Luke Johnson: Sky-high fees need to fall

An investigation into excessive booking fees for concerts is long overdue; we need a more robust approach to fake injury claims; it's a vintage time for films about business.

by Luke Johnson

Which is the most hated brand in the US? Fast Company magazine claims it is Ticketmaster. It sold 120 million tickets, worth $8bn last year and is now owned by Live Nation Entertainment, a giant concert promoter, venue operator and artist manager. It has a near monopoly and is the villain in Josh Budnick's new book, Ticket Masters - The rise of the concert industry and how the public got scalped (ECW Press).

Why do so many people resent Ticketmaster? Because the basis of its business is a ruse - it charges an excessive levy to handle ticket sales. This commission comes with many names - a 'service charge', 'processing fee', 'booking fee' and so on. But it all boils down to the same - additional cost to the customer for almost nothing. The true costs of organising, printing, emailing or posting a ticket are very modest - but the extra fee often amounts to 10% or more of the ticket's face value. And customers are rarely told of this surcharge beforehand.

I would like the Competition Commission and Office of Fair Trading to carry out a detailed investigation into the Ticketmaster/Live Nation empire. It inflates the price of tickets to the public and is insufficiently clear as to their true cost.

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