Which artists fight for consumer rights? Most fans answering that question would probably point to Pearl Jam, who battled Ticketmaster over the firm's high service fees, or maybe the Dave Matthews Band, who routinely keep their ticket prices low. But the Backstreet Boys, those pinup stars of teen worship?
It's true. For the group's already sold-out fall tour, the Backstreet Boys worked behind the scenes to eliminate the additional costs, such as parking and facility fees, that often accompany concert tickets these days.
"We wanted to eliminate hidden fees," says Jeff Kwatinetz, who co-manages the Backstreet Boys. "When we say we want a $38.50 ticket, we mean it." He's referring to the fact that along with Ticketmaster service fees (which artists have no control over, including the Backstreet Boys), fans often get hit with additional add-ons, tacked on by venues and promoters, that quickly add up.
"We're definitely saving our fans money," says Kwatinetz. The company he co-founded, the Firm, also oversees the Family Values Tour, and a Firm employee confirms that tickets for this fall's Family Values Tour, featuring Limp Bizkit, will also come without hidden fees.
Facility fees are exactly that, a fee fans pay directly to facility, as a sort of user tax. They first surfaced years ago under the name "restoration fee" (usually just $1 per ticket back then), and were charged most often by old, downtown theaters in an effort to raise money for refurbishing purposes. Soon, newer buildings began to tack them on their ticket prices as well. Sometimes the fees cover the cost of on-site parking, sometimes they do not.
Amphitheaters today are the most common source of facility fees, as owners try to recoup new construction costs. Some, including Irvine Meadows outside Los Angeles, charge $3 per ticket. Others, such as Riverport Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Mo., and Sandstone Amphitheater in Kansas City, have been known to charge $4 per ticket facility fees. For a single sold-out concert, that comes out to a cool $50,000 in facility fees. Talk about your revenue streams.
Now the trend has moved indoors. Madison Square Garden, and its smaller Theater at Madison Square Garden, both charge a $3 facility fee on every concert ticket sold.
The Backstreet Boys weren't buying it, though, and they demanded venues not tack on extra surcharges to the group's ticket prices. "We went building to building," says Kwatinetz. "It was a lot of hard work. But we felt it was a battle we could win."
ERIC BOEHLERT (September 1, 1999)