Sunday, February 5, 2012

On the Legal Status of Concert Tickets

I routinely overuse the cliché “you learn something new every day” but in my case it’s often true. Last weekend, while doing some research for a client, I learned a great deal about the legal status of concert tickets and what a ticket holder’s legal rights are.
Brian A. Rosenblatt wrote a great law review article about the topic: “I Know It’s Only Rock and Roll But Did They Like It? An Assessment of Causes of Action Concerning the Disappointment of Subjective Consumer Expectation Within the Live Performance Industry” (13 UCLA Ent. L. Rev. 33).

Amusingly, the article focuses on a Creed concert in 2002 when lead singer Scott Stapp was allegedly too incapacitated to perform. When a group of understandably angry concert goers sought to file a class action lawsuit against the band, the promoter and all involved, the judge basically said “it’s a rock n’ roll show, what did you expect?” This reminded me of seeing Joe Cocker in concert as a teenager, when he spent most of the show throwing up behind a row of speakers. He was still great.

But I digress. Rosenblatt sums up the relevant case law as follows,” both historic and current case law indicate that the purchase of a ticket to an attraction allows the ticket owner to enter or remain in a specific seat or area within the venue subject to the Seller’s policies, terms and conditions.” As one might expect, the situation is more complex with respect to outright cancellations. Cases such as Miami Dolphins, Ltd. v. Gender & Bach, P.A., have established the concept that there is a contractual element to the actual event-the seller promises that an event will take place and in the event the event does not take place, he must refund the ticket holder’s money. I note that some states actually have statutes dictating how this must be handled.

There have been other causes of action asserted by disappointed concertgoers such as unjust enrichment and consumer fraud but it seems that as long as the event occurs and no one gets hurt neither the artist nor the promoter is responsible for the relative quality of the performance.

All of this made me decide to dig through my 40 + year collection of ticket stubs and indeed, I found that many of them say much more than “No refund No Exchange” on the face of the ticket. I have a new respect for the microscopic boilerplate language on the back of those tickets. Read one sometime

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