Plus Booking Fee…Goodbye Yellow Brick Road… (Original Draft, Exclusive)

I wrote an article in 2013 that was published in the fantastic music magazine NEMM. This is the original, second draft, which actually featured an extension of 300 words. The facts, figures and quotes relate to the time when the article was published and do not reflect the current opinions, moods or figures of the 2016 economy – however, it is still worth reading. Your feedback is welcomed.

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Homer: What? This is the highest tax increase in history!

Lisa: Actually it’s the lowest tax increase in history, Dad.

Homer: I pay the Homer tax. Let the bears pay the bear tax.

Lisa: That’s Home Owners tax, Dad.

The Simpsons, Much Apu About Nothing (1996)

On Wednesday July 2nd Elton John (and his band) is set to perform at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. The website quotes that he is “undeniably one of the most acclaimed and adored solo artists of all time” and you’ll get no argument from me. His career success parallels few artists of any genre and his recordings are, quite literally, embedded into popular culture.

Tickets for the event are listed at £55 and £75, a look beyond the home page and prices have now risen to £62.75 and £83.75 respectively with the click of a mouse. The rise in price equates to a booking fee of £8.75 for purchasing tickets online, with an optional “missed event insurance” of £3.75 and a further, mandatory, minimum mail or venue collection charge of £2.50 – none covered in the previous charges.

England, like most other first world countries, is a market economy. In a world where we’re more readily checking our pockets and bank balances it seems unusual to pay an additional £2.50 for sending a letter by first class post. Even more unusual when the £8.75 booking fee doesn’t, on its own, include any form of insurance and is more than what you’d be paid for doing an hour’s work on minimum wage.

With new rules introduced in April 2013 by the UK Government to cut down on credit card surcharges, Booking Fee’s for performances have remained unaffected, with Elton John’s performance at Nottingham Arena also demanding a £9.25 fee atop a £75 ticket price via Ticketline. This is far from a regional occurrence.

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In 2013 Ticketmaster UK appointed Chris Edmonds as their new chairman. He’d spoken to the BBC about ticket pricing as managing director, in Dec 2012, saying that “there’s a misunderstanding about what the fee’s are for…in reality we wouldn’t see any share of the actual ticket price. That would be shared between the promoter, venues and the artist” and went on to say that “the actual per ticket fees that we charge to our consumer are our sole source of revenue…in some instances some of those may be shared with the actual event organiser”

By that logic, the Metro Arena has already been paid prior to Booking Fee; a quick survey of their website informs us that all online sales are powered by Eventim.co.uk – the English branch of CTS Eventim AG, a German registered company who purport to be the largest ticket seller in Europe and who reported a turnover of €520 million in 2012. What it doesn’t tell us is why £8.75 per ticket is being charged for simply clicking a few buttons. Do we blame the Arena, Eventim, MasterCard and Visa, the tax man or Elton John?

So, how can you save money? Phones4U Arena in Manchester is just one venue who informs consumers – through its website – that all tickets purchased from the venue box office, and with cash, will not be charged a booking fee. It might seem like small consolation but if you live near the venue and don’t believe the gig will sell out within moments of tickets going on sale then the advice is clear, visit your venue and purchase tickets in person. Organise a pooling system with friends or relatives.

I spoke with Paul Tappenden, the General Manager of Metro Radio Arena, to establish some facts. Mr Tappenden first assured me that all tickets purchased as cash transactions from Metro Radio Arena are not subject to any booking fee. But Paul was clear to state that the Arena would receive absolutely no money from any tickets sold in this way and that they only offer this service as an alternative to their customers who wish to forgo what he called “the convenience of booking online or by telephone”

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Using the Elton John example, Paul went onto say that of the standard £55 or £75 ticket price the arena will not receive a penny – with that money shared out between the promoter, event organiser and performers – with the additional booking fee being the only chance for profit the arena has prior to the event itself.

As more and more artists are employing larger productions and bigger crews for Arena shows the average ticket price has risen for a variety of reasons which include everything from life on the road to EU custom and excise duty.

But there is hope for the future on excessive booking and admission prices as the EU plans to crack down on credit card surcharges and online fee’s, calling for them to be more representative of the services offered, though it’s more likely that artists and performers should be made accountable for their personal fee’s and the scope of their own productions. Audiences demand entertainment but an entertainer should be able to relate to his audience.