Theatres should scrap booking fees and add the cost of sales to their own budgets, a senior figure in the industry has argued.

Richard Howle, the director of ticketing for the NEC Group and former commercial director for Really Useful Theatres, used an opinion piece on The Stage website to respond to a Sunday Times piece scrutinising variations in West End prices.

Responding to concerns in the article that tickets for the Lion King varied between £193.50 face value and £270 with See Tickets, Howle highlighted what he considers double standards applied towards ticketing and other sectors where it is accepted that purchase prices often change depending on where an item is bought.

Howle was unhappy with comments made by Edward Snape, on behalf of the League of Independent Producers, who said that producers would like to become more involved in ticket pricing. He said producers already have power over ticketing but many do not take that responsibility seriously.

Richard Howle TTF

“The primary ticketing industry sells tickets on behalf of rights owners – if promoters and producers are unhappy with how it is working, it is entirely within their gift to change it,” he said.

Howle said he believes booking fees are a major problem in theatre ticketing and wants them to be absorbed as a production cost rather than an extra to be added on to prices.

“There should be no booking fees, just a common recommended retail price,” Howle said. “Make it the responsibility of the producer or promoter to shop around to get the best deal, reward those ticketing companies who sell the most tickets by providing them with lower wholesale prices.”

Howle said in order for it to work properly, it would require an across-the-board increase in ticket prices of up to 20 per cent.

“We have a choice – an increase in ticket prices, but a common price for customers wherever they bought the ticket (with no booking fees) or we continue to ask ticket buyers to shop around to find the price, ticket and service that best matches their needs,” he said.