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Maryland Signs Law To End Hidden Fees, Speculative Tickets

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Maryland Signs Law To End Hidden Fees, Speculative Tickets

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Maryland signed a new ticketing bill on Thursday that’s set to outlaw some of the live music industry’s most common deceptive ticketing practices: Hidden fees and speculative ticket listings.

Maryland governor Wes Moore signed the legislation on Thursday afternoon, weeks after it first passed through the state’s senate. Fees tacked onto ticket prices are one of the most oft-bemoaned aspects of the buying process for customers; while the fees themselves still stand with Maryland’s new law, requiring an all-in pricing system means that fans see the complete price they will pay right away rather than snuck in at the end of a purchase.

Speculative ticketing, however, is a lesser-known but particularly misleading practice among ticket brokers and scalpers in which they list tickets they don’t actually possess yet on resale platforms like StubHub and Vivid Seats. Speculative ticketing’s most vocal critics have likened the practice to fraud. As part of Maryland’s law, resale platforms caught selling spec tickets could incur penalties up to $10,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent violation.

“In addition to Governor Moore, Senators Gile and Beidle, and Delegate Wilson, we’re also grateful to Marylanders who spoke out and let their elected officials know that they want protection from parasitic scalpers who use acts of deception to gouge concert fans,” Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director of Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and I.M.P., said in a statement. “Nearly 17,000 letters were sent by Marylanders to their state legislators, letting those in Annapolis know they want protection from the rampant deception and abuse that’s taking place now.”

Maryland isn’t the only state pushing ticketing transparency bills. Earlier this week, Minnesota passed the so-called “Taylor Swift” bill, which similarly establishes an all-in pricing mandate and outlaws speculative ticketing.

“This is about fairness in how we go about ticketing,” Minnesota governor Tim Walz said, signing the bill into law at the popular First Avenue venue in Minneapolis, per MPR News. “It’s protection, so you don’t get a fraudulent ticket. The resellers can’t snatch them all up before you get an opportunity to do it.”

In Maryland’s case, the original bill that was first submitted earlier this year was even more aggressive, with the inclusion of a resale cap that could’ve put limits on how much resellers could charge Maryland ticket buyers on the secondary market. Such an act would’ve been one of the most notable ticketing policy changes in the country in recent years, though it didn’t make it to the final version of the bill.

The nature of resale limitations comes down to how a ticket is defined. Proponents for resale caps and limits say tickets are merely licenses for entry for a given event. Resale advocates say tickets are property and that such caps limit what a ticket holder is allowed to do with it.

Senator Dawn Gile, who introduced the original bill, previously told Rolling Stone that lobbying efforts from the resale platforms along with concern on potential impact for ticketing sporting events made the cap a harder sell.

While the cap didn’t make it, Maryland also included a provision for the attorney general’s office to conduct a review of the ticketing marketplace to help further identify ticketing issues that need to be addressed. I.M.P. said in a statement that if that study shows that gouging continues, they “will go back to the State House asking for a face value cap of ticket resales.”

“The way the bill passed, there’s still a profit incentive for resellers,” Gile told Rolling Stone. “I’m glad that there’s a ban on speculative tickets, and I’m also hopeful that we will continue the discussion. Once we get the report back from the attorney general’s office, it’ll again give us a renewed look at this to see what more we could do. We’ve learned a lot in this process and I’d love to come back and try to get a resale cap again next year.”

Singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon — whose band Something Corporate is touring for the first time in over 20 years this summer — echoed those sentiments, telling Rolling Stone in March that he supported the Maryland efforts and wants more policy passed to stop resellers from taking advantage of fans.

“There’s this economy built around a show we meant to make affordable that had turned into a cash cow for people who had nothing to do with the show, nothing to do with the band, nothing to do with my sphere,” McMahon said.

Something Corporate is using a face value fan-to-fan exchange for the upcoming tour in markets where that’s allowed so that tickets can only be sold for what they were originally paid for. “I’ve seen cases where we sell tickets for $50, $75, and within minutes they’re listed for $500 to $1,000. It’s alarming to me that there aren’t more people on the frontlines asking how do we protect consumers on this.”

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Ticketing and live music have been a hot topic among consumers in recent years, particularly since the infamous Ticketmaster on-sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour frustrated thousands of Swifties, bringing the discussion back to the national forefront. Since then, both federal and state governments have introduced new legislation aimed at fixing the broken ticketing marketplace, targeting both predatory resale practices and prodding at Live Nation’s dominance over the business.

Outside of new laws, the Department of Justice has been investigating antitrust concerns against Live Nation and could file a suit in the coming weeks. Competing venues and ticketing platforms have said that Live Nation’s dominance over live music has made it difficult to compete. Live Nation itself has pushed back against the allegations, with the company’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Wall posting an essay earlier this year, pointing out that artists set their own ticket prices, while venues take a bulk of ticket fees.

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