A bill intended to make it easier for individuals to resell tickets for live theater, music or sporting events cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee.
The committee approved Republican Rep. Randy Fine’s measure (HB 969) to give ticket buyers more flexibility in how to transfer tickets.
The measure drew some opposition, and a couple of “no” votes. The long history of event ticket resales has sometimes been sordid, with street corner scalpers, and in more recent times with bots, buying up and reselling tickets en masse. That has led to complex legal, technological and policy responses, sometimes involving big-name artists opposing any ticket resales.
But Fine, of South Brevard County, argued the real problem now is with the monopolistic practices of ticket vendors controlling ticket prices in part by controlling all resale opportunities. Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation were mentioned a few times in the discussions, though Fine tried not to be specific. Live Nation was present at Wednesday’s hearing to oppose the bill, but did not offer public comments.
“If you want to resell your ticket, if you want to transfer your ticket, should someone be able to say, ‘You can only do it here’? Or should you be able to do it however you want?” Fine said. “I think this bill looks out for the little guy.”
HB 969 would require that if a ticket vendor allows for the resale of tickets anywhere, it must allow for the resale of tickets everywhere, not just through a website associated with the vendor.
The bill provides that the ticket vendor can charge a premium to make a ticket transferrable, but then the event has to honor the ticket regardless of how it’s transferred.
One of the biggest ticket resale companies, StubHub, gave strong support for the measure.
“The debate is really not about whether resale is good or bad. The debate today is about who should control resale. And we share the interests of House Bill 969 to say the customer should be in control of that,” said Laura Dooley, StubHub’s head of government relations.
There are artists who insist on controlling ticket sales and ticket resales. Hudson Republican Rep. Amber Mariano, an avowed “Swiftie,” noted Taylor Swift has devised an elaborate system to prevent tickets to her concerts from being bought up by non-fans, then being resold and gouging fans.
Mariano argued that artists should be able to control their tickets and voted against the bill, though Fine tried to dissuade her concern.
“If you as an artist want to say your tickets can’t be resold, that’s fine,” Fine said. “But if you say they can be resold, you can’t say they only can be sold ‘coincidentally’ through the same company that is trying to do all this vertical integration. They either can or they can’t. That would solve the freedom to contract without creating this monopolistic, predatory behavior.”
The bill was one of two shaken awake from dormancy in the House this week, and sent to the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. That panel had to schedule a special, extra meeting just to hear the pair. HB 969’s next stop would be the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee.
The Senate counterpart (SB 1316) from Palm Harbor Sen. Ed Hooper has cleared its first committee and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.