Carl Szabo: Merriweather Memories: Why I support a Ticket Rights Resale Act in MD

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I have many fond memories of growing up in my hometown of Columbia MD – several of them are of the times I had with friends and family at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. I remember using the money I earned from delivering the Columbia Flyer to buy tickets to its concerts. I remember my Wilde Lake High School wrestling team providing security for its events. I remember seeing the Symphony of Lights and my high school graduation ceremony at Merriweather.   

To me, these types of experiences are the cornerstone of so many positive memories, which is why I am saddened that companies like Ticketmaster are increasingly using ticket restrictions and inconveniencing fans. 

Growing up, if I couldn’t make it to a concert, I would simply hand my tickets to a friend or sell them to a neighbor.  Recently, companies like Ticketmaster have begun to restrict what I can and can’t do with my ticket. 

These “restrictive ticket” policies come in many forms, such as selling me non-transferable tickets or enforcing “credit card entry” policies. Sadly, we’ve already seen restrictive practices begin to spread throughout Maryland.

Last year, Country Merriticket packages were sold for several country music concerts at Merriweather as “non-transferable”.  In order to pick up your tickets to any given show, fans had to present the buyer’s ID at Will Call on the day of the event. This process makes giving away, sharing, or reselling a ticket to a single show incredibly challenging, if not impossible.

This year, a portion of arena tickets for the much anticipated U2: Joshua Tree Tour in Landover, MD, are being sold as “credit card entry”. These restricted tickets require fans to present the credit card used to buy the ticket plus a government-issued identification card for the person who bought the ticket. What this means for me – when I buy my wife tickets for her and her friends, I must escort them to the door since the tickets are in my name, not hers.

Entities like Ticketmaster will tell you that these ticket restrictions are designed to “protect consumers” by inhibiting ticket brokers from scooping up tickets and then selling them far above face value.  What they are not telling you is that a new federal law, supported by Ticketmaster, makes it illegal for brokers to circumvent ticket purchase limits and scoop up all the tickets.

With the new federal law eliminating the justification for ticket restrictions, we must wonder what the real reason is for making it harder for us to transfer our tickets.  Perhaps the ticket sellers like Ticketmaster just want to control and charge you to resell or give-away your tickets.

These policies hurt Maryland consumers and their families and we can’t let this continue to happen, which is why I support a Maryland ticket rights resale act, like Senate Bill (SB) 892.

SB 892 would guarantee the right for Marylanders to get unrestricted tickets for any public event where tickets are sold.  It would ensure that if we want, we can get a plain-old ticket that we can use, resell, or give away like we have always done. It would also prohibit ticket-holders from being penalized, discriminated against, or denied admission for reselling a ticket.

Choice, convenience, and competition in the primary and secondary event-ticket markets protect and empower Maryland consumers. These rights shouldn’t be taken away just because ticket companies wish to increase their profits. 

Having the freedom to see a great show shouldn’t just be a memory.

Carl Szabo is the Senior Policy Counsel for NetChoice and hometown son of Columbia, MD. 

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