TM Says: Pot, Meet Kettle

The Fan Freedom Project, a group advocating ticketholder rights and claiming more than 100,000 supporters, has asked the state of Tennessee for an investigation of possible ticket scalping in Nashville.

It represents a new direction for FFP, which to date has focused on opposition to “restrictive” paperless ticketing – a distribution system favored by primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster to combat scalping.

FFP cited an investigation by WTVF-TV that showed professional ticket scalpers gobbled up most of the best seats at a recent Eric Church concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Jon Potter, head of the group, said those who resold tickets apparently used ticket-grabbing “bot” software to obtain them.

“Fan Freedom Project strongly supports citizens’ rights to own their own tickets and to resell them if they wish,” Potter wrote to Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper. “But we are also vehemently opposed to behavior that violates Tennessee’s anti-bot laws or that otherwise strips fans of their right to a fair chance to buy the best concert seats available for face-value prices at the box office.” The letter was copied to Davidson County DA Torry Johnson.

“We believe it is in the best interest of consumers, the entertainment industry and the state of Tennessee to punish those who are breaking the law,” Potter wrote. The full letter is also posted at Fan Freedom Project’s website.

The May 29 letter also suggested that the DA request documentation, including ticket manifests, from Ticketmaster to show “either illegal use of software for large-scale ticket-buying, or unlawfully deceptive marketing and commerce.”
To Ticketmaster, it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

The letter seems to leap from arguing against ticket bots to setting up Ticketmaster as an enabler, if not a culprit, in scalping activity. The Fan Freedom Project, which received its initial funding from secondary ticketer StubHub, purports to be supported by several consumer organizations and watchdog groups.

“The first source [of documentation] is Ticketmaster, which is the gatekeeper for ticket sales to most major events in Tennessee and elsewhere,” the letter says. “Ticketmaster’s records, e/g., the ‘ticket manifest,’ show whether large blocks of tickets to Eric Church and other concerts were acquired and by whom.

“The fact that Ticketmaster or its partners are allowing these sales without reporting them to prosecutors also seems worthy of an independent investigation, which could also probe why Ticketmaster permitted these large sales to the Eric Church concert while simultaneously advertising a four-ticket-per-purchase limit.”

Ticketmaster issued a statement the next day in response, pointing out StubHub “and others who profit from scalping” provide at least some of the funding of the Fan Freedom Project.

“This hypocrisy shows the desperation of these groups to avoid discussing the real issues that result in fans losing out to scalpers when they try to purchase tickets,” Ticketmaster said. “Fans of live entertainment in Tennessee are looking for solutions to ticketing scalping. The Fan Freedom project, and StubHub, had an opportunity to support legislative remedies to the real problems, yet choose to side with scalpers instead of fans in opposing them.

“We hope that they reconsider their opposition to the Fairness in Ticketing Act, which is supported by dozens of Tennessee artists, venues and sports teams. The Fan Freedom project calling for an investigation is disingenuous,” Ticketmaster’s statement concludes.

The Fairness in Ticketing Act of 2012, under consideration in Tennessee, imposes several disclosures on the part of ticketsellers, including whether the seller has tickets for sale actually in hand, the primary source of tickets, original face value of tickets, the exact location of seats and establishes that a ticket is a license, rather than property.

The Fairness in Ticketing Act is supported by Fans First Coalition, another group advocating ticketholder rights and claiming support of fans, artists, venues and concert promoters. It is also funded by Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster.