by Daniel Hill
Ticket scalping has been an issue for major events ever since selling tickets began. From the venues to the bands all the way down to the fans, nobody likes scalpers. Make that, especially not the fans: Fast-fingered scalpers snatch up tickets en masse, leaving many fans disappointed and empty-handed.
Enter the growing trend of "paperless tickets," the practice that requires fans to supply the original purchaser's credit card and photo ID at a show's venue in order to gain admittance. Though "paperless tickets" have been adopted by some big-ticket vendors, ostensibly to combat scalpers, they have drawn criticism from some groups that feel the tickets limit the rights of legitimate ticket holders and fans.
"We all have the right to purchase tickets as gifts for our kids and friends, and we should continue to be able to give away or resell our tickets if plans change at the last minute," reads a press release from Linda Sherry, the director of national priorities at Consumer Action. "Anti-consumer policies like restricted ticketing strip fans of our freedom to give away, buy, or sell tickets."
Fan Freedom is another group that objects to this controversial practice. Founded in February 2011, the group has a website that details all of the problems with so-called "paperless tickets" -- namely, that the tickets are nontransferable and therefore cannot be resold or given away, even as a gift to a friend or family member, or to charity. The video below, from Fan Freedom's website, explains the situation in detail.
RFT Music reached out to the folks at Fan Freedom with a few questions.
Daniel Hill: When did you first start noticing this restricted-ticketing trend?
Danielle Beer: Concerts started using restricted tickets in 2008. We believe Tom Waits was one of the first performers to use the then-new ticketing system. We started noticing a trend in 2011 when we first started tracking and have noticed a year-over-year increase since.
Are there particular ticket vendors that are worse offenders than others?
Ticketmaster is by far the worst offender. Ticketmaster is the primary ticket issuer for the vast majority of concerts in the U.S. and uses restricted tickets for more shows than any other vendor. As far as artists are concerned, Mumford & Sons, Rascal Flatts, Black Keys, Kid Rock and some other well-known country artists use restricted ticketing the most.
"Paperless" makes the whole thing sound environmental. Is this a calculated move?
Continue to page two for more. We believe "paperless" is a misleading term, as it is not the lack of a paper ticket that concerns fans, but the restrictions that are added to these tickets. These tickets are typically nontransferable, or only transferable with the permission of the original seller. This mean consumers who intend to give tickets to friends or family as gifts, or who wish to give away or resell tickets because they can't attend the show, after purchasing tickets up to six months in advance, may be stuck with tickets they cannot use. This is why we refer to them as "restricted tickets."
What's a good way for people to urge the big-ticket vendors to avoid this practice?
Fans should visit www.fanfreedom.org/takeaction and send a message via Facebook or Twitter to Ticketmaster, their favorite artists or sports team or local venues, and tell them to stop restricting their tickets.