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Second Take: Cancellations of concerts are upsetting enough, Ticketmaster shouldn’t make it worse

With the cancellation or postponement of concerts across the nation as a result of COVID-19, many look to Ticketmaster for refunds for tickets to the tentative shows. After stating in a blog post that it is up to the discretion of event organizers to issue refunds for tickets to rescheduled events, the company lost the trust of many of its customers which may result in unintentional and negative consequences in the future. (Kanishka Mehra/Assistant Photo editor)

By Yasmin Madjidi

April 17, 2020 2:23 p.m.

Stimulus checks have begun to be given out, yet Ticketmaster refuses to refund its customers.

To avoid the spread of COVID-19, concerts across the nation have been either canceled or postponed, leaving ticket holders in a state of limbo. Unsure of when the rescheduled dates will be, many are seeking refunds. In response, Ticketmaster – one of the largest ticket sale and distribution companies – quietly announced through a blog post that it won’t refund customers for postponed concert tickets. Instead, refunds are left to the discretion of each individual event organizer. Ticketmaster’s tone-deaf statement hides behind the facade that its new policy will protect the safety of fans. However, it only serves to benefit its own pocketbook.

Musicians ranging from Justin Bieber to Alicia Keys and festivals such as Coachella have postponed their events to late fall at the earliest as a result of COVID-19’s devastating impact on the concert industry. However, others were not as fortunate, as Governors Ball, Firefly Festival and the Isle of Wight Festival all canceled their scheduled dates. Music fans across the world are anxiously waiting for new concert dates to be announced, and in a clearly sensitive time, Ticketmaster’s reluctance to join global efforts of community building and support is shameful.

[Related: Second Take: Online live performances proliferate, revitalize highly restrictive music industry]

While canceled events are guaranteed to be refunded, Ticketmaster leaves refund policies for rescheduled and postponed concerts up to the discretion of event organizers – a shifty option for a corporation that has contracts with venues as their exclusive ticket seller. Although venues have the option not to sell tickets through Ticketmaster, the company takes away logistical burdens as it handles all of the ticket distributions and operations.

In return for the company’s involvement, consumers are charged service and processing fees for every ticket which is split between Ticketmaster and the venue. Ticketmaster neglecting to include this information in its public announcement shows the company further deceiving its customers, as it acts as though there is no involvement with or control over event organizers.

Essentially, the fans who have purchased tickets for the thousands of concerts and festivals that have been rescheduled now have their money frozen in the hands of event organizers. Pretending to be compassionate, Ticketmaster has waived seller fees for resale postings created from March 17 through May 31 if customers are no longer able to attend the new concert date. This aggravating alternative places an extra strain on customers in already stressful times, as they must bear the burden of selling their own tickets.

By leaving customers to do their own reselling, music lovers are paying the ultimate price. Ticketmaster has fostered an environment in which sellers will be inclined to hike up ticket prices for a profit. With the global economy in a recession, more customers than usual would be likely to want to make quick cash off ticket sales. However, not only do higher ticket prices take away opportunities for genuine fans to see artists in concert, but they also contribute to the already unfair and unethical practice of reselling tickets that artists are dealing with.

Although Ticketmaster may have altered its refund policy to maintain its company and the artists it supports, the announcement may have unintentional consequences in the future. Unfortunately, without any support from one of the largest ticket retailers, fans will likely be hesitant to buy concert tickets hereafter. And without fans to fill stadiums and theaters, the thousands of artists Ticketmaster supports through venue contracts may experience lower ticket sales.

[Related: UCLA musicians maximize newfound time by pursuing new projects, art forms]

Bringing some light to these trying times, artists have stepped up to not only support their fans but the world at large. Harry Styles is one of the many artists to have rescheduled their tour dates, as he already pushed the European leg of his “Love On Tour” tour to 2021. Instead of following Ticketmaster’s blueprint to prioritize his own finances, Styles released a $26 Stay Home Stay Safe Tee on his merchandise website and will be donating all of the proceeds to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization. Styles, despite working with Ticketmaster for his tours, is dealing with the situation in a productive and positive manner.

While the efforts of many artists to raise and donate money for COVID-19 relief are admirable, they should not have to make up for Ticketmaster’s failings. The company needs to be held responsible in a time of crisis and put the needs of the global community over its own financial security.

Simply, Ticketmaster needs to do better. COVID-19 has altered nearly all parts of life, and turning a blind eye and refusing to provide refunds for tickets at a time in which over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment is nothing short of greedy. The company must begin supporting and relieving its customers, starting with rightfully refunding tickets.

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Yasmin Madjidi | Assistant Arts editor
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