The definition of “convenience” is in the eye of the ticket holder.
A ticket to see Death Cab for Cutie in concert at Riverfront Park’s U.S. Pavilion this summer will cost a Ben Gibbard fan $49.50 – before fees.
The price will actually amount to $67.30 after the addition of a “convenience fee” for the online purchase.
For the mathematically inclined, that is a surcharge of 36% to see the famed Bellingham band at the Pavilion on Sept. 8.
And that’s not even the steepest surcharge for one of the Pavilion concerts this summer. The ticket fee for the Louis the Child show on Sept. 15 is $15.67, a surcharge of 45% on top of the $35 ticket price.
A spokesperson for Spokane Parks and Recreation told The Spokesman-Review that the agency does not set ticket prices or convenience fees to concerts at Riverfront Park. The fees fall under the purview of its private concert booker, AEG Presents, and ticket vendor, AXS, which is a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based AEG.
“Ticketing fees are based on show and artist needs – for example, how many special promotions are offered through the system, day-of-show box office services, artist negotiations, and many other factors,” parks spokesperson Fianna Dickson explained in an email to The Spokesman-Review. “The average AXS ticket service charge fee is 12-15% of the ticket price.”
Multiple emails to AEG Presents and AXS were not returned by press time, but according to the AXS website the convenience fee revenue is shared by itself and its clients.
“The portion we keep helps us cover the costs involved in running our business and offering you the ability to purchase tickets online, or through our app or phone service,” the company explains on its website.
Death Cab for Cuties is playing at the KettleHouse Ampitheater in Missoula just four days before its Spokane stop. A general admission ticket has the same $49.50 face value, but the fee charged by Logjam Presents is $12.19, about $5 cheaper than the one charged for the same concert in Spokane.
AEG Presents has booked a full slate of post-pandemic concerts for the Pavilion this summer, including tour stops by My Morning Jacket, a rock band led by the bedazzingly bearded Jim James and Machine Gun Kelly, an artist popular among the youths.
AEG Presents is not the only ticket vendor to charge fees; the practice has become ubiquitous in the entertainment industry.
An orchestra-level ticket to see Wilco and Sleater-Kinney, the Olympia band, at the First Interstate Center for the Arts in August will cost $51.50, plus a $10 fee.
The ticket fee phenomenon has been investigated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
In its 2018 review, the office found that primary market sellers (like AXS) charged fees of about 27% of the ticket’s face price, while secondary market sellers (like Stub Hub) were even higher, at 31%.
The report also noted that ticket processing fees are often hidden.
In the case of the Death Cab for Cutie concert, the main event page on AXS’ website prominently displays a price of $49.50. Clicking the link to “get tickets” takes buyers to a subsequent page that allows them to select a general admission ticket for, again, $49.50.
Selecting the general admission option takes the buyer to a page that finally displays the true price.
TicketsWest, selling tickets to the Sleater-Kinney show, is more transparent, displaying the fee along with the base ticket price as users scout a seat location on its website.
In 2016, Ticketmaster settled a class action lawsuit that argued its ticketing fees were deceptive and primarily used for profit.
The city of Spokane inked a three-year contract with AEG Presents and AXS to run the park’s summer concert series following a request for proposals in 2019. Because the entire series was canceled last year, Spokane Parks and Recreation plans to extend the contract another year, according to Dickson.
The city doesn’t see a cut of that convenience fee.
Under its revenue sharing agreement with AEG Presents, the city earns a flat $2 for every ticket sold, or $80,000 for the year, whichever is greater.
The city also gets a share of concession revenues, as long as AEG hosts a targeted minimum number of concerts.
Assuming the full three-year contract is bumped back a year due to COVID-19, the city would earn 70% of concession revenue in 2021, 65% in 2022, and 60% in 2023, as long as AEG hosts more than eight concerts the first year, 10 concerts the second year and 12 concerts the third year.
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