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The hidden fees of tickets: Adelaide joins the club

Have you ever been sucked in by a bargain ticket price, only to get to the end of the booking process to find that you’re going to end up paying a lot more than you expected in booking fees? It’s a regular occurrence when booking plane tickets, but it’s becoming more and more common in the performing arts world.

This morning the Adelaide Festival Centre announced that they would be introducing a $8.95 transaction fee, which makes Adelaide Festival Centre the final capital city performing arts centre to introduce such a fee.

The Melbourne Arts Centre currently charges a $7.95 transaction fee, the Sydney Opera House charges $8.50 and the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia charges $6.95. Commercial operators Ticketek and Ticketmaster have both had varying transaction fees for years now. Interestingly, Ticketmaster now declares its payment processing fee as part of the ticket price from the beginning of the booking process.

CEO and Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival Centre Douglas Gautier said: “This was a difficult but necessary decision to bring our operation into line with all other capital city performing arts centres and puts us on a level playing field with our colleagues interstate.”

He said: “The money raised by the transaction fee will reinvested into our programs and facilities so that we can continue to present programs and events of excellence for all South Australians.”

Which begs the question: why is it referred to as a transaction fee, if it isn’t necessarily going towards the cost of running a box office able to handle transactions?

Given the fact that the fee was announced via a media release, you could hardly accuse Adelaide Festival Centre of trying to hide the fee and spring it on purchasers as a surprise.

But the bigger question, that many ask when it comes to transaction fees, is: if it’s necessary to generate more revenue from sales, to cover the cost of running an arts centre with a box office, why not just increase the cost of the tickets themselves?

It’s an argument that’s being held in other theatre cities around the world. In London, booking fees can often add up to 30% to the price of a ticket, which has resulted in a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority that ticketing agents must make their transaction fees clear at the beginning of the booking process. The advertised price for a theatre ticket, in London, must now include the booking fee.

3 responses to “The hidden fees of tickets: Adelaide joins the club

  1. The AFC pulls up different issues than many of the other states, as it is the only fully outfitted professional venue in the city, and it locks all companies which utilise its venues into BASS. While MTC, Malthouse, STC, Belvoir et al all have the benefits of running their own venues (even if occasionally they present off-site), the STCSA must hire the AFC; the Adelaide Festival of the Arts is locked into their ticketing system; ADT doesn’t have the opportunity of looking around venues to see where they’ll get the best deal. Windmill Theatre Company, one of the country’s leading theatres for young people must use the AFC for any of their large scale works: how will the ticketing fee impact on affordability for young families in South Australia? Even the AFC’s own youth programmes GreenRoom for under 30s and Something on Saturday for children – while perhaps utilising the benefits of money flowing back into the system – will have to see a marked increase in prices, which will almost certainly price some families and young people out of attending theatre.

    The trouble isn’t so much the booking fee as a concept (although to have one so large when most independent companies use TryBooking and their 30c fee, $8.95 is startling), it’s how it will impact on those who buy tickets at a low price point: for youth, students, seniors, concession card holders, young families, this could be as much as an extra 66% on top of an original $15 ticket price. And then, of course, how this will impact on those companies that sell tickets to these audiences. The STCSA is finally starting to see an increase in year on year ticket sales: how devastating if this price hike cancels that out.
    The Festival of Arts charges $30 for youth tickets: what could once buy you four shows will now buy three – and while having the price per transaction not per ticket is welcome, how will this impact on last minute decisions, or those who wish to utilise rush tickets?

    What will be the flow-on effects for the whole ecology in a small city with few options? It’s a big question; and I’m a bit scared to find out the answers.

  2. Booking fee, transaction fee, credit card fee, handling fee – all part of the ticket price as far the punter is concerned but not for the theatre, promoter or the performer. If the contract between venue and performer is based on a split of the ticket price, then it’s in the venue’s interest to call these charges something else.

    At least by calling it a booking fee they openly state they are taking the money for themselves, even if we know it doesn’t cost $8 to take a booking. I’m more offended by so-called credit card fees, as if it’s the bank’s fault when in fact Visa etc take only about 1% of the transaction, and especially as there is usually no option for any other kind of payment.


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