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Sunday, February 02, 2020 1:00 am

General Assembly

Ticket transfer bill dead; issue not

Venue managers say their ban curtails fraud

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The bill seems so simple – let Hoosiers who buy concert tickets transfer them to whoever they want.

But ticket fraud and technology complicate the issue of transferability – and led to the unexpected demise of the legislation last week.

“It's an interesting issue, but there were a lot more questions than answers,” said Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne. “People feel very strongly about it one way or the other.”

Carbaugh's bill passed committee easily but ultimately didn't have enough support in his caucus to pass the full House, so he killed it.

Carbaugh said in a longer session he might have been able to work through the bill and find a compromise, but the expedited short session made that impossible.

It won't be the last Hoosiers hear of the issue, which is working its way around the nation. Several states including New York and Colorado have adopted policies safeguarding the ability to transfer tickets.

This despite artists and venues fighting hard against the secondary resale market.

Take Pearl Jam for instance, who recently announced an upcoming tour for a new album.

“To give fans the best chance to buy tickets at face value for this tour, Pearl Jam has decided that tickets will be mobile only and strictly non-transferable,” the band said in a statement.

The issue of transferability popped up initially at the end of the 2019 session, and was sent to a summer study committee. That panel didn't come up with any findings or recommendations.

But Carbaugh filed House Bill 1331 anyway. He limited the scope to concerts and other events – not sports.

He and others use the example of someone getting sick and being unable to use a ticket. If a person has a tangible ticket in hand they can transfer it but it is becoming harder as venues move to mobile tickets that are scanned on a phone. Venues are quickly moving away from printable PDF tickets as they are easy to duplicate and a big driver of fraud.

Carbaugh said he doesn't want to dictate the format of tickets venues must use – “but it's your property that you should be able to transfer.”

Supporters of the measure – StubHub and others in the secondary ticket market – make it clear it's also about resale.

Laura Dooley, head of StubHub's global government relations, said the legislation puts consumers before venues and artists.

She testified before a House committee that Ticketmaster dominates up to 80% of every ticket initially sold and they are “using technology to foreclose competition and limit consumer choice.”

Carl Szabo, vice president for NetChoice – a trade association for businesses promoting free enterprise on the internet – said he was utterly amazed at the opposition to the bill.

“I feel like my head is about to explode,” he said. “Everyone is saying it's unnecessary. But you don't send the senior VP of Live Nation for a bill that's unnecessary. Clearly they have a lot more planned for Indiana consumers than meets the eye.”

He was referring to Tom Mendenhall of Live Nation – one of the largest events promoters and venue operators in the world – who attended the hearing on the bill. Live Nation owns a number of venues in central Indiana.

“We strongly oppose any legislation controlling the distribution of our tickets,” Mendenhall said, noting many artists want to limit transferability of tickets so they aren't sold at a marked-up price elsewhere. “Legislative restrictions to ticketing would hinder our ability to be innovative.”

He noted, for instance, that its digital platform allows it to send texts or information to ticketholders about weather alerts. And knowing the home addresses of ticket buyers has allowed Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville to change traffic patterns when exiting the facility to ease congestion.

Randy Brown, general manager for Memorial Coliseum, spoke on behalf of a large coalition against the bill including every major venue in the state, the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers, several universities, the Indiana State Fairgrounds and more.

He called it a “pro-scalper proposal” that would effectively require a paper ticket that is easily susceptible to fraud or counterfeiting. He and others also noted only a small percentage of tickets are nontransferrable.

“The language is not simple,” Brown said. “It puts constraints on our business and limits innovation. It simply improves scalper access to our ticket inventory.”

nkelly@jg.net


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