It’s not often you see artists, such as Meat Loaf, The Black Keys and Kenny Chesney share space on the same list, but those artists have joined forces with other music acts, management, sports teams, sporting arenas and entertainment venues — including Freedom Hall Civic Center and Bristol Motor Speedway — in support of pending state legislation that would crack down on online ticket scalpers from taking advantage of customers.
The Tennessee Sports & Entertainment Industry Coalition was formed to fight back against problems caused by the growing number of online ticket scalpers. Other members include 3 Doors Down, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Eric Church, Meat Loaf, Maroon 5, Tim McGraw, Sugarland, Knoxville’s Bijou Theatre, Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville Predators, Tennessee Titans and Orpheum Theatre Memphis.
“It’s unprecedented to have the Tennessee live entertainment industry come together like this. The problem is that online ticket scalping and Internet-based resale market ticket scalping is out of control,” Joe Hall, one of the coalition’s organizers, said during a visit to the Johnson City Press. “Technology has stacked the deck so against fans in ways that fans don’t even realize when they’re buying tickets to events. They’re getting ripped off and because it’s being perpetrated by people who are anonymous — they think the venues did it, that the artists did it.”
The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, is formally known as the Fairness in Ticketing Act.
It would define a professional ticket scalper as someone who sells more than 60 tickets a year, and would require that seller to register with the state, creating a identity.
In addition to registration, the seller also would be required to list the original value of the ticket and any convenience fees associated with the sale.
It also would prohibit any entity or individual from creating a website masquerading, mimicking or posing as a venue, essentially making it illegal for out-of-state scalpers to inflate prices for local events.
“You won’t be able to prevent someone from doing it, but it will give the state enforcement authority to make it an illegal act at the state level,” Hall said.
Hall was joined by Freedom Hall Box Office Manager Bobbie Shirley and BMS Vice President of Communications Kevin Triplett.
When Elton John played a sold-out show at Freedom Hall in September, about 241 of the tickets were bought by people at the same address through “robot” software by online scalpers, according to Shirley.
Oftentimes an online scalper will set up a ticketing website for various venues that are not associated with the venue where the event is taking place. The scalper will offer tickets for upcoming shows that haven’t even gone on sale yet at prices that are typically four or five times the original value.
When an event goes live on the venue’s official site, the scalper’s software buys hundreds of tickets that are automatically resold on the unofficial site.
That type of software is causing headaches for venues and fans alike.
“These people bought tickets over time ... and took those away from fans,” Shirley said.
In November, country artist Brantley Gilbert played Freedom Hall. Leading up the concert, Shirley said there were two individuals — one in Lexington, Ky., and another in San Francisco — who bought a total of 133 tickets that were resold through scalper sites.
A $30 ticket to Third Day’s upcoming show at Freedom Hall was being sold for $204 through one such site.
And it’s not just hot-ticket concerts that are being targeted by online scalpers.
Family entertainment, such as Sesame Street Live, was also affected by the inflated prices.
“I had a gentleman call me about Sesame Street tickets and want to know why he was charged $164 for two tickets,” she said. A ticket sold through Freedom Hall only cost $30.
More often than not, Triplett said the public’s perception is that venues themselves are part of the scheme when, in fact, they are being taken advantage of as well.
Although BMS doesn’t have the sold-out races it did five years ago, the speedway is still concerned about making sure customers are not being sold bogus tickets.
“We are the ones left trying to sort it out. Right now, we can find a seat for them, because of our capacity. Our concern is the effort that we put in to taking care of our fans, the added value things we’ve done all in an effort for them to have a good experience,” Triplett said.
As this legislation moves forward, coalition members are urging customers to be extremely careful when purchasing tickets online.
When buying tickets online, customers need to verify they are purchasing tickets through the venue’s website.
At Freedom Hall, online ticket sales are sold through Ticketsage.
Bristol Motor Speedway does most of its own sales through ticket agents, but also sell through Ticketmaster.
The Fairness in Ticketing Act is expected go to the House Business and Utilities Committee before going through the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee later this month.
For more information on the bill, visit www.fansfirstcoalition.org/tn.