Say what you like about American politicians, but they can’t be faulted for the effort they put into the acronyms for their legislation.
The latest example, introduced in the US Congress last week, is the ‘Better Oversight of Stub Sales and Strengthening Well Informed and Fair Transactions for Audiences of Concert Ticketing Act’.
More pithily, that’s The BOSS and SWIFT ACT. And yes, that IS a reference to two of the artists embroiled in recent ticketing controversies: Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift. The legislation itself has been brewing since 2009, according to the politicians – Bill Pascrell and Frank Pallone – who introduced it.
The proposed bill’s reforms include clear and transparent pricing of tickets (i.e. no extra charges that suddenly appear in the final leg of the purchasing process); disclosing whether tickets are primary or secondary sales; banning restrictions on how much (or little) people can resell tickets for; cracking down on ‘unauthorised speculative ticket sales’; and making it clear when a secondary seller is actually the “primary ticket seller, venue, team, or artist”.
“For decades, the ticket market has been the Wild West: mammoth, opaque, speculative, and brutally unfair,” said Pascrell. “A fan shouldn’t have to sell a kidney or mortgage a house to see their favorite performer or team. At long last, it is time to create rules for fair ticketing in this country and my legislation will do exactly that for all the fans.”
The bill was announced with support from organisations including the Consumer Federation of America, the Sports Fans Coalition, Public Knowledge, Protect Ticket Rights and the FanFreedom Project.
If you’ve been following the debates around ticketing in the US, the last couple of names in that list may ring a bell. There is an almighty lobbying battle afoot, and Protect Ticket Rights is the work of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, while FanFreedom’s launch in 2011 was supported by eBay’s secondary ticketing arm StubHub.
These companies are fighting with Live Nation – no stranger to backing consumer-rights organisations of its own – tooth and nail at the moment, amid a raft of bills design to reform ticketing in the US to the benefit of one side or the other. Live Nation’s blast at FanFreedom and StubHub in April offers a taste of the rhetoric.
The BOSS and SWIFT ACT is already facing criticism of its own, but from a coalition of music industry bodies and companies rather than an ‘astroturf’ group.
Fix The Tix launched in May with founder members including Universal Music Group, the RIAA, The Recording Academy, venues body NIVA and the Future of Music Coalition.
The group has slammed the proposed legislation, saying that while it “provides some transparency for consumers, it does so in exchange for anti-fan and anti-artist handouts for scalpers and secondary ticketing platforms that do not contribute to the live entertainment ecosystem”.
Its statement added that “it would increase ticket prices, enshrine deceptive practices like speculative tickets, and cause an even worse ticket-buying experience for true fans”.
From outside the US and/or the ticketing sector, it’s an increasingly tangled web.
The BOSS and SWIFT ACT joins other proposed bills including The Unlock Ticketing Markets Act (which takes aim at Live Nation and Ticketmaster) and The FAIR Ticketing Act (which is more in line with those companies’ desire for a scalping/touting crackdown)
Which will end up enshrined in law? We can’t answer that question yet, but we can make a confident prediction that there is a LOT more lobbying and arguing to be endured in the meantime.