September 25, 2023
Music Industry

Ontario Government proposes new reforms for selling concert tickets

The Ontario Government handed down its first budget under Doug Ford today (April 11). If you had the time to dig into it (I did because it’s my job), you’ll find a section entitled Reforming Ticket Sales.

You might remember that the last government–Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals–tried to push reforms, but they never passed into law. Here’s what the Ontario Conservatives have in mind (which, by the way, looks a tiny bit like what was introduced in BC earlier this week(. I quote:

“As part of the 2019 Ontario Budget, Ontario’s Government for the People is proposing amendments to the Ticket Sales Act aimed at improving the choice and protections enjoyed by consumers in Ontario when they purchase tickets. Proposed reforms include:

  • Clarifying and expanding the nature of the disclosures that ticket sellers are required to make;
  • Increasing the maximum amount for an administrative penalty issued under the Act;
  • Removing unproclaimed and unenforceable provisions to introduce a price cap on ticket resales, which would have driven consumers to buy tickets on the black market and further drive up costs.
  • Adding new regulation-making powers; and
  • Clarifying certain provisions with the aim of facilitating compliance and enforcement of rules, including the Act’s prohibitions on ‘ticket bots.’”

Yeah, it’s still pretty vague and details are thin, but I do like the idea of removing a price cap on ticket resales for exactly the reasons mentioned. Price caps do NOTHING to make it easier for the average person to get tickets to a hot show.

Here again are my arguments against a price cap:

  1. What’s so special about the price of a concert ticket? I want a limit on the price of a limit of gas, but that’s a commodity regulated by market forces. I don’t like paying $700 to fly to see my folks in Winnipeg, a distance of 1,507 km from my home airport in Toronto. Meanwhile, I regularly get price alerts about fares to Singapore, a frequent destination for me that’s 15,003 km away, that run less than $600, taxes in. The same supply and demand rules apply to concert tickets.
  2. Whenever you have a distortion of market forces, grey and black markets are created. The new rules will just push transactions deeper underground where there are ZERO consumer protections.
  3. Price caps will only make it cheaper for those who can already afford to buy tickets on the secondary market.
  4. Price caps do nothing to help with the issue of inventory. When it comes to hot shows, there are always going to be more bums than seats.
  5. There are plenty of ways to outfox scalpers and resellers. Credit card front-of-the-line access. Join the band’s fan club for early access to tickets. Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program has its advantages.
  6. The vast secondary market in concert tickets just proves that face values are too low to begin with. The best thing to do is follow the pricing on the secondary market right up until the last 24-48 hours before a show. That’s when the vast majority of purchases are made–and it’s a true reflection of what the actual market value of a ticket is. And people remember the gigs were tickets are higher than face value. No one talks about the shows where secondary sellers take a loss because there’s no demand.
  7. Who’s going to police the price of concert tickets in Ontario? The government hasn’t made it clear. And they certainly didn’t create a new department to look after this situation.
  8. What’s the complaint mechanism? Call the cops? 911? The guy down the street with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch? It’s not clear.

My sources also tell me that we’ll soon hear about rules regarding transparency and how tickets can be transferred from the original purchaser to someone else.

Let’s see how this all plays out.

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 37097 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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