Whistler residents may have noticed that ticket prices for arts and cultural events held at Maurice Young Millennium Place (MY Place) have been a bit more reasonable lately. That's because the Whistler Arts Council has decided not to renew their contract with Ticketmaster, instead ticketing local events in-house.
Doti Niedermayer is the executive director of Whistler Arts Council, which took over the management of MY Place in June. She explained that during the Olympics, when MY Place served as Whistler Media House, Ticketmaster wasn't allowed to have a presence in the building. After the Games, WAC and MY Place decided not to renew their contract with Ticketmaster because it was labour intensive and actually costing them money to sell tickets to outside events.
"It was very, very time consuming to be a Ticketmaster outlet, and that was not covered by Ticketmaster," Niedermayer explained. "So, for example, if the staff here were selling tickets to AC/DC or Pearl Jam, the time it took to sell that ticket, or those 30 tickets or 150 tickets, was never covered by Ticketmaster."
MY Place originally offered Ticketmaster sales as a community amenity, and to draw people into the venue and introduce them to the facility.
"I mean, it's a great service for the community, but we weren't benefiting. We were kind of subsidizing that, and we're not in a position to do that.
Since the Olympics, MY Place has been selling their own tickets, instituting a smaller surcharge, usually between $1 and $2, which goes into a Theatre Improvement Fund used to maintain and improve the theatre's sound equipment, stage deck, curtains and lighting system. Events that cost up to $10 will see a $1 fee tacked on; events between $10 and $15 will be charged $1.50; $15 to $20 tickets are charged $2; and so on.
According to Niedermayer, WAC isn't alone in abandoning Ticketmaster. Other community arts organizations have opted to go the self-ticketing route because Ticketmaster and other ticketing systems weren't working out for them financially or logistically.
She points out that a theatre improvement fee was built into the Ticketmaster fees but it was higher than the new standalone fee.
Before WAC took over the management of MY Place in June they rented the venue for events like the annual Winter Performance Series. Through these events WAC noticed the fees were quite high.
"And we'd think, 'Okay, we're charging $20 for a ticket and all of a sudden it was like $25 or $26 when you bought the ticket."
Niedermayer points out that other venues have similar fees, as well, and most are quite a bit higher than MY Place's rates. So far, no one has complained or questioned the fees. And she points out that the money is invested back into the venue.
"For a lot of renters, they get it, because then they get the use of that professional equipment. They use that equipment!"
WAC is also looking into replacing its ticketing system and coordinating with other arts organizations to offer tickets to select events in the Lower Mainland in exchange for them selling tickets to WAC events.
"I think we have better things to do than work for Ticketmaster," Niedermayer said.
While local events will be slightly more affordable, the change also means that residents are going to have to look elsewhere for tickets to events outside of the community, as MY Place was the only Ticketmaster outlet in the Sea to Sky corridor.