Concert ticket transparency bill stalls in MN Senate

1:04 PM, Mar 23, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A state senate panel rejected a bill Friday that would've required concert promoters and artists to reveal how many tickets are actually available for direct sale to the public.

"I have wondered where the heck the tickets go when you try to buy one an hour after they go on sale, and there's nothing left," Sen. Dave Tomassoni, the Chisholm Democrat, who authored the bill.

Sen. Tomassoni and supporters of the measure noted that pop superstar Beyonce's summer concert at the Xcel Energy Center sold out in 20 minutes or less, because only a portion of the tickets were available for the general public to purchase online or in person.

The rest of those seats had already been locked up -- in "pre-sales" by other entities, such as credit card companies, a fan club and the Live Nation mobile phone app.

Tomassoni said he recognized it's industry practice to for artists to set aside part of the seats for others, but he also asserted that the general public assumes more tickets are actually available to buy directly from the concert venue at face value.

His bill wouldn't have required a minimum percentage be set aside for direct sales to the public, but would require disclosure of that number so that fans can adjust their expectations.

"When I hear there's a 14,000 seat venue, I think there's 14,000 seats available," Tomassoni told fellow senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He found a sympathetic ear in Sen. Barb Goodwin, a Democrat from Columbia Heights, who noted that the top concert venues in the Twin Cities were built with huge government subsidies.

"The taxpayers of Minnesota have paid for a good portion of the large facilities," Sen. Goodwin noted.

"We should know --I want to know to know -- how many of those seats are actually open to the public."

The bill also had the support of Stub Hub, the Internet ticket exchange site. 

Lobbyist Dan Larson, appearing on behalf of Stub Hub, said the lightning fast sell-outs are cause people to suspect automated programs are at work.

"Stub Hub will at times get blamed for that and don't believe that's their fault," Larson told the committee, arguing that the bill is aimed at protecting consumers from unrealistic expectations.

Larson cited a Tennessee TV station's investigative report that showed less than 10 percent of tickets to a Justin Bieber concert were put up for sale a face value to average fans.

"If, in fact, you knew you were competing for a thousand tickets you might realize that your chances aren't very good."

Dan Hedlund, a Twin Cities attorney appearing on behalf of Fan Freedom Project, said that the initiative is aimed at making consumers smarter shoppers.

"Fans want to know 'What are my chances going to be?' How many tickets are actually going to be available?" Hedlund said.

"They may decide it's best to spend the money to join a fan club, if that's what it takes to get a ticket."

Opponents to Tomassoni's idea said some big time tours would simply avoid Minnesota rather than jump through any additional regulatory hoops.

"Many tours and touring artists and events will simply bypass our state in order to avoid regulations listed in this bill," Dan Balcer, the ticket manager for the Target Center testified.

"Touring artists and events have many choices of which states and cities to visit and the state of Minnesota will be impacted."

Balcer predicted at least four big tours, and as many as seven, would skip Minnesota if the ticket transparency bill became the law.

Skeptics on the committee said informing consumers doesn't do anything to change the industry practice, which is a perfectly legal system.

"I don't understand the point of this bill," Sen. Julianne Ortman said.

"I don't think Beyonce's going to be shamed into selling more tickets publicly."

Sen. Ron Latz, the committee chair, disagreed.

"I think Beyonce might want to consider her broader fan base and not just those that have American Express cards," Latz said.

And that prompted a quip from Ortman.

"If you hear from her let me know!"

Tomassoni chimed in next.

"She has not called me."

Then it was Sen. Warren Limmer's turn.

"She called me."

In the end the bill failed by a vote of three to four, with Democrats Kari Dziedzic and Richard Cohen joining Republicans Warren Limmer and Julianne Ortman in opposition.

Democrats Barb Goodwin and Kathy Sheran joined the chairman, Ron Latz, in voting for Tomassoni's ticket bill.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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