‘The Book of Mormon’ Inks Deal with StubHub.com

The Book of Mormon now officially sells tickets on StubHub.com.

Since its opening in 2011, the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon has been selling out its houses at the 1,006 seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre.  With rampant demand for the satirical musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q writer Bobby Lopez, the show has regularly seen premium ticket prices as high as $477.  The show’s lead producers Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino have often been at the cutting edge of strategies to maximum their ticket revenue, utilizing dynamic pricing to vary ticket prices throughout the house in line with demand.  As of just week ago, they have announced a new partnership that changes the game for the Broadway ticket marketplace: they will now sell tickets on StubHub.com.

Book of Mormon and Stubhub join forces

Book of Mormon and StubHub.com  join forces

StubHub.com, an online ticket marketplace owned by eBay, has grown from America’s largest secondary-market ticket marketplace to the world’s largest ticket marketplace.  The secondary market for tickets refers to when tickets are re-sold, often at a higher amount than their original price, especially when the primary ticket sellers have sold out their inventory.  Another example of a secondary-market ticket site is TicketsNow.com, which is an acquired subsidiary of Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster often redirects its customers to TicketsNow.com when the original inventory is sold out, which is effectively the same thing as selling tickets at a higher price through the same outlet.  Critics of secondary market ticket sites consider them to be just another form of scalping, and thus the legality of such sites is often questioned.

In an unprecedented move for Broadway, The Book of Mormon has decided to utilize StubHub.com as another outlet to sell their higher priced premium tickets.  In this way, StubHub will not be functioning as a secondary ticket marketplace, but rather a primary ticketing outlet.  Presently, the primary ticketing outlet for Broadway shows is more often than not Telecharge.com, which is owned by the Shubert Organization, one of the major Broadway landlords.  Therefore, this decision will present StubHub as a direct competitor to Telecharge.

It is common for producers to turn to additional outlets to help move their inventory, yet this is generally done in the form of discount ticket sales.  When sales are slow for a certain show, producers will often offer lower priced tickets either by direct mail to potential ticket buyers’ homes, or through online promotions by email or on websites.  However, the decision to sell premium seats for this hot-ticket show specifically through StubHub is an interesting maneuver, especially as the StubHub customer base may not be accustomed to seeing theatre options on the site.  StubHub’s biggest business comes from the music and sports industries, and this will present a Broadway option to this largely untapped audience.  On the other hand, the advantage from StubHub’s point of view is that it will help shift their reputation from that of a glorified online scalper to a more legitimate ticket sales outlet.

In any case, this novel approach presents an interesting dilemma for the Shuberts, who own Telecharge.com.  If premium tickets can be sold directly though secondary outlets commonly known for scalping tickets, there is a grey area between the primary and secondary market ticket outlets that had not previously existed for the Broadway marketplace.  If they neglect the opportunity to invest in secondary outlets, like Ticketmaster did with TicketsNow, then they might very well be losing profits in the long run.  Still, for now, The Book of Mormon’s new partnership will be a noteworthy case study to see if the StubHub customer base opens up new avenues for premium Broadway ticket sales.

How To Avoid Additional Ticketmaster Ticket Fees at the 2013 Radio City Christmas Show

Radio City Christmas SpectacularThe Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes, is a holiday favorite that is particularly popular with families. While nearby Broadway is often prohibitively expensive for large groups, Radio City frequently offers discount codes, promotions, and cheaper mezzanine seating that makes it possible to get tickets for as low as the $30-$50 range.

The catch is that the Ticketmaster fees associated with these tickets keep getting higher and higher. Even if you get, for instance, a $39 base price ticket for the Radio City show, you will still be stuck paying an additional Ticketmaster “service fee” of $14-$18 per ticket if you order your tickets by phone or online.

Fortunately there is a way to avoid these hefty Ticketmaster fees, and that is to buy your Radio City Christmas show tickets in person at the ticket box office.

Buying tickets in person can be an inconvenience for some and an impossibility for many others who live outside of New York City — which is precisely what Ticketmaster is counting on. However, if you are in the New York area, there are three different locations where you can purchase Radio City Christmas Show tickets in person, so you can choose the location that is most convenient for you.

radiocity2Ticket Location 1 – The Radio City Music Hall Box Office
The first location is, of course, is the Radio City Music Hall box office, located at 1260 6th Avenue (between 50th and 51st streets). Enter at the corner of 6th Ave and 50th Street to get to the box office in the main lobby. This is a good location to try if you work in midtown Manhattan, or happen to be dropping by the midtown area for something else (such as seeing a Broadway show).

Ticket Location 2 – MSG Madison Square Garden Box Office
The second location where you can buy Radio City tickets is Madison Square Garden’s box office. MSG is located on 7th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd streets. This is the best option for anyone who commutes into the city via Penn Station.

Ticket Location 3 – Beacon Theatre Box Office
The third location is further uptown at the Beacon Theatre, which is at 2124 Broadway, situated between 74th and 75th Streets. People living on the Upper West Side will appreciate this location, and even those who live in Upper Manhattan or the Bronx might find it is fairly easy to stop off at the Beacon on the way home.

Despite the temptation to go the easy route and buy through Ticketmaster, if you are buying multiple tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, you will find that purchasing at one of these three box offices can save you a great deal of money in fees.

Ticketmaster Adds Website Rate Limiter to Thwart Ticket Brokers

In a bid to limit robot, automated, and ticket broker transactions on their website, Ticketmaster has introduced IP address rate limiting technology that stops users from looking at too many web pages on their site during a daily period. It has been reported that this magic number is ten pages per hour.

When Ticketmaster users try to access too many pages within a short period of time, they are confronted with a message that informs them that they have exceeded Ticketmaster’s web page request limit and will need to wait awhile before trying again:

ticketmaster-disabled

Previously, Ticketmaster’s primary method for defeating robots was the use of the Captcha command, which requires the user to enter a unique series of letters and/or numbers into a box before a ticket request is successfully processed. The Captcha command is already annoying to many users who are performing multiple searches, but this new rate limiting measure additionally forces the customer to wait several minutes.

Theoretically the rate limiter could be advantageous to the average customer if it slows down the aggressive ticket brokers who are buying up all the inventory for high-demand shows. However, it’s a high price for customers to pay in terms of general aggravation. After all, it isn’t that unusual for a legitimate customer to want to do numerous searches in order to assess seat availability for a Broadway show, or they may want to check on what’s available for a single event over multiple dates. If that person is continually forced to wait for minutes at a time in the middle of their search, they may give up altogether.

While it is good to see Ticketmaster looking for ways to fight brokers, Ticketmaster isn’t by any means innocent when it comes to ticket brokering themselves. They have their own ticket broker website, TicketsNow, which has unfettered access to Ticketmaster tickets and this poses a huge conflict of interest for them. Competing ticket brokers are accusing Ticketmaster of manipulating the ticket market for their own benefit, but congress disagrees.

It remains to be seen whether or not this latest piece of technology in the war against brokers will stick around, or whether Ticketmaster finally removes it when they inevitably get a host of customer complaints or aggravation from show producers who cannot sell tickets to their shows because Ticketmaster is blocking their clients access to buy.

Ticketmaster Sets A New Broadway Surcharge Record With a $23 Per Ticket “Convenience Charge” For Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana Tickets

Ticketmaster has set a new Broadway record for their “Convenience Charge” surcharge for Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana tickets at the Radio City Music Hall. The surcharge fees jumped dramatically from last year’s $8 -$16 to this year’s $13-$23, setting a new Broadway record. The amount of the surcharge is no longer a flat fee and is now directly connected to the price of the ticket; this year the $158 prime orchestra tickets are attracting the $23 surcharge.

Cirque do Soleil's Zarkana at The Radio City Music Hall

Cirque do Soleil’s Zarkana at The Radio City Music Hall

The surcharges are only applied to patrons purchasing tickets online or over the telephone from Ticketmaster.  The  “in person” sales at the Radio City Music Hall Box Office, on the other hand, are not charged this additional fee. The prior two purchasing methods are often the only options for Broadway and other New York City theater patrons that cannot make it physically to the theater to purchase their Cirque du Soleil Zarkana tickets.

This means that a family of four would pay just under a hundred dollars in Ticketmaster fees, without including the price of the tickets.

Noting the unhappiness directed towards Ticketmaster over these inflated fees, they recently adopted a more transparent ticket sales model in the hopes of diffusing customer anger. Needless to say they didn’t accomplish this by actually lowering their fees, but they at least stopped hiding them. Now, when you select a Broadway ticket on Ticketmaster, you immediately see the total cost, so that the surcharge doesn’t come as such an unwelcome surprise just as you’re about to confirm your purchase. Despite the carping by ticket buyers at the time that Ticketmaster announced this ‘innovation’, it was actually a pretty wise move, since customers generally react better to knowing the total cost upfront–even if the surcharges are still outrageously high.

This price increase by Ticketmaster essentially penalizes out-of-towners, as local New Yorkers are wise to cutting out Ticketmaster and going directly to the box office to purchase tickets. It has been said that Ticketmaster was also trying to claw back some profit from ticket brokers, who resell their tickets at a profit. But with 5,931 seats and 3 shows a day, Zarkana at the Radio City Musical Hall doesn’t suffer the same abuse and manipulation from ticket brokers that a “one-off” concert or a hit Broadway show does.

Broadway Theatre Owners Raise Facility Fee Surcharge To $2.00 on Broadway Tickets

Broadway show producers often increase ticket prices to their shows to match growing demand. It now appears that theater owners want to get in on the action.

Many Broadway theaters have just increased their facility fee charges to $2.00, making that the new standard amount for facility fees on Broadway in addition to the base ticket price, the convenience charge, and the per-order handling fee.

The facility fee (sometimes called the theater restoration fee, or the 3rd surcharge) is the only surcharge that you have to pay even if buying your tickets directly at the Broadway theater box office — unlike other Broadway ticket surcharges, this one comes from the theater itself, not the ticket agent.

In a way, it sounds like a classy sort of fee. After all, everyone wants those beautiful Broadway theaters to continue looking nice, and $2.00 doesn’t sound like that much when you just threw down $155 for a ticket. But when you really consider it, that fee is rather odd. You don’t pay any other industry an extra fee to simply maintain their place of business, do you? People wouldn’t normally pay a facility fee when they dine at a restaurant or shop at a store. If the Broadway theaters need money for upkeep, you would anticipate that they would factor this into the rent that they charge their tenants, the Broadway shows themselves.

The switch that many theaters made over the years from calling the fee a ‘restoration fee’ to calling it a ‘facility fee’ is also telling, since the truth is that none of them are actually guaranteeing that the money is going directly to theater restoration projects. The fact is, that little charge can add up to tens of millions of dollars annually for Broadway theater owners, making it an excellent source of extra revenue.  It is unclear why they don’t just charge the producers of the show more rent, who will in turn increase the prices of tickets to their show.

In an article that Cara Joy David wrote for the New York Times in 2007 on ticket fees and surcharges, veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg was quoted as saying of the fees, “I think all of these things cumulatively are insane … Someone must have men in the back room making up names, euphemisms for profit.”

The facility fees have not always been uniform, and different theaters have charged different amounts over the years. Ten years ago, most facility fees were around $1.00 or $1.25, and $1.50 was typical for a very long time. But now $2.00 has emerged as the most common amount for the facility fee.  (A few exceptions exist, such as Disney’s New Amsterdam Theater and Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, which have no facility fee at all; and the Gershwin Theatre, home of Wicked, which charges $1.25.)  Somehow the American theater managed to thrive for decades before fees were introduced in the ’90s, so these charges really do seem unnecessary.

Part of the reason the facility fee doesn’t get that much attention from Broadway ticket buyers is because they are already used to paying much higher surcharges directly to Ticketmaster and Telecharge. The popularity of phone ordering (much easier than traveling down to the box office in person, especially for tourists and out-of-towners) and the advent of online ordering provided an excuse for the “convenience charge,” which usually breaks down into two types of fees: the per-order handling fee (currently $2.75 on Telecharge, after recently being raised from $2.50) and the per-ticket service charge ($7.50 on Telecharge). There also may be additional charges depending on what delivery method you choose.

Broadway ticket buyers can continue to avoid the larger surcharges by making the trip to the Broadway theater district and buying their tickets directly at the box office, rather than dealing with the middle man that is Ticketmaster and Telecharge. But no matter how you purchase your Broadway tickets, that $2.00 facility fee will still be going from your pocket to the theater owners, at least hold the door open for me.