The concert ticketing business has become an area of increased scrutiny of late, with the paperless ticketing issue largely leading the way. While ticket companies claim paperless ticketing protects fans from scalping practices, opponents claim it's just a way for ticket companies to control and profit from ticket resale practices at the expense of fan freedom.
Enter the newly formed Fan Freedom project. Led by Jon Potter, the Fan Freedom project aims to take on what it calls "restrictive ticketing practices" through consumer education and government advocacy. Potter has a long history in government and public affairs. He was formerly executive director of the Digital Media Association, a role he held for 11 years before leaving last year. We recently spoke with Potter about the Fan Freedom Project and its mission.
1) .Biz: What is the Fan Freedom Project?
Jon Potter: It's a consumer education and advocacy organization. We explain to consumers some of the secrets of the live event industry, particularly with regards to restrictive paperless ticketing, and how those changes harm consumers interests. And we represent consumers and speak to their interests in legislative and marketplace activities.
2) So it's like a cross of consumer advocacy and lobbying?
We're not lobbying. We've not hired any lobbyists, although I've testified in several hearings. We are educating policymakers and also educating consumers.
3) How are you going about doing that?
We have a website. We have a Facebook page. We're an active participation in the marketplace for live events. We're looking for opportunities to speak. We have street teams out in NY, Minnesota, and going out in Tennessee in the next couple of weeks. And we are in legislative hearings and we're also talking to the press. We have not done much artist outreach yet.
4) Who's funding you?
Our initial funder was StubHub, and we've raised some money since then. We're happy to talk to anybody who wants to contribute.
5) So is this just music concert ticketing, or more?
It's all live event ticketing. Music is the leader on restrictive paperless ticketing. But if you add up the number of tickets sold for live events in the U.S., music is probably less than 50%. It's more in the nature of 20%. But the area of transparency in ticketing is something we're focusing on, and that's a big issue in music. How many people like Katy Perry are slipping tickets out the back door and posting them herself on TicketExchange or StubHub? And our view is that fans have the right to know how many tickets are available in the market, and that's something that artists are a little bit nervous about.
6) Why is that a right?
Fans are spending an extraordinary amount of money and time supporting artists and teams. If they're going to spend their morning sitting online trying to buy tickets only to have a sellout happen in 75 seconds and then be sent to the Ticketmaster-subsidiary secondary market to buy those tickets for four times markup; and then be told scalpers are screwing them only to learn in fact it's the artist manager or the venue or the ticket office that was really back-dooring the tickets… I think they have the right to the truth.