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Convenience fees are dead. Long live convenience fees!

August 23, 2010 |  5:24 pm

Ticketmaster Ticketmaster announced Monday that it's peeling back a layer or two of illusion from its prices, revealing up front what a ticket to an event will actually cost. That's not the same as abandoning the pretext of "convenience charges" and "venue fees," but it's a start.

To this point, people buying tickets through Ticketmaster would know only the face value of the ticket when they initially placed an order. They couldn't see how much the surcharges were until they were ready to pay. Those surcharges added 20% or more to the total price, shocking some would-be buyers so much that they canceled their orders.

Under a new system rolling out this week, the initial price displayed  by most venues will include all the fees except the charge for express ticket delivery, which is optional. The new system thus provides full transparency to consumers who are willing to print their tickets at home (a privilege Ticketmaster no longer charges for) or to wait for them to be delivered by snail mail.

The company will still be piling convenience charges and assorted other fees on to the price of a ticket, and consumers will still be able to see a partial breakdown if they're interested. The extra fees are an artifact of the days when venues offered performers 100% (or more) of the face value of the tickets, leaving venues, ticketing companies and promoters to make their money off of service charges. But the dividing line between the fees and the ticket price itself is increasingly a distinction without a difference. As Ticketmaster noted in its blog post, "[T]he reality of the live entertainment business is that service fees have become an extension of the ticket price.  Most of the parties in the live event value chain participate in these service fees either directly or indirectly – promoters, venues, teams, artists, and yes, ticketing companies – and service fee rebates are our largest annual expense at Ticketmaster."

-- Jon Healey

Credit: AP Photo / Paul Sakuma

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