President Obama has made his name as the most anti-business president in modern history, a regulatory busybody who has stuck his nose into everything from health care insurance to carbon dioxide regulation to bank loans. This micro-managing of the U.S. economy is a boon to lawmakers, of course, as they legislate for themselves new gate-keeping powers that only more lobbyist money can access. Meanwhile, the layers of regulation have stymied economic growth and energizing a grassroots Republican revolution against Big Government.
But some lawmakers still don’t get it. Take Michigan Republicans - please (as Henny Youngman might say).
First came Lt. Governor Brian Calley dictating what health insurers must cover. Now come Republican Obama clones in the Michigan House who have decided they know better how to run America’s ticketing industry than the ticketing industry. Like Obama gumming the health works with mandates, Republicans Rep. Kevin Cotter of Mount Pleasant, and Senator Joe Hume (Hamburg) have decided that intervening in the ticket market is a government priority. We’re not making this up.
The two GOPers have joined Democratic busybodies in sticking their noses into ticket minutiae from how tickets can be resold to the price for which a ticket can be resold. But the real prize in this regulatory overkill is paperless ticketing – a longtime target of the Big Scalper lobby.
Paperless ticketing is used in markets from the airline industry to Broadway shows to Detroit Pistons games as a convenience to consumers and for artists/venues/companies that want to reserve seats for fans, family, etc.. As proprietary products, of course, they come with restrictions – for example, if you buy an airline ticket, you are bound by its terms and conditions to pay a cancellation fee and not to resell to another customer. Similarly, paperless tix for concerts can’t be scalped – but must be used by the purchaser. And there’s the rub. Scalping is a big industry in this eBay/StubHub era – and the Scalper Lobby isn’t happy with the money it’s losing from paperless ticketing (even as it’s a small percentage of tickets sold).
So Republicans have decided to intervene in the ticket business on Big Scalper’s behalf.
The Cotter-Hume bill claims to be pro-consumer – a claim no less outrageous in principle than the Obama administration’s claim that it is regulating the health industry on the “consumer’s behalf.” In fact, if Michigan dictates to ticket services like Ticketmaster the terms and conditions of paperless conditions, watch ticket prices skyrocket.
Pro-consumer artists from Bruce Springsteen to No Doubt are long-time restrictive, paperless ticket advocates as a way to ensure their most rabid fans get affordable front-row seats. Eric Church, a musician who opposes the regulatory assault, notes that good seats would be out of reach of the average consumer if Big Scalper has its way. Without paperless ticketing, Church points out, “we would see 800-100 tickets immediately “for sale on StubHub for prices up to ten times face value.”
Bill supporters point to additional regulations that restrict Big Scalper technology like “ticket bots” that gobble up ticket issues in order to corner the market on resale. Not only does this lead down the slippery slope of pols dictating ticketing policy (what’s next, mandating seating prices?), but artists and venues like Auburn Hills Palace Entertainment aren’t impressed. Big Scalper knows that it has to give a little to take a lot.
Like Obama’s pro-Big Hospital-Big Pharma health reform, Michigan lawmakers have constructed a Trojan Horse for Big Scalper. Together with a StubHub front called the “Fan Freedom Project,” Big Scalper aims to require – by law in Michigan – that tickets suit its terms.
It’s a ticket to more meddling.