The Cure frontman Robert Smith put Ticketmaster’s head on the door in a series of tweetstorms over price gouging and market manipulation, so now Ticketmaster is giving $5-$10 refunds to “verified fans” who got tickets, though a few refunds will be much larger.
On Wednesday, tickets went on sale for The Cure’s “Shows of a Lost World” tour, the band’s first proper U.S. tour in seven years. But the sales were a Ticketmaster disaster, with Ticketmaster add-on fees in some cases totaling more than the tickets themselves, and some byzantine “verified fan” process that kicked people out of the queue, even if they jumped through all the complicated hoops that Tickletmaster had put in the way. And throughout this debacle, The Cure vocalist Robert Smith was tweeting extreme dissatisfaction with Ticketmaster and their parent company Live Nation Entertainment, with the all-caps urgency of a tech bro zillionaire begging for a government bailout.
I AM AS SICKENED AS YOU ALL ARE BY TODAY'S TICKETMASTER 'FEES' DEBACLE. TO BE VERY CLEAR: THE ARTIST HAS NO WAY TO LIMIT THEM. I HAVE BEEN ASKING HOW THEY ARE JUSTIFIED. IF I GET ANYTHING COHERENT BY WAY OF AN ANSWER I WILL LET YOU ALL KNOW. X— ROBERT SMITH (@RobertSmith) March 16, 2023
On Friday, I’m in love with Robert Smith, as he actually got Ticketmaster to back down and offer (marginal) refunds to overcharged fans. NPR reports that Smith convinced Ticketmaster to give refunds to buyers who were walloped by giant, phantom “service fees,” “facility charges,” and “order processing fees.”
1 OF 2: AFTER FURTHER CONVERSATION, TICKETMASTER HAVE AGREED WITH US THAT MANY OF THE FEES BEING CHARGED ARE UNDULY HIGH, AND AS A GESTURE OF GOODWILL HAVE OFFERED A $10 PER TICKET REFUND TO ALL VERIFIED FAN ACCOUNTS FOR LOWEST TICKET PRICE ('LTP’) TRANSACTIONS...— ROBERT SMITH (@RobertSmith) March 16, 2023
For perspective, The Cure had hoped to keep certain tiers of seats affordable on this tour, insisting that some tickets be as low as $20. Ticketmaster added a bevy of new charges to those seats, making the charges exceed the cost of the ticket. The New York Times explains the ticket refund by saying “people who had purchased the lowest-priced tickets would automatically receive a $10 refund per ticket and that all other ticket buyers would get a $5 refund.”
Though we should note that Ticketmaster has been pretty silent about this, and did not return comment to either NPR or the Times. (Their Twitter has been furiously tweeting about Drake ticket sales all day, so it’s not as if they’re all out of the office or anything.) Until those refunds actually go out, we can’t discount the chance of further Ticketmaster fuckery.
2 OF 2: ...AND A $5 PER TICKET REFUND TO ALL VERIFIED FAN ACCOUNTS FOR ALL OTHER TICKET PRICE TRANSACTIONS, FOR ALL CURE SHOWS AT ALL VENUES; IF YOU ALREADY BOUGHT A TICKET YOU WILL GET AN AUTOMATIC REFUND; ALL TICKETS ON SALE TOMORROW WILL INCUR LOWER FEES— ROBERT SMITH (@RobertSmith) March 16, 2023
The tweet below is not from Robert Smith or The Cure (it’s a fan account), but it highlights a separate problem of outlandishly inflated third-party resales. It shows a Boston, Massachusetts show’s tickets on a “face value exchange” platform being marked up to $1,250 a seat, and that’s before service fees.
That one did get a response from Ticketmaster, who said “refunds are in progress to fans for any costs over original ticket price. We stand with the band on their decision to use a Face Value Exchange and it will be enforced on our marketplace.”
I'm no computer programmer, but... couldn't you just set up a "face value exhange" to not allow sales for over face value?
This was on our radar early this morning and has already been resolved – refunds are in progress to fans for any costs over original ticket price. We stand with the band on their decision to use a Face Value Exchange and it will be enforced on our marketplace.— Ticketmaster (@Ticketmaster) March 17, 2023
$5-$10 is still a pretty paltry refund, but this is at least a move in the right direction. Someone finally set a boundary with Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment, who are getting increasingly brazen with creating mandatory financial hardship for all ticket buyers under this monopoly they’ve established.
Certainly Taylor Swift spoke up when Ticketmaster botched sales and overcharged fans for her upcoming tour, but Robert Smith of The Cure appears to have gotten some actual relief for fans. Still, these new bizarre obstacles of “Capital One cardholder presales” and “Verified Fan presales” are still aggressively trying to establish a new normal where standard concert tickets are far more expensive than even Broadway tickets. Five- or ten-dollar refunds aren’t going to change that,
And if normal-income earners can ever go to a concert again, we may have to count on Justice Department investigations or Senate Judiciary Committee monopoly hearings to break up what’s becoming the big business of live concerts.
Image: GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Robert Smith of The Cure performs on the Pyramid stage on day five of Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 30, 2019 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)