Supporters turn on California’s ‘anti-Live Nation’ ticketing bill following changes

Cryptocom Arena stages major concerts and is the home of several major league teams in California

Cryptocom Arena stages major concerts and is the home of several major league teams in California

A California bill designed to restrict Live Nation’s dominance of the ticketing market has lost the support of some proponents after a series of amendments were agreed.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ Assembly Bill 2808 was backed by consumer advocacy groups across the state when it was introduced earlier this year. The original wording of Hicks’ bill sought to lift restrictions on reselling tickets and introduce a market similar to that available for travel via websites like Kayak.

However, the bill has now been altered after Hicks accepted five amendments proposed by the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, led by Chair Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. Among the amendments is one that would allow artists to determine the terms and conditions around the sale, pricing, distribution, and transfer of their tickets.

Another controversial change, accepted after the Committee meeting earlier this week, sees an exemption for sports teams, including Golden State Warriors, the most valuable team in the NBA by some distance.

Consumer group slams sports exemption

Robert Herrell, the executive director of the Consumer Federation of California (CFC), has maintained his support for the bill despite the changes. However, in an op-ed for Cal Matters, he criticised the role that California’s leading sports teams, as well as Live Nation, have played in diluting Wicks’ bill. He wrote that “there is no justifiable rationale to exempt sports, other than that these teams and their billionaire owners directly benefit from inflated ticket prices”.

Explaining why he continues to support the bill, Herrell added: “Assembly Bill 2808 introduces greater transparency and choice into the ticketing process – incentivising ticket sellers to enhance services, provide clearer pricing structures and reduce fees for consumers.

“With reform, we can restore fairness, affordability and accessibility to live sports and concerts, allowing more people a chance to attend. Let’s prioritise fans over monopolies and ensure California is leading the way by protecting consumers.”

Asked elsewhere if the amendments were a deal-breaker, Herrell told Politico: “I think it’s very premature.”

While CFC has not withdrawn its support following the changes, others believe the bill now prioritises market leader Live Nation and Ticketmaster as well as millionaire artists and sports stars over consumers.

Many of the consumer groups who initially backed the bill told the Committee meeting earlier this week that the proposed changes would actually lead to a worse deal for consumers than what currently exists.

“If this amendment is adopted, consumer protections under current California law will be undermined and California will effectively have statutorily enshrined Ticketmaster/LNE’s existing monopoly over ticket distribution, sale and use,” wrote the groups, which included representatives of National Action Network Sacramento, the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and Latin Business Association.

What the ticketing bill seeks to change

When introducing the bill earlier this month, Wicks said the aim was to reduce prices and increase ticket availability. It was designed to take aim at Ticketmaster/Live Nation, which Wicks said controls 80% of primary ticket sales in the US and a large portion of secondary market sales.

“Instead of only having one choice of where to shop, consumers will have multiple options to purchase tickets; think of it like a Kayak.com or hotels.com for tickets,” said Wicks. “Companies will have to compete for your business, which will lead to lower fees and better service. Opening retail to competition will also mean more transparency, making it more difficult for fraudulent tickets to be sold.”

The revised bill now heads to California’s Committee on Appropriations, of which Wicks is a member.

Posted in LegislationTagged |