City Council Slams Ticket Sellers Following Radiohead Fan Frustration

By Jill Colvin on October 28, 2011 7:06pm 

CITY HALL — After thousands of disappointed fans were shut out of Radiohead's shows at the Roseland Ballroom last month, the City Council took aim Friday at ticket-selling practices they believe “stick it” to the fans.

"People are increasingly frustrated by the fact that when they go to buy tickets to an event, they sell out in a nanosecond," said Manhattan City Councilman Dan Garodnick, who explained that many of those tickets end up almost immediately on ticket-broker websites, where they often sell for $200 more than their face-value price.

Fans can’t expect to score tickets to every hot show, Garodnick noted, but he said, "We need rules that make it transparent."

Of particular frustration to Council members were reports that only a fraction of tickets available for many shows actually go on sale to the general public.

At one Taylor Swift show in 2009, for instance, only 1,600 of 13,000 tickets were made available to the public, said John Breyault of the National Consumers League.

The remainder of tickets are typically sold directly to scalpers or broker sites, which charge hundreds of dollars for seats, or are held for artists or VIPs, he said.

“As a number of media outlets have reported, artists including Katy Perry and Neil Diamond are scalping their own tickets,” Garodnick said.

New legislation introduced by Queens City Councilman Leroy Comrie would require venues with 3,000 or more seats to be forced to reserve at least 15 percent of their tickets for the general public, available through the venue’s box office.

Venues would also be forced to disclose the total number of seats available for sale, so that consumers know their real chances of scoring a seat.

But Department of Consumer Affairs legislative affairs director Erik Joerss and NYC & Co. CEO George Fertitta, among others, raised practical concerns about implementation, including problems that would come with forcing fans to travel to the box office.

Fertitta feared trekking to a ticket booth would make the disappointments of sell-outs all the more crushing.

Avid concert-goer Marissa Greenberg said she finds the ticket-buying process extremely frustrating.
Avid concert-goer Marissa Greenberg said she finds the ticket-buying process extremely frustrating.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

“I can only imagine the chaos of something like Lady Gaga,” Fertitta said.

Ticketmaster spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said that, “While well-intentioned the bill the City Council is considering would do exactly what it is trying to prevent.

“This bill would help scalpers and brokers gain access to more face-value tickets only to resell them to fans at much higher prices. The only people that lose in this scenario are the fans,” she said.

To clamp down on rampant scalping, some artists have also chosen to sell their tickets using a "paperless" ticketing system that forces buyers to personally pick up their tickets with their credit cards and photo IDs at the box office the day of the show.

Council members and representatives from several consumer rights groups slammed the practice, arguing that the rules present an undue burden for those who may not be able to attend a show, want to sell their tickets, or give them as gifts to family and friends.

Jon Potter, president of advocacy group the Fan Freedom Project, complained the practice is even more stringent than boarding a plane.

“It’s screwy,” he said.

Artists opt for paperless tickets about one-tenth of 1 percent of the time, the Ticketmaster spokeswoman noted.

Tickets to the Radiohead show, which were originally sold for $65, later fetched hundreds of dollars on re-sale sites, despite a stringent will-call only policy designed to cut down on scalping.

Despite frustrations, Peterson blamed the Radiohead disappointment on the simple laws of supply and demand. Over half a million people logged on to buy just a couple of thousand tickets, she said.

For music fans like Pace University student Marissa Greenberg, 18, regulations and broker fees have made going to shows a drag.

“There’s so much stress,” she said, adding that she sometimes passes up tickets because she’s worried that she won’t be able to re-sell them if she can't attend.

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