Putting fans first

Coalition aims to curb scalping practices

A coalition of more than 30 artists, two major-league sports teams and a host of venues and management companies has launched the nonprofit group Fans First Coalition, which aims to combat ticket scalping and unethical ticketing practices.

The coalition includes performers Maroon 5, R.E.M. and Jennifer Hudson, sports teams the Carolina Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes, the Recording Academy and companies such as Live Nation and Ticketmaster. It is headed by Michael Marion, general manager of the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark.

Chief among the org’s aims is fighting for the legality of paperless tickets, which could put a serious kink in many scalpers’ methods.

“Scalpers have gotten more aggressive in their concerns over paperless ticketing and how it will affect their business, and they started trying to change laws,” Marion said. “There was a time when fighting scalpers meant having an eight-ticket limit, but it’s gotten a lot more serious in the last year or so.”

Also at issue is the scalper practice of selling tickets from sites that imitate, but are unaffiliated with, the websites for the venues in question.

The secondary ticket market has fallen under scrutiny lately, with the founders of scalping service Wiseguy avoiding jail time last month for running a comprehensive network of fake email addresses and credit cards to scoop up huge numbers of premium ducats as soon as they went on sale.

Katy Perry’s management came under fire after a leaked tour rider requested a chunk of tickets be set aside for the secondary market, and scalpers were so active during the selling for LCD Soundsystem’s Madison Square Garden farewell show that the band was forced to play five makeup shows to satisfy frustrated fans.

The presence of Live Nation and Ticketmaster among the Fans First Coalition’s backers may raise some eyebrows.

During the lead up to the two companies’ 2010 merger, watchdogs scrutinized Ticketmaster’s ownership of secondary ticketing retailer TicketsNow (which is also a member of the coalition), particularly after an incident in which which online buyers for Bruce Springsteen tickets were rerouted from Ticketmaster to the secondary market site. (Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff apologized for the incident, which drew criticism from members of Congress and Springsteen himself, and vowed that it would not happen again.)

According to Marion, the Fans First Coalition turned to a known quantity in tapping Live Nation’s participation.

“We went to the 800-pound gorilla, which is Live Nation. They’re sort of behind the beginnings of this.”

Marion pointed out that no one on the Fans First board is employed by Live Nation or Ticketmaster, and said there is nothing preventing the Coalition from going up against any of its affiliates.

“Nobody has told us to leave TicketsNow alone,” Marion said. “Anywhere we think there’s improper behavior and we’re unhappy with the way they’re conducting themselves, we’re certainly going to deal with it and bring it to people’s attention.”

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