What's in a ticket price?
While event producers set the cost price of tickets, including classes of seats and how many VIP seats to block out, ticketing agents determine the ticket add-ons, such as transaction or booking fees, print-at-home charges, postal costs and credit card fees. These add-ons are called “outside ticket” charges. There's also an “inside” ticket fee – paid to the ticketing agency by the event owner, producer or promoter – which is usually included in the advertised ticket price.
Add-on charges vary from one ticketing agency to another, as well as from event to event. West Australian ticketing agency, BOCS Ticketing, charges a one-off $6.60 booking fee, regardless of the number of tickets you buy online or over the phone. The two larger ticketing agencies are not so generous. Ticketmaster can charge up to $9.15 for online bookings, while Ticketek has a transaction charge of up to $8.50 for phone bookings.
Paul Dainty, founder of Dainty Consolidated Entertainment, a promoter of major events such as the Rolling Stones and U2 says ticket add-ons by agencies are justified. “There’s technology they have to keep up to date with and their capital reinvestment is pretty enormous. It’s a good business when you’ve got a lot of inventory to sell, but when the business goes quiet, these companies have huge overheads to cover to provide their service.”
Moshtix’s managing director, Adam McArthur, disagrees. “By investing in technology, the overheads are lowered. Moshtix’s operation remains profitable with high ticket volumes and low operational overheads.”
Ticketmaster levies the transaction or handling fees as a lump sum after you've selected your tickets, while Ticketek’s charges depend on how you want your tickets issued (see Who Charges What). BASS, a regional ticketing agency in SA, run by the Adelaide Festival Centre, has a different pricing structure. For example, a $99.50 general admission ticket to see Chris Isaak included the $3.30 booking fee (regardless of how you booked) and $4.70 commission, or inside ticket fee, BASS charges the event owner or producer.
When you book tickets online you’ll have a rough idea of where you might be seated or standing, but generally you can’t choose the location of your seat. Most ticketing agencies sell tickets on a computer-generated “best available” seating system that excludes complimentary and sponsor tickets privately allocated by the event owners or producers.
LPA’s Ticket and Revenue Survey for 2006 and 2007 shows that 1.7 million free tickets were issued in 2006 and 2.3 million such tickets were given out in 2007. Then there are pre-sale tickets offered online – often at a premium – which may also decrease the chances of equal access to seating. Last August, CHOICE subscriber Rosie Bright bought two silver-class tickets for $165 each from Ticketek to see Bob Dylan at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. “We assumed that silver class tickets were good but ended up getting tickets that were very close to the back and needed binoculars to see the band properly,” she says.
Consumers have better access to seating in venues such as the Sydney Opera House, which runs its own box office and allows you to choose your seats for some performances. Cirque Du Soleil’s website features a graphical interface allowing you to select your seats from a map that shows exactly what seats are available for each show session.
Independent event websites, such as www.mytickets.com.au help consumers compare and buy tickets by listing details and ticket information for all events. If two ticketing agencies are offering tickets to the same event, patrons are most likely to find the best price on this website.
Worst seat in the house
In December 2008, Bill Mulford bought four tickets at $50 each for the Commonwealth Bank Series Australia v South Africa cricket match at Bellerive Oval in Hobart. He said no seating plan was available on either the Ticketmaster or Tasmanian Cricket Association (TCA) websites for checking the allocated seats..
“As such, I accepted Ticketmaster’s statement that these were the best seats available,” says Mulford. “Imagine my surprise and great disappointment to find that at least two of the allocated seats were directly behind a large roof-supporting pole. Two of us had to spend the entire day having our appreciation and enjoyment of the game seriously marred by this obstruction.” He complained to Ticketmaster, who referred the matter to TCA. In the end, TCA refunded him $36 in total for the two blocked seats.