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Ticket Resellers Have Upended Live Music. California Must Restore Power for Artists and Fans

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Senate Bill 785 aims to protect artists and fans by banning harmful resale practices and speculative concert ticketing. (Shutterstock)
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In Summary
Industrialized, third-party resellers have upended the live entertainment ecosystem in California with harmful tactics that hurt fans and artists alike. A proposed reform would rightly ban some of the worst practices.

Jordan Bromley

Special to CalMatters

Opinion

In the ever-evolving world of live entertainment, being able to attend or put on a concert is a cherished privilege for fans and artists alike. Unfortunately, the ticketing ecosystem in California is riddled with issues like bots, deceptive websites, and speculative ticketing.

Industrialized, third-party resellers have upended the live entertainment ecosystem. In California, the live music and entertainment industry has a total economic impact of $12.3 billion, generating over 83,456 jobs and $675 million in total state and local tax revenues. Yet bad actors repeatedly take money out of the hands of fans – as well as the artists and venues that make concerts happen.

Artists and Fans Need Protection

No one cares more about music fans and creating a great live experience than artists. Lawmakers in California need to protect these relationships and communities they create and take action to stop harmful resale practices.

One of the most critical reforms would enshrine the right for artists to control ticket resale. In practice, this means allowing artists to have a say on the terms of ticket resale – like engaging in “fan-to-fan” face-value exchanges without the interference of bots or scalpers looking to inflate ticket prices.

Artists can already use these exchanges in California, but industrial resellers are flying state-to-state and spending big money on lobbying efforts to ban face-value exchanges. The California Legislature should instead protect the rights of artists to use technology to keep ticket prices down for legitimate fans.

Resellers’ Harmful Tactics

Resellers often criticize the notion of an artist’s right to control ticket sales or resales by arguing that it eliminates “fan freedom,” but reseller pricing practices undermine the very essence of the ticket-buying experience. A recent study by the National Independent Talent Organization found that ticket resellers earned an average cumulative profit of $41,000 per show by charging an average of two times the original ticket price. The study also found that in states where artists cannot control resale, fans paid an average of 396% above face value.

Resellers also use harmful tactics like deploying deceptive websites that trick concertgoers into paying more than they need to. The practice of speculative ticketing, where resellers list tickets that they do not actually have, at exorbitant prices, allows them to use a fan’s money to fund bots to try to fulfill the order.

Deceptive websites should be banned, and resellers should be required to have possession of a ticket before trying to sell it in California.

Legislation to Improve Ticket-Buying Experience

Various other states, including Nevada, have already passed legislation to ban speculative ticketing and improve the ticket-buying experience. California should follow suit.

The balance of power needs to shift back to artists and fans and away from industrial resellers. Fortunately, state Sen. Anna Caballero showed leadership and real support for the artist community when she introduced Senate Bill 785 to enshrine artist rights and ban the deceptive practice of speculative ticketing.

Next year, the legislature should advance SB 785 and send it to the governor’s desk.

California fans deserve price protection. With artists more empowered, we can foster an environment where genuine fans enjoy live events without the risk of falling victim to exploitative resale practices.

About the Author

Jordan Bromley is a board member for the Music Artists Coalition.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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