Chances are, if you're a music fan, at least one concert you've been eagerly anticipating has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. And the keyword there? Postponed.
In the face of the crisis, promoters have almost uniformly opted to postpone events, many of them indefinitely, rather than cancel them outright. Though nobody was lining up to sing the praises of major corporations like Live Nation (owner of the broker Ticketmaster) before this unprecedented event, it has shone a light on the lengths to which concert promoters will go to avoid giving concertgoers refunds.
Miami's own Ultra Music Festival was one of the first major events in the nation to be postponed because of the outbreak. It was also one of the first to take advantage of the difference between "postponed" and "canceled." Ultra effectively canceled its 2020 edition, but rather than refund ticketholders who had shelled out hundreds of dollars to rave in Bayfront Park, organizers "postponed" the event until 2021.
Though the seminal EDM festival assured would-have-been attendees that the previously announced 2020 lineup would carry over to next year, it paid no mind to the vicissitudes that take place in the life of an average festivalgoer over 365 days. Many are students who will (or won't) move to or from colleges, some will take jobs and relocate for work, and others will undoubtedly be forced out of South Florida after falling victim to pandemic-prompted layoffs.
Moreover, people who purchase tickets to a festival in March 2020 plunked down cash for a March 2020 event, not a 2021 one. Pushing off an annual festival for an entire year isn't a postponement, no matter how fervently promoters would like you to believe it is.
Where does that leave disappointed ticket buyers, especially those who need a refund now more than ever in the face of unimaginable financial hardship?
Anecdotal accounts have indicated they can get their money back by working directly with banks and credit card companies. But it has been nearly impossible to pin down the effectiveness of that method. No two cases are created equal, as indicated by this real-world scenario: Two friends of mine filed claims with their respective banks at the same time to request refunds to the same event, the 2020 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Both claimed they wouldn't be able to attend the event, which had been postponed from spring till fall. One received a refund; the other did not. (Last week, the fest was finally canceled, and everyone who had purchased tickets got refunds.)
After weeks of increasingly vitriolic backlash from ticket buyers, the nation's two largest concert promoters, Live Nation and AEG, acquiesced and announced plans to offer refunds. But that seemingly simple move is mired in fine-print details, such as the fact that only shows that have been officially rescheduled — as opposed to postponed indefinitely — will be eligible for refunds.
That said, below are details about refund policies for South Florida's leading music festivals and the major promoters and ticketing services that handle most concerts.
AEG & Live Nation (Ticketmaster)
It's no secret that Ticketmaster is the largest ticket broker in the world, and ticketholders have been quick to chastise the Live Nation subsidiary for its hesitation to offer refunds. Even politicians got in on the action: Two Democratic members of Congress wrote a letter to the company that reads, in part, "With Americans weathering the brutal and continuing impacts of this global crisis, your decision to confiscate their money is reprehensible and should be reversed immediately."
After weeks of silence, both Live Nation and AEG announced a plan to offer refunds for events that have been postponed. Beginning May 1, any events that have been rescheduled with new dates will be eligible for refunds. From that point on, refunds will be available for 30 days beginning from the announcement of the rescheduled date. Visit ticketmaster.com for complete details.
This online ticketing service, widely used by smaller venues, is accepting refund requests — but only for events that meet a particular set of circumstances. Eligible events must have been canceled, with tickets purchased before March 15, and the event must have been scheduled to take place between March 15 and May 15. Because Eventbrite serves as a middleman between the organizers who list tickets on the website and the buyers who purchase them, the service is also offering details about how to reach out directly to event organizers. Visit eventbrite.com for more information.
Because StubHub deals only in the secondary ticket market, obtaining refunds for tickets purchased through the service is even more of a nightmare than with primary sellers. It appears that no matter the status of an event, StubHub users won't get their money back. The website is not offering any resources for those who bought tickets to postponed events, other than to say it will reach out when new event details become available. If an event is canceled, ticketholders will receive a StubHub voucher for 120 percent of the value of the ticket purchased — not an actual refund. Visit stubhub.com for details.
Ultra Music Festival
Ultra was the first U.S. music festival to address the coronavirus crisis, and it did so by controversially "rescheduling" its 2020 iteration to 2021, effectively canceling this year's event. It has offered several exclusive benefits to 2020 ticketholders, but it is not offering refunds.
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Rolling Loud, pursuing a tack similar to Ultra's, postponed its 2020 festival till February 2021 while keeping the same lineup. The big difference: It's offering refunds. In a statement announcing the new dates, the organizers wrote, "If you need a refund, don't worry, we got you." Ticketholders should have received an April 8 email from the festival containing instructions on how to obtain a refund.
The Wynwood festival's organizers were working furiously behind the scenes to reschedule this year's event and maintain as much of the lineup as possible — an impressive feat amid the turmoil that has overtaken the live-music industry. Unfortunately, the window for festivalgoers to request a refund has closed. All previously purchased tickets are valid for the new, October dates.