StubHub criticises Live Nation’s proposed Fair Ticketing Act


March 1, 2023

Secondary ticketing platform StubHub has hit out at proposals made by Live Nation under the banner the Fair Ticketing Act, which support stronger regulation of the secondary ticketing market in the US. StubHub says that the Act is purely designed to strengthen the dominance of Live Nation and its Ticketmaster business – as well as distracting from criticism made against them in Washington.

“In the wake of bipartisan calls to investigate anticompetitive and anti-consumer practices [Live Nation’s] solution is to point fingers and call for policies that strengthen their own control over the industry and consumers”, says StubHub in a statement. “StubHub continues to join consumer advocates in calling for comprehensive policy solutions, like the BOSS ACT, that empower fans, increase transparency across the entire marketplace, and ensure competition”.

Four of Live Nation’s proposals are tout-focussed. They include expanding existing rules banning touts from using bots to buy up tickets from primary sites; a ban on speculative selling, where touts advertise tickets they don’t have yet; and a crackdown on resale sites that don’t enforce those rules or respect an artist’s preferences regarding how they sell their tickets.

That latter point relates to another of Live Nation’s proposals: that artists should be allowed to decide resale rules for their shows. So lawmakers should “protect artists’ ability to use face-value exchanges and limited transfer to keep pricing lower for fans, and prevent scalpers from exploiting fans”.

The fifth proposal would affect primary and secondary ticketing companies and relates to “all-in pricing”, whereby platforms declare up front the total price of a ticket including all and any fees.

Live Nation has, of course, faced much criticism from consumers and politicians in recent months including at a hearing on the ticketing market in US Congress in January.

The US Senate Judiciary Committee decided to stage the session looking at ticketing following the problems that occurred last year when tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour went on sale via Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system. The Live Nation-owned ticketing company’s platform struggled to cope with the unprecedented demand – from both fans and touts – causing all sorts of issues for those trying to buy tickets, resulting in lots of angry Swift fans.

Last week’s Fair Ticketing Act was part of Live Nation’s response to all that recent scrutiny.

In its new statement, StubHub says: “LNE and TM’s ‘Fair Ticketing Act’ specifically focuses on regulating the secondary ticketing market and does not include any significant reforms to their own practices. Anything but fair, the proposal is meant to strengthen the control LNE, TM, and their venues and artists have over this industry and consumers at large”.

Getting into specifics, it goes on: “Ticket transferability laws that empower consumers in the ticket buying transaction have long had the support and advocacy of consumer groups. LNE and TM’s regular opposition to these laws and their frequent use of derogatory terms like ‘scalper’ are a veiled attempt to maintain the control they’ve had over consumers and cover up their own wilful failures in helping to enforce existing statutes like the BOTS Act that go after bad actors”.

“This proposal is particularly concerning in a marketplace where LNE and TM regularly manipulate the release of ticket supply and availability to take advantage of high demand through dynamic ticket pricing”, it goes on. “LNE and TM’s own resale marketplaces cater to the same consumers and professional ticket resellers (or in their words, ‘scalpers’) as their secondary marketplace competitors, and they provide services, such as their TradeDesk inventory management system, to encourage professional resellers to utilise their own resale sites”.

In response, Live Nation told Variety in a statement: “The artist will always make the best decision for fans. Fair ticketing is not about locking down resale to our site, all resellers can take part as long as they are abiding by the terms the artist sets on their content. This isn’t theoretical, that is exactly how the NFL Ticket Exchange works. StubHub is pushing to make it illegal for artists to have choice – even choices that are good for consumers”.

There have been various efforts to regulate the ticketing market in the US in recent years, including StubHub’s favoured legislation, the BOSS Act, so named because the original version came in the wake of the scandal that erupted over the sale of tickets to some Bruce Springsteen shows in 2009. On that occasion Ticketmaster was accused of directing consumers to touted tickets on its own resale site Tickets Now even though its primary site hadn’t yet sold out.

It includes some measures that are mainly relevant to the primary ticketing market and others to regulate ticket touting. Among its proposals, it also includes a new rule to force up-front declarations of all and any booking fees across the board.

Also mentioned by StubHub in its statement, the BOTS Act was passed right at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency in December 2016. Whereas the regulation of ticket sales, and any restrictions on touting, usually happen at a state level in the US, this was federal law that applied to the whole country.

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