The live event industry has never seen a more immediate halt to operations, with thousands of concerts and sporting events suddenly facing cancellation or postponement. If some health experts are to be believed, it may not be safe to return to these events until fall 2021, forever changing the landscape of the concert industry. In the short term, it’s led to a flood of refund requests from ticket holders currently out hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars. Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation Entertainment, has recently adjusted its refund policy as listed on the website.
As the New York Times pointed out in a series of screengrabs, Ticketmaster has quietly adjusted the language to its refund policy. The site’s FAQ page previously stated that “refunds are available if your event is postponed, rescheduled, or canceled,” with exceptions made for MLB and US Open events. As of March 14, just after every major sports league suspended play, the wording had been changed to the following: “refunds are available if your event is canceled.”
Ticketmaster maintained to the Times that despite the change in language to its website, the refund policy remains the same. Per the site’s terms and conditions, refunds are automatically processed for cancellations, but event organizers have latitude to withhold refunds for postponement or rescheduling. With most every event opting to reschedule for an unspecified date, as the events industry waits to see when things will reopen, this has put some refunds on hold. (Mic has reached out to Ticketmaster for further clarification, and will update this story if we hear back.)
This has not been received well by a number of fans, as you might imagine, who have accused Ticketmaster on social media of amplifying a crisis for people who need the money now more than ever. The New York Times report mentions one concertgoer who has more than $3,000 currently tied up in tickets for Rolling Stones, Elton John, Chicago and Sturgill Simpson — all events that have been postponed by at least seven months or indefinitely.
The popular reseller StubHub has also seen some vehement pushback for changes to its refund policy, with one fan in Wisconsin suing the provider over hockey tickets that have yet to be refunded. StubHub president Sukhinder Singh Cassidy was a little more candid with the Times, indicating that it can’t manage refunds for the thousands of canceled events as a reseller. “The complications that arise, and just the magnitude of this timing challenge, is frankly challenging for any intermediary in the normal course of practice,” Singh Cassidy told the New York Times.
Ticketmaster’s added a disclaimer to its refunds page, indicating that given the extremely high volume of refund requests, it may take at least a month before ticket holders see refunds. “Due to the unprecedented volume of cancellations, please note that you should expect to receive your refund in as soon as 30 days,” the statement reads. It’s possible that many current ticket holders could still receive refunds further down the line, but an increasing number of Americans require immediate relief. With many events potentially not being feasible to happen until next fall at the earliest, ticketing providers — along with every other arm of the entertainment industry — will need to make significant adjustments.