Ticketmaster charges to stay -- in some way

'They're not going to die off entirely,' exec tells panel

Ticketmaster Entertainment might be experimenting with eliminating convenience charges for ticket purchases, but "they're not going to die off entirely," a Ticketmaster executive said.

After announcing recently that it has acquired a controlling equity interest in Irving Azoff's Front Line Management Group, Ticketmaster president Sean Moriarty said during Billboard's fifth annual Touring Conference in New York that the company will "experiment" with eliminating add-on fees for some Eagles shows.

But during Wednesday's "Two Tickets to Paradise" panel, Live Nation executive vp business development and strategy Greg Bettinelli said the eliminated convenience fees still will factor into ticket prices. Even so, Ticketmaster senior vp Joseph Freeman noted that concertgoers likely will be less agitated if add-on fees don't appear on their credit card bills.

"I've had so many family and friends tell me over the years that they'll happily pay $100 for a ticket, but the $90-plus-$10 drives them bonkers," Freeman said.

Tickets.com chief commercial officer Derek Palmer agreed that additional ticket charges will not go away because "there are actual costs involved," he said. "We spend millions of dollars every year in infrastructure to provide these technologies."

While some on the panel agreed that Ticketmaster's paperless ticketing technology is emerging as a potential weapon in artists' efforts to eliminate resellers from the ticket-buying equation, others said its inconvenience could be hurtful. Paperless ticketing, which has been used by Tom Waits, AC/DC and Metallica, requires concertgoers to bring the credit card they used to make the transaction, along with a valid photo ID, to the concert they're attending.

"Overall, it's going to hurt primary sales," StubHub director of music relations Chuck Lavallee said. "Restricting the marketplace is only going to harm the marketplace."

Bettinelli said the problem with paperless ticketing is that "it doesn't help sell more tickets." He noted, though, that most artist fan clubs will "move toward the paperless model in 2009 and 2010."

Meanwhile, on the secondary market, TicketNetwork CEO Don Vaccaro said, "we're seeing a greater amount of tickets being sold for less than face value, which is a very bad trend. At the end of the day, consumers feel that they're paying too much for tickets at the boxoffice when they see the secondary market selling tickets for less. It's embarrassing for some artists and teams."

On the flip side, secondary ticketing Web sites are seeing more traffic from concertgoers "because they know that they will get great seats, and for much less than what the primary sellers charge them," Vaccaro said.
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