Just the ticket? The need for high booking fees on ticket prices

4th June 2010 - By Vicki Anderson c/o www.press.co.nz
VICKI ANDERSON questions the need for high booking fees on ticket prices and talks to two new players in the New Zealand ticketing market - 1-Night and Moshtix. Teenage kicks? I was talking to a few disadvantaged youths at the Christchurch Town Hall last Friday night. They were talking about how much the student tickets had been to Chartfest. The original price $10 shot up to $18 because these kids had their tickets mailed out to them by Ticketek. Thus they felt disadvantaged of pocket. That's 80 per cent of the ticket price just to put a ticket in an envelope and stick a stamp on it. You would want the envelope to be gold-embossed at the very least. Perhaps before being placed lovingly in the envelope the tickets were caressed by a rare breed of dove before being rolled in caviar and dried by French hand models wearing horsehair wigs? I asked Brendon Bainbridge general manager of Ticketek New Zealand to break down the costs involved in $8 worth of postage and handling for a ticket but instead he emailed me with an
explanation of what the agency's prices are. Phone bookings are $8 (mailed or picked up at venue). Web bookings are $8 if the customer wants the tickets mailed out or $5 if they print the tickets out at home (only applies to specific events). A ticket bought at a retail outlet such as Real Groovy selling events listed through Ticketek charges $6. But Bainbridge was quick to point out if my disadvantaged youths had booked at the box office in this case the Christchurch Town Hall it would have cost them $1 a ticket for tickets under $20 or $2 a ticket for tickets over $20. The above fees are their standard fees but can still apparently vary event by event. Some might say that Ticketek and other such ticketing outlets should be taking better care of their customers. They might also add that outfits like Ticketek almost have a licence to print money because any event held at a Vbase venue (Christchurch Town Hall Westpac Arena etc) is required to use the agency. It owns 70 to 80 per cent of the big festival venues and puts people under contract so they have to use that ticketing agency. Anecdotal evidence from promoters is that this coupled with a tendency in Christchurch to not buy tickets until the last minute is one of the main reasons promoters don't want to bring big acts to Christchurch and don't make it out of the North Island. To use Chartfest as an example to put this into perspective from a promoter's viewpoint from the $18 student ticket mentioned above the promoter in this case charitable trust CHART would get $7 and Ticketek $11. Alongside agencies such as Eventfinder and traditional ticket outlets such as Cosmic Corner and others such as undertheradar.co.nz two new players have entered the New Zealand market looking to make the ticket-buying experience more pleasant and user-friendly. Josh Dry and four business partners" are behind 1-Night.co.nz which is officially launching on June 18 with its first gig at the San Francisco Bathhouse in Wellington. The 1-Night card is similar in appearance to a credit card. They envisage that customers can buy concert tickets and even drinks online. You just arrive at a gig and have your card swiped at the door. There's no need for cash and door queues are minimised. "We've been working at it since the start of November last year. Last week we started to sell tickets to two events we have The Beatnuts at San Francisco Bathhouse and a nationwide tour with a promoter Madcap. We're the first New Zealand-based card-based purchasing solution. All your purchases go on to your card so there's no more paper wastage no more outrageous booking fees for doing nothing " Dry says. What are the booking fees for 1-Night? "At the moment we've just got individual gigs going but basically we're having very transparent clearcut booking fees because that's one thing that other ticket agents are doing is hiding their fee putting some on the promoter and some on the customer. "New Zealand basically has a duopoly but still every single company has a different structure to their booking fee. "Our fee for The Beatnuts is $3.50 and that gives you a card free with your first purchase. Once you've got that card we can give you a cheaper fee after that." The back of the card has a quick reference or QR code. "It is a new form of barcode which can hold a lot more data. It's going to [eliminate] long queues. We have wireless scanners for every gig. It makes the entry process that much smoother. We've designed them specifically around music festivals " Dry says. "It means you don't need to take cash out with you. It's all preloaded. We'll have more to offer too when iPhones take off in New Zealand. At the moment only about 30 000 people have them." If you lose your card on the way to the gig you don't need to worry because 1-Night's fallback option is to send you an email with your QR number when you buy a ticket. "If you lose your card walking to the gig and can't access a printer if you provide ID at the door you can enter your last name and we can validate you in our system." Dry believes that New Zealand event-goers are tired of paying such high fees or later discovering extra charges on their credit cards as some Metallica fans - those who could get online to get tickets that is - did recently. He is also positive that the 1-Night system will help eliminate scalping. "Because the card has your name embossed on it it is almost impossible to forge. We feel by having individual cards we can assess the situation. It's up to our promoters who list events with us as to how many tickets you can put on one card: one two or three tickets. "We've talked to a lot of big promoters and they hate scalping. Fans hate it too." Another ticketing agency which has thrown its hat into the ring is Australian company Moshtix. General manager Adam McArthur says it has been in New Zealand since August. "Moshtix is about providing a cheaper better and easier way to buy tickets to events. We are all about providing a more flexible service than what is currently available in the market. The way we do that is by using great technology and applying it to the ticketing market." With Moshtix you can either book through a toll-free number at a retail outlet or go to the website. You get emailed a barcode that you print off yourself. "What we've been investigating a lot is that natural desire to have a ticket in your hands but in many other markets like plane tickets people are used to the concept of printing at home and getting something with a barcode. With a recent concert 80 per cent of our tickets were emailed ones." McArthur says Moshtix was prompted to make the move into New Zealand after conversations with Australian promoters. "They're managing tours in Australia and doing a couple of dates in New Zealand as well. They have said that they found it difficult in the New Zealand market to find a similar service to what we operate. Ticketek and Ticketmaster are doing the big shows and arenas but the next level down there are lots of small ticketing providers who weren't able to provide basic things like reporting. They see us fitting that market." Their booking fees are generally about $4 to $5. Keen to focus on music events McArthur says that outdoor cinema is a growth market. "Every city in Australia has at least three or four outdoor cinemas now. We've also done university lectures and seminars motorshows tattoo exhibitions but we're 75 per cent music oriented." When asked about the biggest differences between the New Zealand and Australian markets McArthur laughs. "Christchurch in particular tends to be really late when buying tickets. It drives promoters crazy. The ticketing market is fragmented in New Zealand." I wager a rare breed of dove rolled in caviar that most concert goers simply want to pay a reasonable price for any fees they want the fees to be upfront and that while most might enjoy the idea and simplicity of swiping a card to enter a gig there's no doubt that collectible tickets as mementos of favourite artists are also just the ticket for true music fans. www.1-night.co.nz
Story c/o www.stuff.co.nz/the-press   RELATED LINK
www.christchurchmusic.org.nz/ticketing-offices "