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A Guide to “Fan” Organizations Funded by the Ticketing Industry

Jul 31, 2023Jul 31, 2023

By Marc Hogan

Before bots and StubHub, before many states softened scalping laws and the internet turned ticket-buying into a strategy game, nabbing a seat for your favorite artist’s upcoming tour was easier, or at least more straightforward. There are now a thousand small decisions that get made around how ticketing works for everyday fans, but very few of them are in the hands of consumers. To make matters worse, the biggest players in the game—Ticketmaster and parent company Live Nation, along with top ticket reseller StubHub—have for years now used the front of nonprofit groups professing to represent fans. Even these groups’ names are laughable: the Fans First Coalition and the Fan Freedom Project, respectively.

These days, Live Nation backs an initiative called Fans & Artists Insisting on Reforms (FAIR, get it?), as part of a coalition that includes Universal Music Group and major talent agencies. Their top priority is giving “artists the right to decide how their tickets can be sold, transferred, and resold.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, despite Ticketmaster’s own resale program, that goal runs counter to the interests of professional scalpers.

There are also a number of other organizations claiming to prioritize the interests of ordinary fans while drawing money from ticket resellers. As legislation moves forward to avoid a repeat of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour headaches, the Ticket Buyer Bill of Rights Coalition—an umbrella group of “consumer advocacy groups,” according to concert trade publication Pollstar—has been active in shaping debate in Congress. And yet Pitchfork can report that the coalition’s five members—the Consumer Federation of America, Fan Freedom, National Consumers League, Protect Ticket Rights, and Sports Fans Coalition—have all received some degree of financial support from the scalping business. It may or may not be a coincidence that this “bill of rights” prioritizes the guaranteed ability to resell tickets at any price. (Other potential fixes, such as a ban on the sale of “speculative” tickets, where scalpers list tickets they don’t already own, are conveniently absent from the discussion.)

While Protect Ticket Rights posts clearly on its website that it’s backed by the National Association of Ticket Brokers, other groups in the coalition aren’t so obviously linked to the multi-billion dollar ticket resale industry. This matters because for all the Eras Tour political hoopla, the nitty-gritty of lawmaking is complicated. It would be all too easy for Congress to declare victory and pass a bill that fails to address the issues of either skyrocketing ticket prices or infuriating ticket-buying experiences.

Instead we need a fix that balances the needs of artists and actual fans, not Ticketmaster or ticket brokers. But in the meantime, it’s good to know who’s funding the groups that are advocating “for consumers” in the ticket debate. Here’s a quick breakdown of which consumer advocacy groups back the “Ticket Buyer Bill of Rights”—and which resellers fund them.

Funders include: StubHub, Vivid SeatsFounded in 1899, this nonprofit advocacy group is the nation’s oldest consumer organization. It takes a stand on issues from child labor and privacy to food safety and medication information.

Source: Annual reports on NCL website

Funders include: StubHub

Launched in 2011 by StubHub’s then-owner, eBay, this nonprofit advocacy group has long argued against restrictions on ticket resale, maintaining that it is supporting basic consumer protections. “No one should be able to tell you what you can do with your ticket after you buy it,” the Fan Freedom Project website reads. “That is up to you, the Fan!”

Source: Original 2011 founding press release; funding sources weren’t disclosed on the website, or in recent years’ annual tax disclosures available via ProPublica

Funders include: National Association of Ticket Brokers

Launched in 2016 by the National Association of Ticket Brokers, this initiative has always called for an “open, transparent, and competitive market” where “ticketholders have the right to purchase, sell, give away, or otherwise transfer their tickets.” Its website continues, “Our work is possible thanks to the professional ticket selling companies of NATB, which support market reform that improves the fan ticket-buying experience.”

Source: Protect Ticket Rights website

Funders include: StubHub

Billed as a “grassroots, sports fans advocacy organization,” this nonprofit group was founded by former Clinton and Bush administration staffers in 2009. “Ticket transferability is one of the most important consumer protections for fans of live events,” the Sports Fans Coalition’s website says. (“Ticket transferability” refers to the ability to resell tickets—which is also pretty important for professional resellers of tickets.)

Source: SFC executive director’s testimony earlier this year before the Georgia House of Representatives; funding sources weren’t disclosed on the website, or in recent years’ annual tax disclosures available via ProPublica

Funders include: Protect Ticket Rights, Fan Freedom

Established in 1968, this nonprofit advocacy group speaks out on issues across the U.S. economy, from banking and credit to product safety. CFA’s director of consumer protection, Erin Witte, recently championed ticket transferability in a social-media post, saying, “Consumers should be able to do what they want with their tickets when they buy them!”

Source: Response to Pitchfork’s written inquiry. Witte told Pitchfork: “With regard to your question about CFA funding, Protect Ticket Rights purchased a table this year at our Awards Celebration for $4,000 and Fan Freedom purchased table sponsorships from 2013 to 2016. The money from those sponsorships goes to our general operating funds and is not used to support any particular program or issue. At CFA, receipt of contributions like these does not influence our decision making on any particular issue.”

National Consumers LeagueFunders include:Source:Fan Freedom ProjectFunders include:Source:Protect Ticket RightsFunders include:Source:Sports Fans CoalitionFunders include:Source:Consumer Federation of AmericaFunders include:Source: