And fans who bought tickets in 2012 through Ticketek for Jack White’s Sydney show had to pay a $7.60 charge for a ticket they were sent as an email attachment and had to print themselves. To top it off, they had to pay a credit card surcharge as well.
Those buying tickets from Ticketmaster to The Nutcracker on Ice in Melbourne in late 2012 were in the same boat – a $7.15 handling charge is levied even at those who elect to print their own tickets, and is revealed only at the very end of the booking process.
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.”
Ticket tech woes
Ticketek and Ticketmaster have been in the press for all the wrong reasons lately, with stories of programming errors and malfunctioning websites unable to cope with high consumer demand circulating.
Specifically, in 2012 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.”
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.”