LONDON — British rock band the Cure is the latest to become entangled in a ticket price debacle with entertainment company Ticketmaster.
The band’s outspoken frontman, Robert Smith, announced in a Twitter tirade late Thursday that he had secured a partial discount for fans on ticket fees from Ticketmaster for their upcoming north America tour, after saying he was “as sickened as you all are” by price hikes.
Ahead of some tickets going on sale Wednesday, the band said on their official website that they had purposely “priced tickets to benefit fans” in an effort to “block scalpers and limit inflated resale prices.” Ticket prices started as low as $20.
“The Cure have agreed all ticket prices, and apart from a few Hollywood Bowl charity seats, there will be no ‘platinum’ or ‘dynamically priced’ tickets on this tour. See you there!” they wrote.
However, fans hoping to attend the 30 date “Shows of a Lost World” tour in cities from Boston to Tampa complained online that reasonably priced tickets were being inflated after processing and administrative fees were added, with the fees often exceeding the price of the tickets themselves.
One fan tweeted that four tickets costing a total of $80 incurred service charge fees of more than $90, and called the extra charges “ridiculous.”
In response to fan outrage, Smith, in a series of signature-style capitalized tweets, vowed to follow up with the platform.
“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,” he tweeted Wednesday.
“We had final say in all our ticket pricing for this upcoming tour,” he added, to prevent costs being “instantly and horribly distorted by resale.”
A day later, Smith emerged with news from Ticketmaster, who he said had agreed to partial refunds.
“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,” on some verified fan transactions and a $5 per ticket refund for others. Fans who had already purchased tickets would get an “automatic refund” he added, while future ticket sales would incur lower fees.
Ticketmaster has not publicly commented on the matter and did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post.
This is an encouraging precedent, even if it’s no substitute for needed regulation. Artists take heed: when you speak up (with both conviction and nuance), you can make new things possible. https://t.co/H1tCZdlaZv
— Future of Music Coalition (@future_of_music) March 16, 2023
The Cure’s fans welcomed the news online.
“My hats off to you and the band for actually caring about your ticket prices … You offered incredible pricing on your tour tickets for us fans and we appreciate that,” said one individual.
“You’re awesome — hoping other bands follow in your footsteps!” said another.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) tweeted his support Thursday for the outcome. “Props to Robert Smith and The Cure for standing up to Ticketmaster’s outrageous fees. Now Congress needs to show the same backbone and finally reform the ticket marketplace.”
The latest run-in comes as Ticketmaster has been in hot water in recent months after fans of various artists have complained about fee charges and malfunctions.
The issue was brought to the fore last year when Taylor Swift’s fans reported widespread issues purchasing tickets for her “Eras” tour, prompting Ticketmaster to cancel the public sale. The company later apologized, saying a “staggering number of bot attacks” and “unprecedented traffic” to their site led to issues on their website.
Swift called the affair “excruciating,” while in a sign of further bad blood, some of her fans launched a legal suit against the company alleging fraud, misrepresentation and multiple antitrust violations, which Ticketmaster denies.
In Europe, too, fans hoping to attend the annual Eurovision Song Contest were enraged earlier this month after reporting tech issues with Ticketmaster, which they say left them ticketless.
The company is under pressure from U.S. regulators to prove that it is providing the best service to fans and artists, after consumer groups and senators from both sides of the aisle accused the company of using its “monopoly” power to dominate the ticketing and live-events industry — something the company fiercely denies.
President Biden has also weighed in, calling for an end more broadly to “junk fees” to ensure “companies stop ripping us off,” during his State of the Union speech in February.
“I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges you and gets away with it. Not anymore,” he said, outlining plans for a Junk Fee Prevention Act. “We’ll cap service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events and make companies disclose all fees upfront,” he added. “Americans are tired of being played for suckers.”
On its official website, the company said its clients — including venues, sports teams and event promoters — “determine the number of tickets to be sold and set the face value price,” and service, processing and delivery fees “are determined in collaboration with our clients.”
However, it outlined that sometimes “ticket and fee prices may adjust over time based on demand,” similar to airline and hotel room tickets.
For now, Smith acknowledged the system remains “far from perfect” and that “the reality is … a number of fans are going to miss out whatever system we use.”