Pitchfork reveals how Hidden Funding from StubHub harms Artists & Fans

Chris Castle looks at ticket scalping, “speculative” tickets, and how major ticket resellers secretly fund efforts to protect their own interests and undermine efforts that would protect fans and artists.

by CHRIS CASTLE from Music Tech Policy

Ever feel like these tech companies need to go get a real job and stop “disrupting” people who had a good life before the gift of Silicon Valley came along? It’s absolutely true of ticketing a business that used to be largely controlled by the people who do the work if for no other reason than you could always sell the tickets yourself. We are starting to see states wake up to this and push back against Silicon Valley. Georgia did this year and Texas just passed an important bill. Colorado did, too, but how StubHub killed that effort is a teachable moment.

The Colorado legislature did yeoman’s work to craft legislation (SB 60) to deal with some of the worst practices in the ticketing business. That legislation passed the Colorado legislature with substantial majorities and was sent to Governor Jared Polis for signature. (Great reporting on this fiasco by Hannah Metzger at Colorado Politics.)

Governor Polis vetoed the bill but he did it in a special way–he vetoed it a month after the regular session for the legislature had ended. Therefore, notwithstanding the 2/3 majority that voted for SB 60–which was enough to override the Polis veto–the bill dies on a technicality.

So why did Governor Polis veto the bill? Why on the advice of venerable consumer advocates of course. Indisputable authority, right? We don’t have to guess about this because Governor Polis tells us so in his veto letter explaining what he wants you to know about his veto:

Throughout my administration, consumer protection and the right to a fair, competitive marketplace have been paramount. I am concerned that consumer advocacy groups such as the National Consumers League and Consumer Federation of America have asked for a veto of this legislation because of its potential to discourage competition in the sector, ultimately harming consumers.

So what about the National Consumers League and the Consumer Federation of America? 

Marc Hogan, writing in Pitchfork, has discovered some connections between those two august organizations which, as you know, are hipper than thou. In his investigative post A Guide to “Fan” Organizations Funded by the Ticketing Industry, Marc discovered that both these groups who provided cover for the Polis veto are–wait for it–funded by the tech companies that dominate the online ticket reselling business.

Marc tells us that the National Consumers League is funded by StubHub and Vivid Seats and Consumer Federation of America is funded by Protect Ticket Rights and Fan Freedom. Protect Ticket Rights in turn is funded by the National Association of Ticket Brokers and Fan Freedom is funded by StubHub as Marc reports. So you can see that this is just another day at the lobbyist buffet which would be cynically funny if it weren’t for the fact that the plan worked–they stopped good legislation by giving cover to a governor to veto that bill. And that’s a real thing that really happened.

Not only does Governor Polis veto the entire bill, but he also revealed the new tactic regarding speculative ticketing of these Big Tech ticket resellers like StubHub. Speculative ticketing isn’t fraud, it’s not securities law violations, it’s not just downright shady, oh no. According to Governor Polis, speculative ticketing–illegal in some states already–is an “innovative product” because it’s a “online ticket waiting service.” 

It’s not a crime – it’s a whole new thing.

MORE: Ticket scalpers fund major groups claiming to serve fans

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