco 49ers have begun using Ticketmaster and its system for their games, and it is also being used by some NBA teams.
I buy dozens of tickets each week and distribute them to my guests. It would be impossible for me to be with every one of them as they entered the various events. So implementing a wider-reaching restricted ticket system would probably cause me to look for other ways to entertain clients and business partners, with sports and entertainment being off the table.
That’s why I am concerned about the woefully misnamed “Fairness in Ticketing Act” that was introduced last week in the Tennessee General Assembly. This bill has a few provisions that would benefit fans, but its real impact will be to guarantee that Ticketmaster and its event-producing and sports team partners have all the power over ticket distribution, even AFTER we pay for our tickets. More than half of the sports and entertainment season ticket buyers are businesses and professional firms. How many more tickets would go to waste if those entities saw their freedom to distribute tickets taken away?
Restrictive ticketing doesn’t just hurt those of us who purchase large numbers of tickets. It can also affect a parent who buys a teenage child a concert ticket. Or a friend who wants to give event tickets as a gift. Under the restricted system, those gift recipients could not attend the concert unless the purchaser went with them.
In business and in commerce, when I buy something I own it. Why should tickets be any different? New York State has guaranteed that consumers choose whether to purchase nontransferable tickets, but Tennessee is poised to favor Ticketmaster even though consumers will be harmed as a result. I hope the Tennessee General Assembly will consider this bill carefully before it acts.
(Ted Welch is a commercial real estate executive and owner of Ted Welch Investments in Nashville, Tenn. Welch has also served as national finance chairman for the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, John Connally, Bob Dole and Howard Baker.)