Ticketmaster/Live Nation & Your Money: WTF is happening?
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
I don’t know about you, but for me, this summer promised to be a great one filled with live music. We’re talking bucket list type shows: my first ever Rage Against the Machine concert, the triumphant return of Alanis to Toronto, The Glorious Sons taking on back-to-back nights at The Kee to Bala, The Foo Fighters playing in the round and so much more. Then of course, COVID-19 hit and while I understand why these events probably won’t be happening anytime soon, it left me asking, “What now?” Like thousands of other people, a huge number of my tickets were purchased through Ticketmaster (or Live Nation) and I'm yet to receive a refund.
First: A Change in the Refund Policy
Ticketmaster/Live Nation came under fire last month when, without warning or communication, it changed its refund policy on its website. On March 13th, the website read that fans could receive refunds when an event was cancelled OR postponed. On March 14th, it only offered refunds for shows that had been cancelled. Fans received no email regarding this change and neither did artists.
Furthermore, loads of these events have not in fact been cancelled. Many have been rescheduled and often with no new date selected as of yet meaning ticket buyers have absolutely no idea of when the event will happen and if they'll be able to make the new date work. Moreover, in some cases artists have announced cancellations of entire tours but Ticketmaster/Live Nation have not done the same.
This of course resulted in huge backlash, including some from two members of U.S. Congress who condemned the company for holding back money from ticket buyers who need it during the pandemic. According to CBC who spoke with former Live Nation executive Tim Chambers, the company does not keep enough cash on hand to cover ticket sales. Essentially, they’re using ticket sales as cash to grow their business before the event has actually taken place.
Ticketmaster issued a statement reading that once fans buy tickets a huge amount of the money is sent to venues, artists and promotions companies…which would be all well and good except for the fact that Ticketmaster/Live Nation actually owns a huge amount of these venues and that their logistical issues don't justify fans being on the hook for undelivered product.
So let’s rewind here a second and recap (I'll add some personal notes too):
· Ticketmaster/Live Nation were not providing refunds unless an event was cancelled.
· A lot of these events are not cancelled right now. They’re postponed and often, without a new date scheduled yet.
· In some cases, the artist has announced the cancellation but Ticketmaster has not kept up.
· Because of the Ticketmaster/Live Nation business model, fans are out money because its been spent prior to the event
*Personal story: When we called Ticketmaster for a refund, they told us our only option if the event was rescheduled and we couldn't go was to try and resell the ticket. Of course, the only place you can resell the ticket (if the artist allows for resale) is on Ticketmaster's resale site. How convenient.
Sheesh. No wonder there was an outcry.
Of course, a big company like Ticketmaster/Live Nation can only take so much public backlash. Also worth noting is how complicated rescheduling concerts etc. can be: getting in touch with artists, venues, picking new dates that line up with other new dates…I can’t imagine the logistical nightmare. It’s not really the point though either. Fans who bought tickets and the product was not delivered upon, deserve a refund and it’s not up to them to wait through the logistical nightmare.
So here’s what Ticketmaster/Live Nation has decided to do about the whole thing. According to Billboard Magazine, starting May 1st, fans whose shows have been rescheduled will begin to get emails with new, rescheduled dates and the option for a refund. Do I think it’s acceptable that they have to wait that long if they’d prefer their refund A.S.A.P. to pay bills etc.? No, I don ‘t. While Ticketmaster/Live Nation get their ducks in row, ticket buyers are accruing interest on credit cards and are unable to access money that, depending on their circumstances could be incredibly valuable at this time.
Live Nation will also be offering a 150% credit in lieu of cash for the value of the ticket to put towards a future Live Nation Show. A final option, gives ticket buyers the ability to donate their refunds to a charity that gives concert tickets to healthcare workers. According to Billboard, these options are coming out after a month of negotiations with five major talent agencies and will be rolled out as events are postponed and given new dates. Essentially, it seems that if your event hasn’t yet been rescheduled…your SOL. I'll report back in May to see how quickly this moves along.
Another sidebar: If I want to donate to a healthcare worker, I’ll do it locally and I’ll do it with cash, not concert tickets. I'll also choose a company I trust.
To be fair, Live Nation/Ticketmaster has cut executive salaries and set up a ten-million-dollar fund for road crews suffering during this pandemic.  They genuinely seem to be trying but for me it isn’t enough. They have operated as a monopoly in the music industry on a shaky business model that has taken advantage of fans and artists for far too long (no seriously, read my other blog about it) and it’s time things change. If we want COVID-19 to be an agent for positive change when this is all over, it’s time we start calling out problems in the music industry.
Peace, love & history.
P.S. I truly do apologize for bringing a negative story into the world at a time when we could all use some positivity but I don’t believe in shying away from topics that stress me out. That being said, there are so many ways that you can help the music industry right now!
 D’Amore, Rachael. “Cancelled or Postponed? Fans rage over Ticketmaster refund policy amid COVID-19.” Global News. April 15 2020. https://globalnews.ca/news/6815254/coronavirus-ticketmaster-canada-refund/  Clementson, Laura; Gilchrist, Sylvene; Seglins, Dave. “Live Nation/ Ticketmaster decision to withhold refunds ‘reprehensible,’ says fans, members of congress.” CBC News. April 17 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/live-nation-ticketmaster-covid-19-1.5535213?fbclid=IwAR3czNAX66V92EZzmpGEwMP9Zzrda95VRaCbSL-_GMsy1Lph2Dmrq50K8Yw  Clementson, Gilchrist and Seglins. CBC News. 2020.  Brooks, Dave. “Ticketmaster Preparing Refund Plan for Thousands of Postponed Shows.” Billboard. April 17 2020. https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/touring/9360740/ticketmaster-preparing-refund-plan-for-thousands-of-postponed-shows  Brooks. Billboard. 2020.  Brooks. Billboard. 2020.