Music Industry

Guest post: Post-pandemic concerts and live events are becoming increasing inaccessible for people with disabilities.

[Max Brault, an accessibility consultant based in Ottawa, is dedicated to making sure everyone can go to concerts. – AC]

Back in the summer of 2018, I got to see the Seattle rock band Foo Fighters at the Rogers Centre. Once I heard the band was coming to town, I got online and within minutes I scored my wheelchair-accessible tickets. It wasn’t until I showed up at the Rogers Centre that I realized my seats were on a raised platform, 40 metres from the stage. It allowed me to see the show clearly, even if people stood up. It was a pleasant surprise, and a great experience all around.

After the untimely death of Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters drummer, the band started to tour again post-pandemic. However, many of the venues hosting them failed to make accessible seating available to the public. After multiple attempts to get tickets to their shows in New York, none of the venues could handle my specialized wheelchair, which I need as I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Prior to the pandemic, getting accessible seating for concerts and theatre events online was relatively straightforward, appropriate, and reliable. As the world returns to in-person events now, many people with disabilities are finding out that the protocols that ensured accessibility have been largely forgotten. I fear that this is becoming a trend for the post-Covid concert ticket purchasing environment.

In recent months, the practices of ticket promoters such as TicketMaster/Live Nation have been a source of increasing frustration among concert goers with disabilities. These people are raising their voices, calling out the unfair practices and unreasonable barriers they face when trying to purchase accessible seating for events. Let me highlight a few them.

One of the major issues being raised is the decided lack of accountability from the ticket sellers. When the online ticket sale systems fail to provide accessible seating options, customers naturally turn to TicketMaster support for help only to be met with indifference or redirected blame. “It’s out of our hands,” they sigh. “The venue’s booking system is down. You should contact the venue or the artist for help.” *Click.*

Of course, why didn’t we think of that. Everyone knows David Grohl of the Foo Fighters does concert seating arrangements in his spare time while on tour. What a professional! If you have his home number, could you send it to me?

Despite the much-touted benefits of certain credit card companies (like American Express), they often do not guarantee accessible seating for their members. Some presale events include additional perks for fans, such as meet-and-greet opportunities, but disabled people do not qualify for such perks. This practise exposes yet another form of discrimination. For the Billy Idol Canadian tour in 2024, at least is was easy to purchase accessible seating online. Disabled customers did not qualify to purchase back stage passes, though.

Adding insult to injury, some sales representatives have even accused customers of committing fraud by questioning the legitimacy of their disability. Imagine the humiliation of having to prove you are “disabled enough” for the privilege of getting your money’s worth to enjoy a show. No one should have to justify their disability to qualify for an experience that everyone else gets to enjoy for the privilege of not being disabled.

Advocates are calling for the establishment of “Fans’ Ticket Rights” in North America to ensure that ticket sale protocols are fair and accessible for all customers, regardless of their situations. These protocols include clear, enforceable standards that protect disabled customers from facing undue challenges when trying to enjoy live events.

As the concert and live event industry continues to evolve in this post-pandemic world, it is crucial to address these accessibility issues to ensure inclusivity and equal opportunity for all fans. Because the accessibility to appreciate art in all its forms should be as boundless as the imagination that brought it to life.

About the author: Max Brault is a management consultant working for Niewe Consulting as their lead on Accessibility Consulting Services. Max specializes in assisting Canadian governments and corporations in understanding their accessibility requirements.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38449 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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