Policies and Legislation

Representative Audiences?

This article was commissioned by the Arts Marketing Association and published by UK Theatre in November 2014 on the provocations from politicians and the desire for “representative audiences” and culture for all

This June 2014, in a surprising co-incidence, both the new UK Culture Secretary and his Labour Shadow made speeches within days of each other about “cultural exclusion”.

“A lot of people who are paying to support culture through their taxes and lottery tickets seem to think that consuming it is simply not for them. That the work they subsidise is for other, richer people.” That’s Sajid Javid, the UK’s Culture Secretary in his first speech on Friday 6 June, at St George’s in Bristol. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/culture-for-all

“It is every child’s right to open up and explore their artistic and creative potential which should be a journey which goes on for the rest of their life…How, then, can we accept a situation where some get that opportunity and others do not? How can we tolerate cultural exclusion?” That’s Harriet Harman, the Labour Shadow Culture Secretary the following Monday, at the Roundhouse in London. http://press.labour.org.uk/post/88265413304/speech-on-young-people-and-the-arts-by-harriet-harman

Both of them laced their speeches with personal experience. Like Sajid Javid, Harriet Harman made the point about who the arts was actually reaching: “when I went to the Opera House last week – even from the cheapest seats in the house – I couldn’t see in the audience anyone who wasn’t like myself – white, metropolitan and middle class. For institutions which get public funds, it can’t be like that. To change audiences, there has to be committed, focused intervention.”

Sajid Javid: “Never forget that every penny of taxpayer support and lottery cash that goes to culture has been provided by hard-working people from every community in the UK. Communities like the one I grew up in. My family lived on a road that has been described as “Britain’s most dangerous street”. And for a bus driver’s son in that world, the idea of popping along to the Donmar Warehouse – or even the Bristol Old Vic – to take in a cutting-edge new production was simply not on the agenda. It wasn’t what people like me, people from my background did.

Harriet Harman went on to say “we must have state support through public funds for the arts. It cannot be left to the private market or philanthropy. But there is a democratic imperative for the arts to show why the hard-pressed tax payer – struggling with the cost of living crisis – should fund the arts.” Sajid David pointed out “I want you to make what you do accessible to everyone. That doesn’t mean striving for popularity and aiming for the lowest common denominator. It means ensuring that everyone in the UK has the opportunity to engage with our artists and actors, our history and heritage. It means giving everyone a chance to develop their own cultural tastes.”

Arts Council guidance

 This ought to be the outcome of policy combined with the knowledge and experience of the sector. Current Arts Council England guidance to National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) is that they “will demonstrate how they are sharing their work with as large and wide an audience as possible, including those who are currently least-engaged with arts and culture.” Every NPO must have an audience development plan and priorities could be that:

  • “current audiences are not as representative of the local population as you would expect”

It does seem reasonable for every publicly funded arts organisation to make itself welcoming to the whole community around it, and to seek to engage with as many people as possible in appropriate ways, so that most sectors of society are “represented” in their audiences.

I often ask staff in arts organisations: When you are thinking about your customers, the potential attenders, what’s your perspective? Are you standing inside your venue looking out at them? Or are you standing out there with them, where they live, understanding their circumstances, and looking at your organisation from their perspective?

Not for the likes of you

Standing with them, what do they see in terms of the communications and messages coming at you through all the different media, all the different channels, the print and the advertising? If you were them, how genuinely friendly and welcoming is your organisation; how do your marketing messages and their means of communication relate to their circumstances and lifestyles? In arts marketing this is defined as “positioning”, often complicated by the apparent “ownership” of the arts in the UK by people of particular ages and socio-economic groups, with similar higher education levels.

This is also the ‘Not for the likes of you’ argument, based on extensive action research on 32 different cultural organisations in the UK. Though dating from 2004, it is even more relevant today than then. Their focus was on how a cultural organisation can become accessible to a broad general audience by changing its overall positioning and message, rather than just by implementing targeted audience development schemes or projects (though those of course are entirely necessary). http://culturehive.co.uk/resources/not-for-the-likes-of-you-how-to-reach-a-broader-audience There are many resources in the AMA’s CultureHive to help.

People working in the arts have long recognised that there are not just geographical barriers to attendance, but physical, social and psychological barriers, and the Arts Marketing Association conferences and workshops have regularly addressed the issues. Previous UK Government and Arts Council England policy had been criticized for trying to correct the imbalances in society, described by some as “social engineering”, but, though the emphasis may have shifted subtly, even today NPO guidance defines diversity as encompassing “responding to issues around race, ethnicity, faith, disability, age, gender, sexuality, class and economic disadvantage and any social and institutional barriers that prevent people from creating, participating or enjoying the arts”. ‘Representative audiences’ need to reflect all the communities they come from.

You will still hear criticism that being “more accessible” equates to “dumbing down” and is more “worthy” than realistic, but the practical “experience is that, far from suffering as a consequence of taking access seriously, your product gains new life, vibrancy and meaning. It connects with people in a new way, and so moves them as it was not able to do before” report the Not For The Likes of You researchers. It is do-able.

 Many Voices

 Francois Matarasso in ‘Many Voices’ points out that arts organisations “need to build trust in their good faith as convenors of a cultural discourse that is fair, inclusive and open. There is no reason to expect those who feel marginalised by existing public cultural policy to accept the legitimacy of public actors”. He was speaking in 2006, but this is a particularly interesting question in the changing make-up of UK society today. Though ethnic “minorities” remain such in many parts of Britain, the not-white populations of some of our major cities such as London, Birmingham and Leicester are reaching proportions that could question that “legitimacy”. What should city centre audiences look like in the cultural institutions in those cities? How should cultural institutions reflect the plurality of their surrounding societies? Some arts organisations – the Royal Shakespeare Company is a good example – work hard to ensure that their staff and actors are representative of contemporary society, but the continuing challenge is to achieve representative audiences. http://culturehive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/24446185-Many-Voices-by-Francois-Matarasso-2006_0.pdf

 Genuine targeting

 It remains the case that, despite the tools for segmentation and customer relationship management, many arts organisations messages are not ‘broadcast’ but ‘narrowcast’:– a single ‘message’, one tone of voice, one vocabulary, often using “insider” jargon and imagery. So while the tools for reaching different ‘target’ communities with appropriate ‘tailored’ messages for them are available, they are just not used as they could be. However, understanding the diversity of the opportunity needs dialogue and understanding, getting closer to people and listening, to find what is relevant to them. Experian reports that “52% of consumers would walk away from a company that tried to sell them something they weren’t interested in”. But where does the lack of interest come from? We can say the problems of arts education in the UK in recent years are not helping, but ‘Not for the likes of you’ action research demonstrated that real change was possible from arts organisations own holistic efforts.

Resources: http://culturehive.co.uk/tags/diversity



But I don’t have an Address Line 2!

It’s one of my number one annoyances when booking anything, not just tickets.

You’ve found what you want at a price you will pay, it is in the basket and you then start to set up the shipping.

That’s when my goat gets got.

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To fee or not to (display) fee – that is the question.

I cannot be the only one who looked with a mixed viewpoint on the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) guidance following on the UK Advertising Standards Authority rulings on fees.

At the time, working for a system supplier, I thought “Gee, we need to get on this straight away” – followed by some eager venues calling the help desk with demands to know what we were going to do to help them comply, not an entirely easy job.

From someone who when he speaks at conferences highlights the fact he dislikes add-on ticket fees, you may think I should have been celebrating.  However, as much as I dislike fees, it is the unclear information around fees, either when they are to be charged, how much they are, or to what transactions they will be applied, that annoys the public, me included.

as much as I dislike fees, it is the unclear information around fees, either when they are to be charged, how much they are, or to what transactions they will be applied, that annoys the public, me included.

So here are some ‘to fee or not to fee’ scenarios and their, in my view, compliance.

The corner shop / pub. 

Sign on the cash register, telling you that all credit and debit card transactions under £10 will be subject to a 50p surcharge to cover bank fees they incur. To avoid such a fee, I often add a chocolate bar to my goods to push me over the £10!  On a low value transaction such as this, there is a low profit margin, one going to be significantly reduced by the bank commission charges, so the principle seems fair.  As venues you may have a 19p charge per card from your bank but the corner shop will most likely have a higher rate and may pay more for the provision of the terminal, so it is a fair figure there too.


This is clear, fair and most important PRE-CONTRACT

This is clear, fair and most important PRE-CONTRACT


The rate of 2% is often quoted as the commission on credit cards, so that would be 20p for a £9.99 transaction, but again many merchant deals are based on x pence plus y%, so probably we are still fair.

Finally, that low tech. piece of paper on the cash register clearly spells out before your goods are added up the charges you may incur paying by card, making it:

  1. SIMPLE for people to understand why they are used / how to avoid the charge
  2. CLEAR to all people looking to transact
  3. PRE-CONTRACT so available before we start the transaction, not revealed at the end.

The Airlines

In many of the talks and seminars I have been to in the past six months on this subject, budget airlines seem to be blamed for “causing this” – **** air or ****jet, advertising a return ticket to Malaga for 25 pence only to reveal as we approach checkout that the price is subject to air tax, landing fees, passenger fuel duty surcharge, all of which you CANNOT AVOID, and then added cost options to have priority boarding, adding luggage etc, and even  paying by DEBIT CARD saw us pay £6 per person per leg!  So even though the airline was being charged 19p for our £400+ debit card transaction, they saw fit to impose £24 in fees, or in other words they saw a chance to make profit. Now in the main, EU regulations have forced the airline industry to clean its act up, so much so that I can be really annoyed when I find a bargain flight to the US, only to find out no taxes or fees are displayed.  But in Europe at least they HAVE put their affairs.   Presumably this is where we want our industry to get to?

Two examples I like are below.  EasyJet on their pricing grid show the complete price, and over on the right they highlight the price difference if you pay with a Credit card, again what we want to see. British Airways are again very clear on the total price, telling us at the final stages that it is made up of their fare, plus charges imposed on them, giving us a further chance to see how that figure is made up, always useful to know that standing in line at immigration in the US costs you £4.20!

LHR - JFK Fees

LHR – JFK Fees Explanation on BA.com

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 07.32.54

EasyJet Spells out CC Price Clearly

I did go looking but could not find any airlines (in the UK) that seemed to either breach regulations or mislead customers in the spirit of “what you see is what you pay”, but then I switched my attention to . . . .

The Entertainment Ticketing Industry

There does seem to be a massive amount of either confusion, apathy or just unwillingness to adopt the same practices as the Dog & Duck or Easyjet when I speak to venues, so I decided to see how bad it really was.

hang on – ALL tickets were subject to a £2 fee – so the tickets weren’t £18.50 were they?

I went on a hunt for non compliant sites.  The first one I found was more of a technicality, as it quoted prices in its Internet ticketing engine and then a pop up box stated a £4 extra premium charge at some times.  Well that should all be in the from and to quoted price, with the most expensive tickets on the premium shows being the “top price”.  But hang on – ALL tickets were subject to a £2 fee – so the tickets weren’t £18.50 were they?  They were actually £20.50. Fair enough there was an explanation of this if I went on clicking, but the airlines don’t  need a separate pop-up box, so why does the blank blank blank?

Technically not compliant but a step in the right direction?

Technically not compliant but a step in the right direction?

I hit a fair few more, the Dominion with their presentation of Evita had a very CLEARLY laid out banner talking of seat levies and postage charges before I had even had chance to pick my seat, again, CLEAR, SIMPLE, PRE-CONTRACT.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of venues with no transaction or booking fees at all. Yes, many were own productions and self-promoted, but good to see.  Who knows? Perhaps the cost of the box office is now rolled into the promoter deal for some of the shows I looked at?  That in itself is a massive step forward.

So it is not that bad now is it, Andrew?

So I didn’t find countless examples of venues not showing or even discussing prices until the basket. So if the only thing we do have to worry about is the application and being technically incorrect in how we display prices and fees, then we may be finally “getting the message” that the public want transparency, not to mention the regulators.  I fear there are hundreds of other venues who are not doing it though, whether from choice, ignorance or because their system perhaps does not easily support it.

The question is therefore not’ to fee or not to (display) fee’,  but who is going to take the non-complying venues to task and when?

we may be finally “getting the message” that people want transparency





The Past, Present and Future

As part of the Ticketing Institute Pop-up in Bristol ahead of the AMA conference, I was asked to deliver a look back, an assessment of where we are and projection of where we are headed in ticketing the Arts.

A large number of the audience have asked for a slide set, so here they are.

It is important to remember, that this is a technological as well as human journey or progression and ultimately the successful advancement of our ticketing and marketing effort will be driven by both of these, but more important by the processes and mentality we adopt as an organisation.

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Friday 13th bad day for ticket sales practices?

They have been coming for some time, but Friday 13th June 2014 saw arriving into UK law the European Union Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013. Europe-wide these fundamentally ban hidden fees and charges – no more drip pricing – and pre-ticked check-boxes on websites. Perhaps the more surprising one for some ticket offices will be the ban on premium rate numbers and lines which pay part of the call cost back to the seller – consumers must now be able to call directly on local rate phone lines where they only pay the basic rate.

It may seem sad that many of these practices are part of the desperation on the part of venues to increase retained income as on-line sales have soared, and there have been a steady series of consumer protection measures to deal with the multiple ways customers are charged or additionally opted-in without their obvious consent.

The UK Government hurriedly introduced regulations banning specifically named card charges for paying by debit and credit card in April 2013, if these charges were for more than the actual cost of processing. Now the legilsative push is for no hidden charges, so customers can see the full price they will pay before they start the purchase process.

Inclusive pricing is starting to be a practice adopted internationally – StubHub and Live Nation have done so in the US – and @WhichCampaigns in the UK are continuing their action against agencies like Ticketmaster and See for charging excessively and having multiple charges including for ‘Print-at-Home’. Ironically, Ticketmaster is in the final stages in a long running Court battle in the US to compensate 50 million customers for order processing and convenience fees which were simply profit centres, despite being referred to as, for example, UPS “delivery charges”.

This also means practices must change for options such as adding ticket insurance to transactions – no more pre-ticked boxes – and Round-Up donations must be an Opt-In. UK venues which had already changed their presentation of web donations at the end of ticketing transactions had in fact seen some increase in consent and the value of donations after providing explanataory information.

Some ticket re-sellers may find themselves caught by the detail: Retailers will be required to provide certain prescribed information to a consumer before the consumer can be bound. Such information will include in particular: (i) the main characteristics of the goods; (ii) the identity of the trader; (iii) the total price of the goods/services (inclusive of taxes); and (iv) all additional delivery charges and any other costs. This seems potentially likely to inhibit some secondary market practices.

It is also less clear how some of the new requirements for extended “cooling off” periods and for refunds will apply to ticket purchases made on-line. But one thing is clear: Consumer Protection regulations are steadily impacting on ticketing, joining action in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority in a drive to inclusive pricing and the removal of excessive charges around ticket purchases.

UK Parliamentary Group recommends action on Ticket Abuse

The UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse has completed its enquiry into ticket touting and the secondary market.  Its’ report published on 25 April 2014 recommends Government action to safeguard ticket purchasers, and proposes new clauses to go into the Consumer Rights Bill coming up in Parliament in May 2014.  Recommendations include:

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No Golden Hello, but great Goodbye

All customers are special, how we recognise and communicate this is dependent on our staff dealing with them.

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Venues cannot rely on Cloud Service Providers PCI DSS compliance

The PCI Security Standards Council has ruled in a new 52 page guidance note (25 February 2013) that venues cannot rely on the fact that their “Cloud Service Provider” (CSP) is compliant in order to be PCI DSS compliant themselves.

Some advisers have been pointing this out for some time, and recommending that venues seek full PCI DSS compliance themselves, but generally venues have accepted the statements of their providers as to their compliance.  Now there is a clear ruling, which extends the venue’s responsibility to check on what the CSP is doing to protect their customer data:

“Use of a PCI DSS compliant CSP does not result in PCI DSS compliance for the clients,” the Council said. “The client must still ensure they are using the service in a compliant manner, and is also ultimately responsible for the security of their [cardholder data] – outsourcing daily management of a subset of PCI DSS requirements does not remove the client’s responsibility to ensure [cardholder data] is properly secured and that PCI DSS controls are met.”
“The client therefore must work with the CSP to ensure that evidence is provided to verify that PCI DSS controls are maintained on an ongoing basis—an Attestation of Compliance (AOC) reflects a single point in time only; compliance requires ongoing monitoring and validation that controls are in place and working effectively. Even where a cloud service is validated for certain PCI DSS requirements, this validation does not automatically transfer to the client environments within that cloud service,” it said.
The PCI Security Standard Council, which comprises major payment card brands including American Express, Visa and MasterCard, said that CSPs should be able to provide their clients with proof that they have been validated as being PCI DSS compliant. This evidence should include “proof of compliance documentation ..; documented evidence of system components and services that were included in the PCI DSS assessment; documented evidence of system components and services that were excluded from the PCI DSS assessment, as applicable to the service; appropriate contract language, if applicable,” it said.
Businesses should also go through a “thorough due-diligence process” to assess CSPs’ security offerings, it said.  “Due diligence is not simply reading the provider’s marketing material or relying on a provider’s claims of ‘PCI compliance’ or secure operations,” the guidance said.  “Clients should be sufficiently assured that they are engaging with a provider that can meet their security and operational needs before undertaking any such engagements.”
The Council said that businesses and their CSPs need to divide responsibilities for payment card security between them. It said that the sharing of those responsibilities will differ depending on whether organisations are using a private, public, community or hybrid cloud model.  The Council said that even if CSPs are responsible for “managing security controls”, the business clients would still be responsible for “ensuring that their cardholder data is properly secured”.
The guidance note linked to above gives details of the 12 compliance conditions and how venues and CSPs should manage their responsibility.
“As a general rule, the more aspects of a client’s operations that the CSP manages, the more responsibility the CSP has for maintaining PCI DSS controls,” it said. “However, outsourcing maintenance of controls is not the same as outsourcing responsibility for the data overall. Cloud customers should not make assumptions about any service, and should clearly spell out in contracts, memorandums of understanding, and/or SLAs (service level agreements) exactly which party is responsible for securing which system components and processes.”
The SLAs should “clearly identify the delineation of responsibilities between parties, including responsibilities for implementing and managing different security controls” and “should be established as a prerequisite to any cloud service implementation”, it added.The Council’s guidance sets out each of the 12 PCI DSS principles and provides a hypothetical example of how responsibility for compliance with each of them could be divided up or shared between a CSP and a business.
The Information Commissioner is also concerned about the security and privacy of customer data stored in the Cloud on shared systems, mainly because of software bugs and glitches which have revealed customer data to the wrong users.  CSPs can certainly meet the required standards, but it is now confirmed that users (venues) must audit and validate that these are being maintained on their behalf.

Advertising ticket prices the right way

What price that ticket?  Are we making sure we are advertising ticket prices to comply with UK law and codes of advertising practice?

The Theatrical Management Association has issued new guidance to its members in the UK on the advertising of ticket prices.  Essentially, ticket prices when advertised must be inclusive of the booking fees and service charges imposed on the purchase.  Advertising, in a common misunderstanding, extends to a venue or producer’s own print and posters, websites, social media and other distributed information and not just paid-for advertising.

The TMA has acted after the Ambassadors Theatre Group chain of theatres, the Old Vic in London and the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre were approached by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) following on many public complaints about imposed booking fees which cannot be avoided.  There is considerable argument about the right way to present this, but Jonathan Brown of S.T.A.R. confirms “If you advertise a ticket price, you have to be able to buy it for that price, somewhere”.

The CAP and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have published guidance and interpretations in relation to ticket prices and purchase Terms and Conditions, which have largely been ignored by many venues, since December 2001!  These codes of practice supplement the law and the new ASA rulings are intended to set a benchmark for all adertising of tickets through all media across the ticketing sector.

In common with many other venues, it is easy to find examples: the Cambridge Arts Theatre advertises the ticket prices for performances, but imposes a booking fee of £2 per ticket on top of the advertised price, which has to be paid through all purchase channels.  The CAP guidance is clear – the ticket prices are in fact £2 higher and must be advertised as such.  Correctly, the current Michael Grandage Season in London’s West End advertises ticket prices inclusive of their booking fees, and only in the shopping cart are the ticket price and booking fee amounts revealed separately.  ASA found that in some cases the actual total purchase price of tickets was 30% above the advertised ticket price, once all fees and charges were included, and this is ruled as unfair advertising.

This is fairly simple: you cannot advertise something using a price to attract attention and then for consumers not to be able to buy it for that price.  Debbie Richards of Baker Richards points out that this will require detailed presentational changes for venues that have chosen ‘per transaction’ fees and charge different fees for different channels, but it will still be possible to comply if the information is given whenever prices are quoted.

Essential links:

CAP code: http://www.cap.org.uk/Advice-Training-on-the-rules/Advice-Online-Database/Ticket-Pricing.aspx

Help Note: http://www.cap.org.uk/Advice-Training-on-the-rules/Help-Notes/Ticket-pricing.aspx

The arts and entertainment industry needs a fair and healthy relationship with its customers, especially in a time of cuts to funding.  Many venues, especially presenting theatres and concert halls, are introducing or increasing booking fees, which in a recession may itself upset some customers.  Advertising the new “prices” in the right way is essential.  There is an irony here: according to the OFT, consumers prefer inclusive prices, so advertising inclusive prices is likely to be viewed by ticket purchasers as a benefit.

In a similar way to the airlines, the various regulations and rulings now require that most charges are included in the advertised price, presented from the start of any advertising or on-line purchase process, and never added only at the shopping cart stage of an on-line purchase.  While explaining the fees and charges up front is good practice, the advertised price has to be comprehensive of fees and charges if that is what the purchaser has to pay.

Of course this might be thought bad news by some ticketing system suppliers.  In the competition in an over-crowded marketplace, it appears that some sales teams’ approaches to venues are using the venue’s current vulnerability to argue for pay-as-you-go charges which “can be easily recovered from customers in the booking fees”.  Venues need to do the arithmetic and recognise that fees cannot be a hidden surprise to the ticket purchaser at the end of a transaction.

Met. Police Report demands legislation on Ticket Crime

When the Metropolitan Police in London demand legislation to combat ticket crime, it is time to take notice.  Operation Podium, set-up to combat ticket fraud for the London 2012 Olympics, is closing down.  Their report – Ticket Crime: Problem Profile February 2013 – published on 19 February 2013 makes for disturbing reading.  It identifies that ticket fraud in the UK alone makes £40 million per annum for the criminals behind the scams.

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