Ticketmaster Furloughs Employees In Cost Reduction Efforts
Ticketmaster has furloughed a portion of its North American workforce as a part of Live Nation’s previously announced cost reduction program Pollstar has confirmed.
A source with knowledge of the matter told Pollstar 25% of Ticketmaster’s North American workforce has been affected by the furlough. Billboard has reported this figure represents hundreds of employees.
Those affected will remain TM employees, will keep their health benefits, and in many cases will be provided with a two-week payout of earned time off. Pollstar has heard the company will also be paying employee and employer insurance premiums.
“Since the beginning of this global crisis,” Ticketmaster President Jared Smith wrote to staff in a letter obtained by Variety, “we have operated with the goal of staying true to our company’s core philosophy of ‘taking care of our own.’ This is why we continued to keep our team at full pay through March and April, even as the tens of thousands of events we support and sell ground to a halt.”
“[T]his team spirit and camaraderie made the decision to furlough a portion of our workforce all the more difficult. I assure you, however, that this decision was arrived at with great consideration and care. Without a doubt, this is the hardest decision I have faced in my tenure leading this great organization but it is one I feel is necessary to protect the future of our company.”
The news demonstrates that even the Live Nation Entertainment company is being massively impacted by the COVID-19-prompted shutdown of the live entertainment industry. It will be a surprise to some as Billboard reported on March 12 Live Nation had internally communicated to staff that there would no be layoffs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furloughs are not the same as layoffs, though, a source with knowledge of the matter told Pollstar, and the company intends to bring those employees back as soon as feasible.
The furloughs were not without previous signs. On April 12 Live Nation shared a plan that included a host of “cost reduction efforts [including] hiring freezes, reduction in the use of contractors, rent re-negotiations, furloughs, and reduction or elimination of other discretionary spending, including, among other things, travel and entertainment, repairs and maintenance, and marketing.”
In that statement the company also announced an amendment to its credit agreement and the completion of a new revolving credit facility, giving the company a total liquidity position of $3.8 billion.
Earlier this week news broke that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund took a $500 million stake in Live Nation, which was purchased on the open market.
Live Nation’s stock prices were shellacked in the early days of COVID-19 in the U.S., as shares dropped 16.58% in a single day on March 11 and fell 29% in a five-day period in early March. The company recently unveiled a microsite detailing its Ticket Relief Plan to offer credit or refunds for canceled or postponed shows.
Ticketmaster President Jared Smith recently responded to a scathing letter from U.S. Reps Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Katie Porter (D-CA). The original letter, addressed to Ticketmaster President Amy Howe and Live Nation President Michael Rapino, criticized the ticketing giant for withholding refund money from desperate customers. Smith’s response explains that refunds have been held, essentially, because the company has had to carry out extensive negotiations with many different stakeholders before they can be issued.
A large number of refunds will be made available when many postponements and cancellations are announced May 1.
The broader ticketing industry has been ravaged by the COVID-19 shutdown of the live industry. StubHub reportedly laid off a substantial portion of its workforce and changed its policies to no longer guarantee refunds for canceled events. Eventbrite laid off 45% of its global workforce to combat the effects of the pandemic.