How Madison concert-goers kinda, barely, actually don't really, benefit from a class-action settlement.
Ticketing and concert-promotion behemoth Ticketmaster recently settled a class-action lawsuit over its practice of charging heavy fees that many feel are just a deceptive grab for extra profits. Its punishment? Giving consumers incentives to buy more Ticketmaster tickets. If you bought tickets through the company between October 21, 1999 and February 27, 2013, your account on the Ticketmaster site should now have a few codes in it for discounted or in some cases free tickets. (Some have experienced glitches with this, but I just checked my account and I can see my vouchers.)
Ticketmaster handles ticketing for several Madison venues, including the Dane County-owned Alliant Energy Center and City of Madison-owned Breese Stevens Field. Its parent company, Live Nation, also manages the locally owned Orpheum on State Street, so tickets there go through Ticketmaster as well. You might also occasionally go through Ticketmaster for shows at other local venues, including the Barrymore, depending on the who is putting on the show and who their ticketing service is. Live Nation also runs Alpine Valley, the big outdoor venue in Walworth County, and handles ticketing for Summerfest in Milwaukee.
And under the terms of the settlement, Live Nation gets to pick which shows customers can use their discounts for. So how do Madison-area concert-goers make out in all this?
It took a good few days for Ticketmaster to post a list of eligible shows, but it's up as of Tuesday morning. There are currently 436 events listed. The only Wisconsin ones I can find? The Zac Brown Band's June 25 and 26 shows at Alpine Valley. That's kind of in keeping with the rest of the list, which is dominated by big amphitheater shows, and includes almost nothing at the mid-sized theater venues Live Nation runs. It could be that some better shows were on the list and vanished as people used up their discounts, but, uh, who knows at this point.
I wasn't willing to risk accidentally spending money for the sake of an experiment, but I did run almost to the end of the ordering process to test out my codes. I succeeded in entering a code for a $2.25 discount (that's what most of the vouchers granted under the settlement are), but it wouldn't let me use one of my free-ticket codes. And for one measly lawn seat, too.
As Consequence of Sound notes, people elsewhere in the United States do have some better options, including shows from Bob Dylan and "Weird" Al Yankovic.
The most delicious irony of the settlement, though? Under the agreement, Live Nation will donate $3 million to fund a consumer-law clinic at the University of California, Irvine's law school. According to settlement documents, this money "will be used to: (i) provide direct legal representations for clients with consumer law claims, (ii) advocate for consumers through policy work, and (iii) provide free educational tools (including online tutorials) to help consumers understand their rights, responsibilities and remedies for online purchases." But thanks to the magic of arbitration, this likely won't help any consumers in their future dealings with Live Nation.
I have calls and emails in to a couple folks at Live Nation seeking some additional info and clarification, and will update this story if I hear back.