The problems with ticketing

No matter the event, you’ll likely be slugged a whole lot of extra charges for tickets.
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02.Booking and postal charges

Ticketing agencies make money by levying “inside” and/or “outside” charges. The outside charge is what the end customer pays, often called booking or transaction fees. The inside charge is paid by the promoter or person who puts on an event.

According to industry insiders CHOICE spoke to on the condition of anonymity, Ticketek and Ticketmaster both levy an inside charge – in some cases operating on a sliding scale – that can be up to about 10% of the cost of the ticket.

We have not been able to confirm this charge with Ticketek, while Chris Forbes, CEO of Ticketmaster, did not confirm or deny these charges, saying, “I cannot breach commercial in confidence and disclose ticketing arrangements between ourselves and our clients”.

Outside charges can also be high. Fans wanting to buy tickets to Kanye West's upcoming Yeezus tour in Sydney through Ticketek have to pay a "service/delivery fee" of $6.45 for tickets they have to print out themselves, or $8.85 if they want the tickets mailed to them via regular mail. And then there's the credit card surcharge.

Meanwhile, theatre-lovers buying tickets to Wicked in Melbourne via Ticketmaster are slugged an $8.25 "handling charge", a "payment processing fee" for paying with a credit or debit card, and an additional charge of $6 if they want to have their tickets mailed to them.

Sanna Cormick is an avid concert and music festival attendee. She goes to multiple events each year, and is concerned about the avalanche of charges she pays.

“The excess fees for postage, credit card fees and transaction fees are ridiculous and ticket prices here are extremely expensive compared with the rest of the world,” she says. 

“I remember lining up at the box office at 9am to get tickets. But now we do it online. I don’t think the transaction fee is fair when we do all the work. The ticket companies already get a percentage of the ticket sales.”


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Ticket tech woes

tp2aTicketek and Ticketmaster have been in the press for all the wrong reasons, with stories of programming errors and malfunctioning websites unable to cope with high consumer demand circulating.

Specifically, in the last few years Ticketek has been slammed for its handling of sales for the One Direction and Prince concerts, while Ticketmaster was criticised after its pre-sale of Radiohead tickets didn’t go according to plan. Ticketmaster’s Chris Forbes says the Radiohead pre-sale problems were due to a programming error. 

“The website did not crash,” he says. “The issue was quickly resolved.”

Software to blame?

Our industry insiders tell us that antiquated software may be to blame. Bartek Marnane is technology director at News Ticketing, which operates ticketing vendors Moshtix and Foxtix.

While unwilling to comment directly on Ticketek and Ticketmaster, he agrees the issue may at least in part be technical.

“Ticketing companies run complex transactional systems that need to cater for large spikes in demand, particularly when a popular event goes on sale,” he says. 

“There are many technical innovations that allow a ticketing company to handle large volumes, but these may not be available to those tied to older ticketing technology.

“Cloud computing, as an example, offers an opportunity for a ticketing company to scale their systems to handle any sized capacity, but requires a degree of integration and capability that may not be possible on older systems. Having used this capability recently, we were successfully able to cater for the expected high consumer demand of a popular event.”

So while there’s a hefty price tag attached to the use of the two big ticketing agencies, they may not be best placed to take advantage of new and improved technology that can provide a better experience for consumers. The trouble is, thanks to contracts that bind certain venues and events to the two, there’s no incentive to improve.

“Generally, large venues that commonly host sell-out events have multi-year contracts with particular ticketing agencies,” says Marnane.

“This means venue managers and promoters have limited options if they’re unhappy with the service they receive and the experience their consumers go through during the ticket-purchasing process.”

Read on for information about ticket scalping.

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