Georgia’s music advocacy coalition GMP along with artists and independent venues have been raising the alarm about a draft bill in the Georgia State Legislature that would seemingly limit ticketing fees. In reality the language of the bill makes it clear that this is simply a Trojan horse bill that seems to limit artist fan clubs, indie venues and others to sell face value non-transferable tickets to fans.
Despite what Washington DC lobbyists posing as fans might claim, I can tell you that in my experience what music fans want is face value tickets directly purchased from venues and artists. Out of necessity these tickets must be non-transferable to keep them from being scooped up by shady organized groups apparently working in concert with StubHub and others who scalp or make a market for scalpers.
The biggest contributing factor to outrageous ticket prices is not the ticketing fees, but the StubHub markup. StubHub knows that artists and venues are sick of StubHub making it impossible for fans to buy tickets at face value, that’s why they have been going from state to state, getting legislators to pass laws that block venues, promoters and especially artists from selling non-transferable tickets. In the case of Georgia draft legislation mandates that resold tickets be sold only through a “licensed broker.”
You know, like StubHub. This is lawfare.
It is not widely understood, but those pre-sales of tickets at face value by artists directly to their fans are technically resales, because artists generally buy them upfront from the concert promoters. This extraordinarily cynical bill would essentially end this long standing part of the artist-fan social contract. It is simply designed to make the state of Georgia safe for StubHub’s exploitative free-riding business model.
So how did Georgia legislators find themselves in the business of making the world safe for StubHub? Well perhaps because they thought they were doing the bidding of a grassroots organization supposedly representing fans frustrated by high ticket prices. In particular a group called Fan Freedom. (www.fanfreedom.org) has been all over the capitol pretending to speak for fans.
And this group is not limiting its efforts to Georgia. We know of four states where this “grassroots organization representing fans” is simultaneously pushing similar bills. How does a grassroots organization simultaneously push bills in Washington, Florida, California, Maryland and Georgia?
Maybe it’s not a grassroots organization.
According to publicly available sources. Fan Freedom was launched by StubHub’s then owner eBay in 2011. The stated goal was to convince lawmakers that primary sellers like Live Nation and Ticketmaster should not be allowed to place limits on ticket transferability. The astroturf group partnered with the National Consumers League to mask ticket resellers’ objections to the anti-scalping measures as “consumer opposition.”
https://www.ebaymainstreet.com/pl/news-events/ebay-stubhub-celebrate-launch-fan-freedom-project https://www.ticketnews.com/2011/02/fan-freedom-project-launches-to-curtail-ticketmasters-restrictive-paperless-ticketing-system/ https://web.archive.org/web/20110808123624/http://www.fanfreedom.org/ https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/business/media/scalping-battle-putting-fans-in-the-middle.html
Fan Freedom Project was initially managed by Jon Potter, a long-term political consultant who has been involved with other industry-funded astroturf efforts and founded the Digital Media Association, the trade association for Big Tech against artists and songwriters–which has been on the wrong side of every creator issue known to man or beast.
In 2019, the Tech Transparency Project reported that one group he was behind, the Connected Commerce Council (3C), was not the organic collection of small businesses it presented itself as, but effectively a front for his DiMA pals Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
Fan Freedom Project’s president since 2016 has been Chris VanDeHoef, the former the director of government relations for TicketNetwork who now runs a government relations firm called Penn Lincoln Strategies. Yet he is apparently running around the capitol intimating he represents “fans.”
In Georgia the “grassroots” Fan Freedom Project is paying big money to Cornerstone Government Affairs which is headed by Chris Carpenter who was legislative counsel to Gov Roy Barnes. I say big money because GA only requires noting of expenditures that exceed $10k and based on what they were paid by other clients its likely to be a lot more than 10k. Plus they have registered five lobbyists. Five lobbyists in a single state for a grassroots organization? That’s 1970s tobacco industry level of lobbying! And they are doing this in fives separate states simultaneously.
This year, Fan Freedom Project hired a firm called Johnson & Blanton to lobby on its behalf in Florida, where legislation was recently introduced that would require primary sellers to offer transferable tickets. While StubHub is also actively lobbying in Florida. It has retained the firm Metz, Husband & Daughton as lobbyists in Florida since 2021. This is not a grassroots operation, its industrial scale mega-corporate lobbying operation.
Artist have no problem with The State of Georgia helping fans by limiting high ticket pries and add on fees. Further most artists would be willing to accept a compromise where they offer both transferrable and non-transferable tickets at different prices. If that’s really what consumers really want. Indeed other industries, like hotels, rental cars companies and airlines offer both refundable and non refundable tickets. There is some good legislation to be made here, but first we have to be clear, the way the bill is currently written it gives StubHub a free-ride on efforts and investments of Georgia artists, venues, promoters and fans.
Let’s fix this bill.