Baltimore Fee Law Condemned

When a Maryland court ruled in February that Ticketmaster convenience fees amount to scalping under a Baltimore ordinance, some fans cheered, many in the local concert industry griped, and officials passed a temporary measure to vacate the fee ban.

With time soon running out on that measure and no solutions to the ticket issue in sight, the Baltimore Sun recently took local politicians to task.

The ruling, which stemmed from a 2011 case in which a Baltimore man sued TM after paying $12 in fees for a $52 Jackson Browne ticket, means a service fee of more than 50 cents is considered scalping in the city. Ticket sellers found in violation would be subject to fines of $500 and a possible revocation of their vendor’s license.

But while convenience fees may arouse ire in many a concertgoer, simply banning fees in the city will do more harm then good, the Sun explained in an editorial.

Convenience fees are often the “means by which productions live or die,” the paper said. “While the revenue from ticket sales often goes straight to the entertainer, group or traveling company, the add-on fee is split among the promoter, the venue and the ticket agency.”

And without a solution to the fee issue, “it’s safe to assume that at some point, promoters will start looking to alternative locations in the suburbs or elsewhere rather than take a chance of seeing their business plans skewered,” the Sun continued.

So what’s the solution?

The paper had one idea – requiring ticket agencies to disclose fees up front so customers know the full price of a ticket.

If a venue wants to charge “$20 or $200 a ticket, that’s its right – just as consumers have the right to refuse to pay it,” the Sun said.