California should protect concert fans from ticket sale abuses

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A concert goer holds a sign asking for a single ticket for the Taylor Swift concert during The Eras Tour at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday, July 28, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

In the ever-evolving world of live entertainment, being able to attend or put on a concert is a cherished privilege for fans and artists alike. Unfortunately, the ticketing ecosystem in California is riddled with issues like bots, deceptive websites and speculative ticketing.

Industrialized, third-party resellers have upended the live entertainment ecosystem. In California, the live music and entertainment industry has a total economic impact of $12.3 billion, generating over 83,456 jobs and $675 million in total state and local tax revenues. Yet bad actors repeatedly take money out of the hands of fans — as well as the artists and venues that make concerts happen.

No one cares more about music fans and creating a great live experience than artists. Lawmakers in California need to protect these relationships and communities they create and take action to stop harmful resale practices.

One of the most critical reforms would enshrine the right for artists to control ticket resale. In practice, this means allowing artists to have a say on the terms of ticket resale — like engaging in “fan-to-fan” face-value exchanges without the interference of bots or scalpers looking to inflate ticket prices.

Artists can already use these exchanges in California, but industrial resellers are flying state-to-state and spending big money on lobbying efforts to ban face-value exchanges. The California Legislature should instead protect the rights of artists to use technology to keep ticket prices down for legitimate fans.

Resellers often criticize the notion of an artist’s right to control ticket sales or resales by arguing that it eliminates “fan freedom,” but reseller pricing practices undermine the very essence of the ticket-buying experience.

A recent study by the National Independent Talent Organization found that ticket resellers earned an average cumulative profit of $41,000 per show by charging an average of two times the original ticket price. The study also found that in states where artists cannot control resale, fans paid an average of 396% above face value.

Resellers also use harmful tactics like deploying deceptive websites that trick concertgoers into paying more than they need to. The practice of speculative ticketing, where resellers list tickets that they do not actually have, at exorbitant prices, allows them to use a fan’s money to fund bots to try to fulfill the order.

Deceptive websites should be banned, and resellers should be required to have possession of a ticket before trying to sell it in California.

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