Live Nation Unveils Refund Program; Ticketmaster President Jared Smith Responds To Reps. Pascrell And Porter

Jared Smith
– Jared Smith

Live Nation has announced a program of options for fans with tickets to rescheduled or postponed shows as the general public and two members of Congress are increasingly demanding access to refunds.

The “Rock When You’re Ready” program allows fans holding tickets to moved or nixed shows to hold their ticket for the new date; exchange their ticket for Concert Cash (credit on the platform worth 150% of the ticket’s value); donate the ticket to health care works through the Hero Nation program; or request a full refund within 30 days of the announcement of new dates or cancellation.
The program resembles a similar initiative announced by AEG Presents and its ticketing service AXS yesterday, as reported by Billboard.
Ticketing companies have been coming under fire en masse after multiple marketplaces, most notably StubHub, announced only coupons would be available for canceled events, as opposed to refunds. 
Vivid Seats has informed Pollstar the company is still providing refunds for canceled events, but is no longer offering refunds for postponed events. Vivid is also giving customers the option of coupons worth 110% of the ticket’s value and is donating 10% of tickets sold to MusiCares
But Ticketmaster, as the largest North American ticketing platform, has provided the largest target for public ire as countless ticketholders have waited for information about how they can get money for their tickets. The hubbub about refunds reached the ears of U.S Reps Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Katie Porter (D-CA-45), who wrote a scathing letter to Ticketmaster President Amy Howe and Live Nation President Michael Rapino.
“We write to you today incredulous at Ticketmaster’s announced policy to refuse refunds to all requesting fans for ticketed events postponed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the representatives wrote. “With Americans weathering the brutal and continuing impacts of this global crisis, your decision to confiscate their money is reprehensible and should be reversed immediately.” 
The policy referred to by the representatives is Ticketmaster’s previously announced position of guaranteeing refunds for canceled events, but handling postponements or venue changes on a case-by-case basis. Sources told Pollstar that before COVID-19, Ticketmaster would virtually always make refunds available to postponed or relocated events, and even a delay in making refunds available would be a serious shift from the norm. 
Ticketmaster representatives previously told Pollstar its’ policy of guaranteeing refunds for canceled events, not necessarily postponements, had technically always been the policy. But when the company removed language on its websites describing refunds for postponed events, multiple media outlets interpreted this as Ticketmaster changing its position. 
A Ticketmaster representative told Pollstar that one reason the company has been slow to detail the plan for refunding thousands of tickets is because the company has extensively been negotiating with promoters, artists, and agents.
Today Ticketmaster President Jared Smith responded to representatives Pascrell and Porter on behalf of Rapino and Howe. 
“Ticketmaster is a platform that allows event organizers to sell their tickets directly to consumers. Our business practice is to send money to event organizers on a weekly basis as tickets are sold,” Smith wrote. “For the 30,000 events that have already been postponed or canceled as a result of COVID-19, we have already sent more than $2 billion to event organizers, making it impossible to issue refunds to fans before recouping sales receipts from the organizers, as we’ve done in the past.”
“As of March 1, there were over 55,000 events on our systems scheduled to take place between March 1 and the end of 2020. As noted, most of those events have already been impacted in some way by government-mandated, and vitally necessary, restrictions on large public gatherings. We fully anticipate more events will be impacted in the weeks and months ahead,” Smith continues.
“Of those 30,000 events already impacted, over 12,000 have already been canceled and we are actively issuing refunds to every one of the purchasers of those events. Roughly 5,000 events have already been rescheduled, and organizers have authorized us to issue refunds to consumers who request them.
“Of the remaining 14,000 events—which include sports, concerts and Broadway shows —promoters are actively working through rescheduling options, which is an incredibly complex task at present given the diminished line of sight into the future as well as the uncertainty around when large gatherings may resume. As those events either land new dates or are cancelled, we will work quickly with the event organizers to authorize refunds on those events as well.
“Let me reiterate: neither our clients, nor Ticketmaster, intend to withhold refunds on postponed shows.”
The new policy was announced than a week after Live Nation announced executives would be taking pay cuts as more than 8,000 shows (or 14 million tickets) were affected by the COVID-19 prompted industry shutdown.