Ticket Reseller War Stories

About three years ago I wrote about the problem of ticket resellers creating website names that approximate that of performance venues or using names that imply they are the central ticketing source for your city. At the time, my venue saw people who had bought tickets at a big mark up or for events that weren’t actually happening once a year or so. Now that I have moved to new position in a new city, I see it happening ALL THE TIME.

Perhaps one of the reasons this issue is coming to light regularly is that we changed our seating configuration about two years ago resulting in the removal of two rows and various individual seats. The resellers are selling people tickets to those non-existent seats so the problems is very evident very quickly. I just attended a meeting of colleagues around the state and many of them are reporting similar issues with ticket resellers.

Right around Christmas this year, we had a show cancel and in the process of issuing refunds, we had to tell a gentleman that we couldn’t process a refund to his credit card because it wasn’t the card that purchased the tickets–it was the ticket resller’s. He was irate to say the least, especially since he paid about triple the actual cost of the tickets. He demanded we call the company and tell them the show was cancelled since he felt, perhaps correctly, that they wouldn’t believe him.

Much to my surprise, after waiting on hold for quite some time, I was able to get the company to process a refund for him.

We include a warning in all our email newsletters encouraging people to only purchase from us–but that only reaches people who have already successfully purchased tickets from us, not those wishing to attend for the first time.

If you are running into this, there are a couple things you can do. First is to do an online search using various terms like “tickets venuename theater yourtown,” varying the order and removing your venue name and only using generic terms like theater, dance, music. See what sites come up and see what they are selling your tickets for.

Contacting them to tell them to stop probably won’t work, but at least you will be aware of what customers might be seeing.  I don’t know if Google is doing a better job fighting  SEO attempts by these sites, but when I ran a search before writing this post, there were far fewer reseller sites appearing as results before my venue or even on the first page than there were in December.

However, the one that did come up before us is offering tickets in rows that no longer exist to a show that sold out in October.

Something we have done is worked with our ticket vendor to disallow credit card sales from out of state ZIP codes. We are smack in the middle of a state so it isn’t a big deal. Even if you are on a border, you may be able to do this for a significant geographic region across borders. Most ticket reseller purchases we have encountered are from the West Coast or Mountain West.

Be aware though that resellers get around this by using Visa/MasterCard branded gift cards which don’t require ZIP codes.

Another thing to watch out for is people posting on your Facebook events page saying they bought tickets but can’t make the show, encouraging people to send them a direct message and they will sell them cheaply.

Generally what these people, as well as many of the reseller sites will do, is place an order with you after people have contacted them about their “extra tickets.”  I would encourage you to delete these messages when you come across them. One of the big giveaways is that the Facebook account has been created in the last couple months and the person doesn’t live anywhere near you. They probably won’t have a record of purchasing tickets from you either. They may populate their page with pictures and friends connections to add some verisimilitude, but if you look carefully there are some clues.

Today we had a guy offering tickets for an event tonight that was born in Canada, apparently lives 300 miles or so away from us in Florida and is the CEO of a company in Poland.

I am sure there are much more sophisticated techniques other groups are using on larger venues where the return on investment makes it worth it, but I figure this will provide people with a general sense of what to watch out for.

Anyone got any stories or tips they want to share?

Why Do I Have To Call Dun & Bradstreet To Apply For A State Arts Grant?

As we move further into the new year, many grant deadlines are starting to creep up en masse upon arts organizations. As you are filling out all the mandatory fields in your grant application, you may be wondering why you have to have a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number in addition to your Employer Id Number (EIN), especially since they are both the same number of digits.

You may also be wondering why a commercial data firm like Dun and Bradstreet gets to dole out these numbers, instead of a governmental entity. Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I did provide a good number of them in an ArtsHacker post on the subject a couple weeks ago.

As I write in that post,

The simple answer is that your EIN is associated with your IRS tax records and the DUNS number is associated with your business credit score.

[…]

One reason the DUNS numbers are separate from EIN is that a DUNS number is tied to a physical address. This makes sense in the commercial for-profit realm since a branch of a company in California may have better credit than one in Florida, but there aren’t many non-profits that are so large that they have a single EIN but require different DUNS numbers.

Learning that your DUNS number is associated with your credit score may be cause for concern—how many non-profits are going to have a great credit score after all?

Given that overhead ratio has been used as a measure of effectiveness for non-profits, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that someone is going to get the bright idea that credit score is a good shorthand for deciding whether a non-profit is being run well. This would be a really bad idea since the standards used to assess credit worthiness of a for-profit entity are inappropriate for non-profits.

But you know, non-profits should be run more like a business right?

In any case, if you would like to know a little more about DUNS numbers and how to get one for your organization, (or see if you already have one), check out my ArtsHacker post.

What Is A DUNS Number And Why Do I Need It?

You Don’t Know Entertaining

There has been a fair bit of evidence that people are not generally aware whether the place they are having their entertainment experience is a non-profit or for-profit business. An experience appeals to them and they participate. All those efforts invested in curating a balanced season of offerings may receive less recognition and appreciation than you think.

According the Colleen Dilenschneider, what the general public perceives to be an entertaining experience doesn’t align with the definition of non-profit curators/programmers either.

Leaders of cultural arts organizations tend to perceive an entertaining experience to be one that is simplified and dumbed down compared with the educational experience they offer. Participants have a much broader definition of what constitutes entertainment.

Surveying perceptions of memorial sites like USS Arizona Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the September 11 Memorial & Museum, Dilenschneider’s company, IMPACTS found that memorial sites,

Considered as a collective, they are generally viewed as entertaining! People find these sites relevant and meaningful – and thus find them entertaining. This is the opposite of what some internal industry leaders believe “entertaining” to mean!

In general, cultural organizations are seen as entertaining entities. That’s great news because entertainment value motivates visitation while education value tends to justify a visit. Moreover – as we’ve discussed – entertainment value is the single biggest contributor to overall visitor satisfaction.

If you recall my posts on the most recent CultureTrack study, one of the most consistent motivators to participation across all disciplines was to have fun. Dilenschneider has presented information before from other sources that reinforces this result as well.

Later in her post, she presents another chart showing

“Memorial sites are perceived as both educational and entertaining, again challenging the notion that “entertainment” is necessarily vapid, empty, or meaningless.”

and makes the following important observations:

1) “Entertainment” means engaging

A synonym of “entertainment” is “engaging.” The opposite of “entertainment” is disengagement. Why would cultural organizations be disappointed to learn that they are not disengaging? I posit it’s because we’ve created and promulgated the baseless cognitive bias within our industry that entertainment and education are opposing forces, and that one comes at the expense of the other. In reality, they must work together to lead a successful cultural organization.

[…]

2) “Entertainment” is not the opposite of “education”

As shown above, cultural organizations are generally seen as both educational and entertaining! An idea that one value necessarily comes at the expense of another is generally unfounded. If it were true, these numbers could not both be high at the same time – and yet they are!

[…]

Entertainment value and education value are not the same thing, but their relationship much more closely resembles that of partners than of enemies. They may benefit by being considered individually at times, but they do not necessarily function independently.

A great deal to think about in relation to how we frame our thinking about what we are doing.

One thing I misinterpreted was her assertion that “…entertainment value motivates visitation while education value tends to justify a visit.” I read that as something viewed as entertainment impels people to participate while something viewed as educational is seen as an obligation — you have to go to the opera because it is good for you.

But when I watched the accompanying video (below), I realized the perceived educational value aligns directly with the motivations found in the Creating Connection initiative. Desire to see and learn something new and different and wanting a child to learn/see something different are part of the perceived educational value.

 

You Keep Throwing These Terms Around. I Just Want To Know..Will I Get Paid?

Earlier this Fall I had a friend who was relatively new to the business of presenting performances. An agent had rattled off a series of numbers as part of the performance fee deal an touring group was looking to get and my friend had no idea how to interpret those numbers.

I realized these type of arrangements probably confuse a great number of people in the business, both presenters and touring artists, so I wrote an Arts Hacker post about some of the more common deal structures for performances.

If you are a presenter and you don’t know what $40,000/10% NBOR/60-40 split on overages refers to, it is difficult to decide if you can meet your budget for the show.

Likewise, if you are a musician going into a music venue and they are offering you a percentage of net deal, before you accept you’ll want a pretty good sense of what the potential gross is and just what expenses the venue will be subtracting out before you get paid.

 

Common Deal Structures For Touring Groups

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