By R.V. Baugus
When you have
been around the industry as long as venue veteran Michael Marion has,
you have just about seen it all. Got the Los Angeles Lakers coming to your
Alltel Arena (now Verizon Arena) in North Little Rock, Arkansas, to play an
exhibition NBA game as Marion did a few years ago? Wouldn’t you know it,
there is a structural issue in the upper bowl seating that prevents the game
from being played,
not to mention missing a guaranteed sold out crowd. Dropped call?
But when you have put in the time that Marion, the
venue’s general manager has, you also encounter some issues on a much more
frequent basis for the events that play the venue, namely the often
behind-the-scenes machinations and maneuverings of the often slippery world
We are not talking about the guest who walks up to the
box office window to purchase a couple of seats for the show that night. We
are talking about those who procure tickets only to charge inflated amounts
for people to attend an event of their choosing. Can you say the “S” word?
Marion can, and it is why he gladly serves as president
of the Fans First Coalition, an organization started in May 2011 in an
effort to change and improve the ticket-purchase experience for fans by
fighting for greater access to reasonably-priced tickets and enhanced
protection against fraudulent business practices.
Marion is not fighting the battle alone. Already more
than 150 names ranging from venues to artists and teams to others in the
industry have loaned their names as partners to Fans First. The
organization’s website at www.standwithfans.org states quite
simply the major issues facing the group:
Artists, venues, sports teams, and industry
representatives formed Fans First in May 2011 in part as a response to a
startling trend – in state capitals around the country, scalpers are pushing
for legislation that would pad their pocketbooks, to the detriment
of fans, and local businesses.
Ensuring a positive fan experience – and making sure
fans are able to access face-value tickets – begins by keeping tickets out
of scalpers’ reach. Will Call Only and Paperless ticketing threaten to put
scalpers out of business because there is nothing for scalpers to resell.
That’s why the scalping lobby is working overtime to
protect its ability to profit at fans’ expense.
Fortunately, efforts to deny artists, venues and teams
the right to select fan-friendly ticketing methods were sidelined in several
states in 2011.
From here, Fans First picks up the fight, and it is why
Marion wanted to address some of the highlights of where the group has been,
where it is currently at and what it plans for the future.
What is the basic mission of
and how did it get started? Who started it?
Far too many consumers are being misled by scalpers who do not act in the
best interest of the fans. In fact, in recent months, we’ve seen an increase
in the number of
direct fan complaints and media stories documenting fans’ experiences and
the degree that they fell victim to unscrupulous scalpers and unsavory
The national effort was really born out of experiences
that many venues, teams, managers and promoters have had at the state level.
We’ve all been actively working together to improve ticketing, stop scalpers
and fight attempts by StubHub and the
scalping lobby that would make scalping even easier.
assistance from Ticketmaster and broad based support across the industry, we
formed the Fans First Coalition in May of 2011 in an effort to change and
improve the ticket-purchase experience for fans. Fans First brings together
nearly 20,000 fans, sports teams, nearly 100 arenas and theaters from across
the country, artists ranging from Anthrax to Kenny G to Maroon 5 to Megadeth,
and other leaders in the entertainment industry from across the country.
Together, we are taking a stand to improve the ticket-purchase experience
for fans by helping to provide greater access to reasonably-priced tickets
and enhanced protection against fraudulent business practices. Our goal is
to ensure that fans get what they deserve—a good event experience, from
ticket purchase through the final out or encore.
What are the benefits
hopes to accomplish for the venue? The artist/team? The fans?
The Internet has revolutionized the way that venues, artists and teams sell
tickets— and how fans—and scalpers—gain access to and purchase tickets. Yet,
online, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between a scalper and a fan.
Ensuring a positive fan experience, and making sure fans are able to access
reasonably-priced tickets, begins by keeping tickets out of scalpers’ reach.
Fortunately, solutions already exist such as ID at will-call and paperless
ticketing, and they are easy, simple and scalper-proof.
Right now, the ability of artists, teams and venues to
select ticketing methods that work for them and their fans is under assault
by the scalping lobby in states across the country. The impact of banning
face-value ticketing methods, like paperless ticketing
or the decades-old ID check at Will Call (“will-call-only”), would be
tantamount to helping scalpers who, in effect, take tickets from fans and
sell them back at multiple times the face value. Preserving the ability of
artists, promoters, sports teams and venues to
determine how their tickets are sold—including selecting paperless or
will-call only tickets—is one of Fans First’s primary goals.
We also want to improve the ticket purchasing
process for fans. We want to stop the ability of scalpers to use
computerized systems called “bots” to gobble up all the best tickets before
fans. We want to shut down scalper websites that masquerade as
being affiliated with venues, sports teams, or artists and mislead fans who
innocently search for tickets online. We also want to improve disclosures on
resale sites. Right now scalpers use resale marketplaces to sell tickets
they do not have in-hand, and do
not disclose this fact to the ticket buyer. Many ticket resellers do not
inform fans that the websites they are shopping on are resale sites, and
that prices often exceed face value.
Are there any misconceptions in the marketplace about
We are defending the right of artists and venues to choose paperless
ticketing if they make sense for their performance. Paperless ticketing
helps artists ensure that their tickets
are available to fans at face value, not the sky high prices scalpers charge
for the same exact seats. They may not be right for all artists or even all
tickets; however artists, teams and venues should maintain the ability of
selecting these methods when they want their fans to get a great ticket at a
Fans support methods like paperless and Will Call
because they allow them to get a great ticket at a great price. These
methods allow fans to, rightly, be first in line for tickets. It’s no wonder
that scalpers and some secondary marketplaces are trying to ban these
methods. Paperless or ID at will-call ticketing methods are not right for
all artists or events, but artists like Radiohead, Wilco, Adele, Miley
Cyrus, and AC/DC have chosen to offer some of their tickets for sale at
face-value, and used paperless technology to maintain that face value price.
In general and in almost all cases, we support the
ability of fans to transfer their tickets to other fans. The truth of the
matter, however, is that the vast majority of fans purchase tickets to
actually attend shows and performances, not to transfer them. But it is
important to note that there is a difference between individual fans and
institutional scalpers. Scalpers often hide their identities and true
intentions under the cloak of fans. We firmly oppose their ability to scoop
up vast quantities of tickets using sophisticated tools and then engaging in
deceptive and unscrupulous marketing practices to sell those tickets to the
Finally, Fans First is more than Ticketmaster. Sure,
the company has supported the coalition financially, and was a key driver in
the coalition’s formation. The cause—and our coalition—are bigger than a
single member, however. And today we’re a broad based coalition that
includes ticketing companies, promoters, teams and venue organizations like
begun to make a difference for venues and fans alike in protecting the
We see our first role as one of education. Fans are routinely victimized by
unscrupulous scalpers and unsavory business practices. The first step in
combating the problem is helping fans know what to look out for such as
ticketing websites that masquerade as being affiliated with artists, teams
or venues; resale sites that don’t disclose that ticket prices often exceed
face value; etc. We have various tools and resources available on our
Our second charge is one of advocacy with Fans First
aggressively advocating for changes in the way tickets are
marketed and sold. That’s why we developed our Stand with Fans platform,
which is essentially our mission statement.
What are some of the dangers that scalpers pose to fans and venue operators?
Scalpers list tickets that don’t exist
Scalpers sell multiple copies of the same ticket
Scalpers use urls with the arena’s name
Scalpers list tickets that don’t exist. The venue gets complaint calls from
wanting to know how this can be.
Scalpers sell multiple copies of the same
ticket. The legitimacy of a ticket can’t be
verified until a person shows up at the door to
be scanned. Once it is determined to
be fraudulent, the box office is left with trying
to help the patron.
Scalpers use urls with the arena’s name. When problems come up with a ticket
bought from a fraudulent site, they tell the box
office, “I bought it from the venue’s
site,” which creates confusion and frustration
for the venue and patron.
What has been the response of artists and teams to
Very positive, however we want more support. Every team and artist should
support our cause. Artists and teams select paperless tickets to give their
fans a great ticket at a great price. StubHub views this as a threat to
their business, because with paperless tickets there is no ticket to be
There are a few notable tours using paperless right
now, Springsteen and Iron Maiden to name two. For my arena in Arkansas we
use paperless for about the best one-third of the house. Fans like it, and I
will keep doing it because I want to make sure
that some fans get a ticket at a good price, and that allows them to come
back to our arena for other shows.
What actions has
taken to dissuade tickets from falling into the hands of scalpers? What
be taking in the future? We are also
opposing legislative efforts around the country aimed at protecting
scalpers’ ability to gouge fans. Ticket scalpers and some brokers want to
deny venues, teams and artists the ability to choose ticketing methods that
work best for fans because they pose a threat to their business. With a
paperless or a will-call only ticket, there is nothing for brokers and
scalpers to resell. That is why they are trying to restrict/ban it.
Legislation restricting the ability of artists, venues, teams and managers
to require ID at Will Call to pick up tickets and paperless ticketing will
enhance the ability of ticket brokers and scalpers to sell tickets well
above face value.
Any other thoughts to sum up
or why this is such an important mission?
First, paperless ticketing threatens to put scalpers out of business, hence
the anti-paperless ticketing lobbying effort now underway. It seems silly
states would entertain legislation to assist scalpers in the first place —
we can all agree there are more important issues deserving of our elected
officials’ focus. Fortunately, efforts to deny artists, venues and teams the
right to select the option of paperless ticketing have recently been
sidelined in various states across the country. But the battle is just
beginning. The scalping industry will try to hold on as long as it can,
crafting a state-by-state battle plan to preserve their ability to profit at
the fans’ expense. In fact, such a battle may be coming to a statehouse near
you. It’s time for venues, artists and sports teams to speak with one voice
in protecting fans from scalpers, and our ability to offer ticketing methods
that work for us and our fans.
Also, the board of directors for Fans First is
volunteers who see the negative long term impact of scalpers on the music
business. With support from organizations like IAVM, we want to make Fans
First an effective advocate for patrons and venues in the war to get face
value tickets into the hands of fans and not scalpers.
There is no cost to sign up to join with Fans
First. Simply go to www.fansfirstcoalition.com for all the information you
R.V. Baugus is editor of Facility Manager magazine.
Like Fans First, we have the best interests
of our fans at heart. We genuinely care about our customers, so it is
painful for us to know there are fans who pay too much for tickets on resale
websites specifically designed to fool them into thinking they are
legitimate venue sites. When they overpay for one concert or event, it
limits their entertainment budget and precludes them from enjoying other
opportunities. The last thing we ever want to do is to disappoint someone
who arrives on site with what they think is a legitimate ticket, which does
not exist, or that has been previously resold to someone already in “their”
seat. We have aligned ourselves with Fans First because there is strength in
numbers, and we want our venue voice to be heard on behalf of our present
and future customers.
– Kim Bedier, CFE,
Comcast Arena at Everett, Everett, WA
There are those in the marketplace who unscrupulously sell tickets at
inflated prices and quite often under the disguise of an official seller,
and these practices hurt our members, our industry and the guests that
patronize our venues. This is exactly the kind of issue that needs the
industry to respond with solidarity, which is why we decided to put IAVM’s
name and resources behind the Fans First Coalition.
– Vicki Hawarden, CMP,
International Association of Venue Managers,
We aligned with Fans First because the messaging from other groups was
slanted and one sided and we believe there should be a balanced discussion
on this issue. Since ticket scalpers are using their group as a validation
of the general public’s position it needed to be challenged in that their
position is not a consumer rights or protection issue but the exact opposite
and that message was not getting out from legitimate sources,thus the need
for Fans First.
– Allen Johnson, CFE, CMP, Orlando
Venues/Amway Center, Orlando, FL
Our customers are important to us and our preference is our customers
have a chance to purchase tickets to our shows at the original established
rates. People and entities that have the time and resources to purchase
tickets for shows with the specific intent to resale them at an inflated
rate is not in the best interest of the majority of our customers. Fans
First Coalition cares about our customers as much as we do and we appreciate
their efforts in workingtowards making tickets available at the prices the
artists set for their shows.
– Brad Mayne, CFE, American
Airlines Center/Center Operating Company,
It is important for our patrons to have the best experience possible!
That means having a great ticket buying experience. We as the venue are able
to provide the best customer service, the best ticket price and the best
location. We know the venue and we want to help our patrons out. We need
Fans First to help with the communication to the public and to help control
– Kelly McCracken, AT&T
Performing Arts Center, Dallas, TX
Fans First is an important industry-wide coalition that raises awareness
around important issues in the live entertainment industry. Ticketmaster is
proud to be a founding member of Fans First. Dangers that scalpers pose:
Often times, scalpers use sophisticated computer BOTS to scoop up large
quantities of tickets for the sole purpose of reselling them at many times
face value to fans. These scalpers are robbing fans of the opportunity to
purchase tickets at face value. This is a problem for everyone in the
industry. Some scalpers also use deceptive marketing practices to sell their
tickets such as websites that masquerade as being affiliated with artists,
teams or venues. These phony, non-sanctioned sites trick fans into believing
that they are buying tickets directly from the artist or venue rather than
the resellers who operate them. This is wrong, and needs to be stopped. Fans
First is helping to do that. We all need to be focused on delivering great
experiences for fans, because we want to create lifelong fans. Scalpers and
the marketplaces that serve them interfere with the ability of artists and
venues to develop and maintain positive relationships with their fans.
– Jacqueline Peterson,
Ticketmaster, Los Angeles, CA
As the secondary ticket market has continued to increase over the last
few years, it has been the artists, the venues and, most importantly, the
fans who have paid the price. Palm Beach International Raceway ardently
opposes any legislation that would further impede our fans’ right to great
tickets at a fair price. The Fan First Coalition gives us the opportunity to
stand together with other venues and artists in support of our fans. Any
venue that has ever been impacted by scalpers and/or the secondary ticket
market should join us in this fight and support the Fans First Coalition.
– Jason Rittenberry, Palm
Beach International Raceway, Jupiter, FL
The Mission of the Spokane Public Facilities District is to operate the
finest public assembly facilities and provide the highest quality of Guest
Services in a manner that ensures profitable operations and financial
sustainability, returns value to the stakeholders, and maximizes economic
impact to the Inland Northwest. The Vision is to create event experiences
that make our Guests say WOW! Simply put, Fans First aligns with our
priorities, helps us provide an improved guest experience by simplifying
ticket purchase and just makes sense.
– Kevin Twohig, CFE,
Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, WA
Managers of public assembly venues strive to provide the highest level of
customer care and satisfaction to their communities, artists, presenters and
patrons they serve. The first interaction a customer has with our venue is
purchasing tickets to one of our events. Besides attending events in great
venues, customers put their trust in us for customer service and safety
while attending these events. Unfortunately, if the patron has an unpleasant
experience at any level including ticketing, customer service or safety
while attending an event we know about it. Customer satisfaction defines our
venues and Fans First supports this mission to protect everyone’s interests.
– Michael S. Taormina, CFE,
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre,
We’re a member because of our patrons. We think when someone buys a $250
ticket they should get a $250 seat, not a $35 seat. It’s also about customer
service. We want to be able to assist our patrons with any ticketing
problem. We can’t do that if they didn’t get their ticket from an authorized
outlet. Plus, it (upsets) me that someone can take images of my venue and
set up a website that tricks people into thinking that they are buying from
us. That’s just wrong!
– Robyn Williams, CFE,
Portland Center for the Performing Arts,