In the Arena, 2/13

12 Feb

BY TODD HUNT

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve! As a guy, I remain convinced that this holiday was dreamed up by Hallmark and Hershey’s to boost sales. Unfortunately that belief doesn’t exempt me from doing something special for my bride on that day. My point is (and has always been) that one shouldn’t be forced to demonstrate affection for someone on a specific day. If it’s a true relationship shouldn’t you do that every day? I’ll come down from the soapbox now before something I type is misconstrued and I end up in the doghouse (I love you dear!)…

My original plan was to blog on the cost of talent and how that affects ticket prices, Tupelo, and you the fan. But something happened in the past week that I feel deserves attention. So the dry lecture will be postponed another week.

In case you missed the press release or the news story, the BancorpSouth Arena recently signed a long term deal with Ticketmaster to handle our ticketing. I thought it would be wise to go over our rationale behind this decision and answer any questions you might have about the decision.

Why Ticketmaster?
They are known as the top ticketing company in the nation. Their website is the default place for most people looking for tickets, much as Amazon and Google also dominate the web. In our region alone, they have an email list in the hundreds of thousands. In today’s fragmented marketplace that means a lot.

How does this help the Arena? Our mission is to promote economic growth. By partnering with Ticketmaster, we feel that more people from other areas will now know about our events, leading to increased ticket sales, more events, and most importantly more visitors to Tupelo. In this down economy, we need every visitor we can get.

How does this help the customer? We will be able to offer “print at home” tickets for our events by the end of the month, making it even easier for patrons to receive their tickets. Instead of offering two ticket outlets we now have hundreds across the region. We also now have a toll free number to charge by phone (800-745-3000).

What about the Arena Box Office? Will anything change? We will keep the same hours, same fees, and most importantly the same friendly staff. The only change for the local box office is the software that we use to sell the tickets.

I think that covers the bases in regards to our ticketing swap. I did not go into the recently announced merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster because, frankly, I’m not sure what it will mean for us. We’ll just have to wait and see.

That’s all for this week. I’m sure there are some questions I did not address, so feel free to post them here. I will answer as many as I can.

Finally, don’t forget Jeff Dunham and his cast of characters will be here Wednesday, February 18. Tickets are going fast so get yours now!

Until next time,

Todd

13 Responses to “In the Arena, 2/13”

  1. Sean Kaufman February 13, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Thanks a lot Todd for selling out music fans in Tupelo.

    Ticketmaster is one of the most EVIL companies operating right now.. AND YOU KNOW IT and BEFORE you delete this post, I’ve linked to articles backing up everything I’ve said. No slander – – Just facts.

    Just today Ticketmaster was hit with ANOTHER class-action-suits over the exorbitant “convenience fees” they tack onto ticket prices. High “convienence fees” is something you can already see for yourself. Jeff Dunham tickets for the Bancorpsouth Arena show went up on Ticketmaster earlier this week when you launched. That ticket you advertise for $39.50 is actually will hit your wallet for $50.70 after the fees are tacked on. 27% Fees – – for a comedy show. Yeah, that’s reasonable!

    The only advantage you could muster for comsumers was “print at home ticketing” like that’s unique to Ticketmaster? Every freakin bar I can think of that books live music already offers this. Freakin Proud Larry’s in Oxford which probably doesn’t even hold 100 people has print-at-home ticketing… barcoded and all!

    There are NON EVIL companies like TICKET-BISCUIT out of Birmingham that would have been a better alternative. And their fees? TWO DOLLARS.

    Ticketmaster has been raping consumers with their outlandish fees for years now, but what I’m mainly concerned about is their new practice with their side-company “TicketsNow.” This came to a head last week when Bruce Springsteen went public with his outrage prompting a US Congressman to call for a congressional investigation.

    The exact minute Springsteen tickets went on sales, consumers were met with a “Sold Out” message and re-directed to the sister company “TicketsNow” to purchase tickets jacked up by hundreds of dollars.

    Another case, which I suspect will be most common here will be what I experienced when purchasing Death Cab for Cutie tickets two weeks ago. I was signed in and clicking refresh until the exact minute tickets went on sale. The “Best available” offered to me was all the way back in Row – F. Row F ! and they’d just gone on sale that minute.

    Sure enough I clicked over to TicketsNow – -And there were tons of tickets already up and available for the prime-seats. That tells you right there that Ticketmaster never has any intention to offer the prime seats for their face value. They have a premeditated practice to automatically sell those prime seats for highly inflated prices to their own “broker” site. They do this completely out in the open!

    If they were truly operating on a fair playing field (as Ticketmaster claims) there is NO WAY POSSIBLE for that amount of tickets to be be purchased from the Ticketmaster site, and then reposted on theTicketsNow site in a matter of less than a minute at highly inflated prices. ITS NOT POSSIBLE.

    Concert goers in Tupelo can say hello to high fees. The can hangup having a chance at “prime seating” without paying enormously inflated prices through Ticketmaster’s SCALPING service TicketsNow.

    Remember those Jeff Dunham tickets I mentioned earlier? Well if you want GOOD SEATS.. you wont find those on Ticketmaster’s website.. Nope.. They’ve moved those over to ticket now.. Those range from $94 for Row-15 to $214 for Row-4

    For Freakin Jeff Dunam! Can you imagine what we have to look forward to when you guys have another big rock show? It’ll be insane.

    Don’t take my word for it though..

    SEN CHUCK SCHUMER CALLS FOR TICKETMAST/TICKETSNOW PROBE
    http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/02/10/afx6032487.html
    TICKETMASTERS’ BAIT AND SWITCH
    http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/local/news-article.aspx?storyid=130929&catid=3
    NJ STATE AJ BELIEVES TICKETMASTER IS BREAKING LAW
    http://www.northjersey.com/news/njpolitics/ticketmaster020609.html
    TICKETMASTER FACES ANOTHER CLASS ACTION SUIT
    http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/02/09/ticketmaster.html

  2. winsom February 13, 2009 at 8:33 am #

    I read in the paper that Paul Thorn will be touring with Bonnie Raitt beginning in May. Any chance of getting this terrific local talent and a living legend to play at the Arena?

  3. Todd February 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    Sean,

    I appreciate your input but disagree with you on several points.

    Local fans who purchase tickets from the Arena Box Office or via our local phone number (841-6573) will not pay a penny more in fees than before we changed ticket providers. Fans purchasing online will pay higher fees in some cases, but not all the time. These fees are the costs involved with developing the most dependable ticketing platform in the world.

    Yes, there are other ticketing companies available but none of them can handle the volume of tickets that Ticketmaster can. Nor do they have the web presence or email database now available to us. We no longer have to worry about our ticketing server crashing during an onsale as it did a few years ago for a Toby Keith show in the venue. Because of that snafu, we have not only been unable to bring that artist back, but that promoter (who is the largest in the country) has not come back into the market either.

    As for Tickets Now, our agreement does not allow for any of our customers to be directed to that site until every ticket originally offered for sale has been sold. We control the ticket inventory, not Ticketmaster, and we want everyone to have a chance at the best tickets. We will not allow any tickets to be pulled from sale to be sold on the secondary market, either internally or by our partners at Ticketmaster.

    As we have discussed on this blog in the past, secondary ticket (aka scalper) websites often do not actually possess the tickets that they are advertising. If someone places an order with them (almost always at a greatly inflated price), they will attempt to purchase those tickets from the primary ticket seller.

    I understand your frustration with the current system and hope that the concert industry can come to grips with this dilemma before we lose our fanbase completely. There are two ideas that I believe could help if only the various parties involved (venues, artists, and promoters) can embrace them: variable ticket pricing and inclusive ticket pricing.

    Variable pricing has been in place in the airline industry for years. Ticket prices are based on demand, location, and many other factors. While one can say that a fan in the upper deck hears the same show as someone on the front row, this visual effect is quite different. The concert industry has typically done a poor job of recognizing this fact. This has led to scalpers being able to sell the most desirable tickets for many times the face value. If you could eliminate that discrepancy scalpers would not be able to make money, therefore driving them out of business. However it will take a rocket scientist with the wisdom of Solomon to convince all of the players in the industry to come to terms with this concept.

    Inclusive ticket pricing has a better shot of coming into play soon. The Eagles (whose manager is also the CEO of Ticketmaster) actually tested this concept in several markets last month. As a fan, you want to know what the actual price is, not be bombarded with extras at the time of purchase.

    With the Jeff Dunham show, there is no way that Ticketmaster placed any floor seats on Tickets Now. That show has been on sale since November, long before we signed a contract or gave them any ticket inventory. Any seats advertisted on Tickets Now were bought through regular channels, if indeed they have even been purchased yet. I can assure you that we have not set aside any tickets for them, nor will we hold any seats to be sold on Tickets Now instead of Ticketmaster.

    I apologize for the length of this response but this is not a simple subject to address. Ultimately, this change gives us the opportunity to bring more visitors to town which is our mission. Again, if higher fees are your main concern, you can always avoid that by visiting our box office.

  4. Todd February 13, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    Paul Thorn and Bonnie Raitt would be a great show. As a matter of fact, I encourage everyone to check out Paul’s show at Benjamin’s on Valentine’s Day. Maybe we can convince them to make a stop in Tupelo

  5. Cmike February 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm #

    Will I be able to use the box office phone numbe to order tickets when they go on sale on a Saturday?

  6. farley662 February 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    I was curious about the tickmaster thing and just went and priced two tickets for Jeff Dunham. The two $39.50 tickets I priced totaled $104 and some change after convenience fees, building fees and a processing fee. With the economy the way it is, gouging people for an extra $20 is not the way to get people to your shows. This seems like a sure fire way to alienate even more people. I know it’s business thing, but with the lack of high profile shows you have been bringing in, this doesn’t make much sense to me.

  7. Todd Hunt February 14, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    Cmike – Yes, you can still use the box office phone number for weekend onsales.

    Farley – Dunham tickets are now approximately $2 more online than they were before we changed ticketing companies. Again, if fees are a concern you can always buy tickets over the phone or at the box office.

  8. farley662 February 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    Todd, no offense, but for someone who’s job it is to drive people to events, making excuses for a company who has been proven to screw the consumer doesn’t make sense.

    As far as actual seating goes, why are front row tickets seemingly never available on the onsale date? The ticket brokers and friends of family members seem to be the ones who get those. You’d think the people who camp out to buy the tickets would have first dibs. I have been in first in line on more than one occasion and have been only able to get 3rd-4th row tickets. If they are not pulled as you suggest they are not, where do they go?

  9. Todd Hunt February 15, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Farley,

    Our thinking is that the reach of ticketmaster.com will help us bring in fans that we have been unable to attract in the past. Not everyone visits our website, reads the local paper, listens to local radio, etc. but many folks do check out tm.com or subsribe to their eblasts to see what’s happening in the region. That’s why we aligned with them.

    As for front row seats, you have to realize that everyone at the box office window, online, at outlets, and over the phone has access to the same seats at the same time. There are only 28 seats available on the front row and that is before radio station and artist holds. I can promise you that we do not allow anyone inside the box office or at Ticketmaster to pull any of these seats from the general public onsale. As a matter of fact, my staff knows that they will be terminated if they pull any floor seats for friends or family members. To me the floor seats are sacred and I will not tolerate that kind of behavior.

    In the days before computerized ticketing, it made sense to camp out at the box office as that is where the floor seat were generally sold. Being first in line meant having access to those floor seats. Now every seat is available everywhere at the same time. That’s not something that is unique to the BCS Arena; it’s universal. I admit that the days of camping out helped add to the atmosphere of a good rock show, but unfortunately those days are gone.

  10. farley662 February 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    Thanks for the response Todd. Any clue who is playing the show with Alan Jackson?

  11. Todd Hunt February 15, 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    Not sure who the opener is yet. I don’t think it will be the Pogues or the Dropkick Murphys, though. Maybe next time…

  12. farley662 February 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    Skunked again!!!!!!!!!

  13. Sean Kaufman February 15, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    OK sounds like you want us to believe Tupelo’s BCS arena is going to be able to stand up to Ticketmaster’s proven greed and unfair business practices.

    When no other venue or artist big or small has been able to stop them, somehow the BCS arena is going to manage to use them for their flawless website and marketing reach without having their ticket buyers screwed just like they are with every other Ticketmaster venue.

    You can’t be serious.

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