Add music concerts and festivals to the long list of things that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to a screeching halt in 2020.
If you are anything like me, earlier this year you were making plans and purchases to see concerts by your favorite musical acts this summer or fall.
If so, you’re probably also wondering if you’ll get a chance to see these performers on stage anytime soon. After all, many of the epidemiology experts expect that large gatherings in close quarters likely will be one of the final steps in our eventual return to normalcy.
So, what happens to the money we have invested in events that are most likely to be either postponed to a later date or cancelled altogether?
“There are people sitting with hundreds — if not, in some cases, thousands — of dollars laid out there for an event. And now there is a procedure where Ticketmaster has bent to the will of Congress and some very angry people to make refunds available,” money expert Clark Howard says.
In recent days, event ticket providers like Live Nation, Ticketmaster and AEG Presents started to roll out plans for issuing refunds if your event is cancelled. In some cases, they’re also creating incentives to get you to leave your money invested in the possibility of seeing the performance at a later date.
Team Clark has looked into the latest coronavirus policy updates by these ticket providers to help you understand your options.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation
If you bought your concert tickets through Ticketmaster or its sister brand Live Nation, you may have been frustrated with a lack of movement on refunds for concerts that have been cancelled.
Things have been progressing so slowly that U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell and Katie Porter had to issue a letter to the company imploring them to honor a refund policy that had seemingly been altered to slow the refund process by requiring the event to be officially cancelled before money could be returned to customers.
On April 17, Ticketmaster president Jared Smith responded with a letter to customers assuring them that refunds are on the way and explaining the delay. He said that Ticketmaster plans to refund the tickets that qualify:
“To be clear, Ticketmaster intends to refund as many tickets as possible in as timely a fashion as is feasible. We are working every day towards that goal.”
You can check the official status of your Ticketmaster ticketed event here.
How Do I Qualify For a Refund Once an Event Is Cancelled?
Once a Ticketmaster event is cancelled, you are supposed to be in line for an automatic refund within 30 days, per the cancellation guidelines. This should require no action on your part.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation have indicated that ticket refunds (minus UPS shipping fees) will be issued on the credit card that was used to make the purchase. You must be the original ticket purchaser to receive the refund.
According to a report from Variety, Live Nation is going to be rolling out a program called “Rock When You’re Ready” on May 1, 2020. One of the options that reportedly could be available is a “Concert Cash” credit to your Live Nation account worth 150% of your purchase price in lieu of taking the cash refund on a cancelled event. These credits would be eligible for use for future concert ticket purchases with Live Nation.
While that may be a tempting perk to keeping your money with them, Team Clark recommends that you claim your cash refund during these uncertain financial times.
What if the Concert Was Postponed Instead of Cancelled?
The process for getting a refund on a postponed event is a little trickier.
According to that Variety report on Live Nation’s “Rock When You’re Ready” program, there reportedly will be a 30-day window for requesting a refund on tickets for a show that is postponed to a later date rather than cancelled completely. Ticket purchasers are supposed to be notified when the postponement happens, and you’ll be required to take action to get your money.
“You’ve got to pay close attention. Because if an event is rescheduled and you don’t notice, your lack of action within the 30 days means you’re not eligible for a refund,” Clark cautioned.
You also reportedly will be given the option to donate your rescheduled tickets to health care workers through a program called “Hero Nation.”
Why Is This Taking So Long?
As Smith explained in his letter to customers, Ticketmaster is a platform that connects ticket sellers and ticket buyers. So the money that is collected on behalf of the event organizers is delivered from Ticketmaster to the concert organizers on a weekly basis.
That means the money you paid, minus the fees collected by Ticketmaster, is likely in the hands of an event organizer.
And with more than 55,000 events in the Ticketmaster database scheduled to take place between March 1 and December 31, it’s easy to see how reallocating that money as cancellations happen could be a tricky process.
Smith’s letter said that more than $2 billion had been distributed to event organizers for more than 30,000 shows that have since been cancelled, so they are unable to refund that money until they have recollected it from the event organizers.
AEG Presents, which is one of the Live Nation brands’ top competitors, has issued a clear statement on how it plans to process refunds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know on their coronavirus cancellation and postponement policies:
- If a concert event is cancelled, AEG indicates that no action is required to receive a refund. It will happen automatically.
- Refund requests for postponed concerts will be honored after a new date is scheduled.
- When an event is postponed and a new date is set, you will have 30 days to request a refund.
- If you do not request a refund within those 30 days, you will not be eligible for one.
- On May 1, AEG will send an email offering refunds on concerts that already have a rescheduled date. You’ll get 30 days from the time that email is sent to request a refund.
- If you purchase a ticket for an event AFTER it is rescheduled, you will not be eligible to submit a refund request.
You can find an up-to-date list of rescheduled AEG events here.
What if I Bought My Tickets on an Aftermarket Service Like StubHub?
If you purchased tickets through StubHub or another aftermarket service, that means that you did not actually purchase from the original ticket issuer. Instead, you likely bought a ticket from another consumer who already made a direct purchase for the concert. Thus, you will not have access to the same rights as the original ticket purchaser when it comes to a refund from the original ticket issuer.
Instead, you likely are at the mercy of the refund policy of the aftermarket seller.
StubHub, for instance, is not issuing refunds if an event is cancelled. It is automatically crediting accounts with a coupon worth 120% of the original ticket order instead. The credit is eligible for any purchase on the site, but must be used by December 31, 2021.
If your event is postponed, StubHub is not doing anything of monetary value. It’s simply updating the details on your ticketing for the event. StubHub says: “You can resell your tickets on StubHub if you can’t go or don’t want to.”
That probably seems callous, but since it’s an aftermarket broker it doesn’t have the ability to issue a refund on an event that is happening unless it eats all of the cost.
You can read the fine print on all the ticketing scenarios for StubHub here.
Clark has a mantra for dealing with the customer service arms of large companies that definitely applies in this situation: “Polite persistence pays.”
Make yourself familiar with the refund policy of the company from which you purchased your tickets, then stay persistent with your request to receive a refund as warranted.
Like many businesses who are suffering through this economic downturn, these companies are likely trying to hold on to cash as long as possible. While they may have policies to return your money — and for many it is supposed to happen automatically — it’s ultimately up to you to make sure that happens in a timely and proper manner.
Bottom Line: Given the uncertain future of live events in the midst of this pandemic, Team Clark suggests that you opt for cash refunds over company-issued “store credits” whenever possible. With the risk of companies going out of business during an economic recession, your money is always safer in your hands. You can always re-purchase a ticket to your favorite act’s concert at a later date.
Do you have experience successfully getting a coronavirus-related refund on your concert tickets? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
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