Ticketmaster, resellers and consumer advocates battle over paperless tickets


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What could be more inoccuous than paperless tickets? It even has an environmentally friendly ring to it.

On the contrary, paperless tickets are becoming the latest grounds for a skirmish between Live Nation Entertainment’s Ticketmaster, ticket resellers and consumer advocates.


Backed by Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster, a group of concert promoters and artist managers this week declared war on resellers who buy tickets in bulk and then resell them on sites such as StubHub, Craigslist and elsewhere.

‘It erodes the heart of our business,’ said Randy Levy, an independent concert promoter who is a member of the group, dubbed the Fans First Coalition.

The solution: ‘paperless tickets’ that are largely non-transferable. That means only the original buyer can claim the ticket on the day of the event.

Not so fast, says the Fan Freedom Project, backed by the National Consumers League and founded earlier this year by Jon Potter, former director of the Digital Media Assn.

Potter argues that the real agenda for promoters who back paperless tickets is to prevent consumers from selling or giving away tickets they have purchased.

‘Consumers should have the right to determine what they can do with a ticket once they’ve purchased it,’ Potter said. ‘That means being able to sell it at both higher or lower than face value.’


The controversy over paperless tickets is not new. Miley Cyrus and Bruce Springsteen both experimented with paperless ticketing back in 2009 for their concert tours.

But with powerful forces amassing on both sides, each vowing allegiance to the consumer, the issue is poised to get hotter, particularly as states such as New York this year banned the issuance of paperless tickets that aren’t transferable and Massachusetts lawmakers consider a bill that would preserve a ticket resale market.

Interestingly, the Fans First Coalition is backed by Live Nation in Beverly Hills. The company not only owns Ticketmaster, but also TicketsNow, a major ticket reseller.

Asked about the apparent contradiction during a press conference to announce the group’s formation this week, Levy said: ‘It’s not perfect. We just have to get started. It’s a ridiculous conundrum that they [Live Nation and Ticketmaster] have a ticket scalping business on the side. But we have to start somewhere. We just want to get more tickets in fans’ hands at face value.’


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-- Alex Pham

Twitter/ @AlexPham