Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster and collected $ 11 billion in concert and ticket revenues last year, is under pressure from customers to pay their money back immediately, as many struggle to pay their bills during the pandemic and we don’t know when people will go to concerts again.
The company announced this week that even though he honors reimbursements for shows that have been officially canceled, 90% of his shows are simply postponed for future dates that have not yet been set.
This means that Live Nation will not reimburse most of its customers at this time pending the end of the pandemic in the hope of one day rescheduling events.
“I mean, they’re worth billions of dollars, and I don’t understand why they can’t offer a refund,” said Toronto music fan Dylan Snow. He has $ 4,000 out of his pocket for a list of BTS and Justin Bieber tickets he bought for friends.
The concerts, initially scheduled for May and September, are listed as postponed, without new date.
“In my opinion, the original concert has been canceled and they should offer refunds,” said Snow, echoing a storm of protests from music fans on social media.
US officials Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Katie Porter of California, both Democrats, sent a angry letter to Live Nation Thursday, which acknowledges the difficulties in the shuttered entertainment industry, but demands that consumers be compensated.
“Your decision to confiscate their money is reprehensible and should be reversed immediately,” they wrote to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino and Ticketmaster president Amy Howe.
“Indeed, your company holds hostages who could constitute a rent check, an electric bill or provisions to feed the children. “
Stopping live entertainment around the world exposes major problems in the industry, including this Live Nation, which took over Ticketmaster in 2010 despite antitrust concerns in Canada and the United States, does not have enough cash to cover the value of the concert tickets he sells.
In an email to CBC News, the company described its efforts to reschedule the events.
“It takes an entire ecosystem to bring live events to life, and we appreciate the patience of the fans as our teams work on the details of transferring these shows with artists, places and communities from around the world,” said writes Jackie Beato, head of Live Nation. Communication.
“We are progressing as quickly as possible given the unique period when 8,000 shows and games await the approval of regional governments. The magnitude of the events makes it a slower process for Live Nation as well as for most live events. . ”
Meanwhile, the company is cutting executive salaries to save money and has amassed $ 3.3 billion in reserves, loans and cash in the company’s accounts.
But that’s not enough to reimburse all the concert tickets, which generated $ 9.4 billion in revenue in 2019 – not to mention an additional $ 1.5 billion in ticketing fees.
The company claims that once fans have purchased tickets, much of the money is sent to theaters, artists and promotion companies, and is not owned by Live Nation / Ticketmaster.
But some industry insiders say it doesn’t match the way Live Nation has worked since its merger with Ticketmaster in 2010. For many events, the company now acts as a promoter, owner of the venue, art director, as well as the box office.
Former Live Nation chief executive Tim Chambers said the company and other major industry players have “played” with ticket revenues in recent years.
He said they were using the revenue generated from “effectively available cash” to grow the business.
“Responsible promoters should have sufficient access to cash to pay for their operations without using advanced ticket sales, which should be held in a consumer escrow account,” said Chambers, speaking from his London office, where he works as an industry consultant.
The Wimbledon Tennis Championships are the only organization to his knowledge to have purchased pandemic insurance.
“No one thought all the dominoes would be wiped off the board,” he said.
However, with the shutdown of COVID-19, fans are now asking for mass refunds and asking tough questions to Live Nation.
“People are not stupid,” he said. ” Where is the money? “
WATCH | A former Live Nation executive explains how ticket revenues are used:
Some of Live Nation’s competitors, who are struggling to pay for canceled shows themselves, have criticized the industry leader.
“The money is supposed to be set aside. It’s not Ticketmaster’s money. It’s not Live Nation money until a show takes place, “said Jerry Mickelson of Chicago-based Jam Productions, one of the largest independent producers of live entertainment in the United States. United.
“The coronavirus should not be used as an excuse to delay or not reimburse fans for their money in a timely manner. “
“2020 is over”
Live Nation is ask for patience in what is a cataclysmic disruption in the industry.
They are not alone in being swept sideways.
One of the world’s largest ticket websites, StubHub is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit in the United States after removing its FanProtect warranty to reimburse all canceled tickets.
WATCH | A lawyer explains why his client is suing StubHub:
“A pandemic, first of all, is not unpredictable,” said lawyer Nick Coulson, who represents a Wisconsin man who filed a complaint on behalf of all StubHub clients.
“It’s not the only thing that would have resulted in large-scale cancellations like this. You could have had war. You could have been terrified. You could have had an unexpected work strike. “
StubHub, which has yet to file an official response in court, denied the CBC’s request for comment.
Eric Fuller, a California-based entertainment industry consultant, predicts StubHub will go bankrupt. He says Live Nation and other big players will have to work together to restart the industry once the threat of COVID-19 is gone.
“2020 is over,” he said. “I don’t see how a responsible organization can take the risk of organizing an event that triggers a second wave infection. “
He said he expects everything to return to normal starting with very small live events outside, until public health officials – and the public – are convinced that participation in concerts, theater and other live events is safe.
“It requires planning. Otherwise, you’re going to have all the businesses on the planet, “Cool, we can start again on January 1, 2021”, and you will have seven trillion events to sell and you “will have six people ready to go. You’re just going to have a full facial setup. ”
WATCH | Entertainment industry consultant talks about the need for a post-pandemic restart:
But any discussion of reviving the sports and entertainment industries is still far away. And meanwhile, cash-strapped ticket buyers just want to get their money back.
Winnipeg hockey fan Vanessa Manary was unable to obtain a $ 300 refund from Ticketmaster for a March 15 game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Vancouver Canucks that remains “postponed.”
She said she desperately wanted to get her money back so she could help her 22-year-old daughter, a recently laid-off flight attendant.
“No matter what you call it, postponed, canceled,” she said.
“It’s not business as usual. Let’s step up! Like you guys have to be smart and do what everyone else is doing. Just give us our money so that we can at least feed our children and help our family. “