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Cap on ticket fees would hurt Baltimore

I am writing to respond to recent letters to the editor regarding City Council Bill 12-0239 and to express support for amendments to put forth by Councilwoman Rikki Spector ("Council fumbles Ticketmaster fees," July 5). The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance is grateful to Councilwoman Spector and others who support the amendments.

Ms. Spector's amendments bring balance to a bill that, although well-intended, is sweeping in its assumptions and potential negative impact. Many readers may not realize that the bill applies to any organization that sells tickets. That, of course, means the Orioles, the Ravens and the Arena, but also the National Aquarium, The Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, The Walters Art Museum, Port Discovery, Eubie Blake Cultural Center, The Maryland Zoo, Baltimore Rock Opera Society, Single Carrot Theatre and the list goes on. Not only is the list incredibly diverse, their budgets represent varying mixes of earned versus contributed income and formulas for balancing their budgets. It is safe to say that none derive a great windfall from the use of a ticketing service or fees applied on their own.

Venues around the country and in our backyard are experimenting with sales models such as all-in ticketing and dynamic pricing, and I am here to tell you there are no easy answers. The original bill approaches the rich cultural ecosystem as a monolith and attempts to legislate how these organizations can and should operate in the marketplace. It legislates all fees, not just those from Ticketmaster or other ticketing services. The potential for unintended, but damaging, consequences is tremendous.

What these organizations do have in common is a commitment to their audiences — a commitment that includes setting reasonable, honest prices that will not erode the loyalty of their patrons. They embrace disclosure and know that integrity and transparency in applying fees is essential.

It is unfortunate that opponents of the amendment have framed their cause as a fight against corporate greed and political influence. This bill as originally written will not change the practices of Ticketmaster and it would likely hurt the competitiveness of Baltimore's concert and event venues. You don't have to look far up or down the I-95 corridor for concerts, sporting events and other entertainment that would welcome our audiences.

We urge City Council to adopt the amendments to Bill 12-0239 and to take a more nuanced approach to business aspects of the arts and culture sector.

Jeannie L. Howe, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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