Getting a refund has proven difficult in many cases.
That’s because most major ticket sellers’ policies differentiate between events that have been canceled and those that have been postponed.
Canceled? Sure, you can get your cash back, often automatically. New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi, for instance, canceled their entire 2020 tour Monday, in an effort to help ticketholders “pay their bills or buy groceries,” the band said in a statement.
But postponed, even if a new date hasn’t been set? The answer tends to be no. That has left fans fuming as the pandemic forces A-listers like the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Cher and Jason Aldean to cancel or postpone their shows.
Jeni Garcia is one of the lucky ones. She had tickets to a Keane show on March 15 in Austin, Texas, that were automatically refunded when the show was canceled. Her tickets to a Glass Animals show in San Antonio, though, haven’t been refunded because the concert is classified as postponed.
“I’m really not sure when I will feel comfortable attending a show again,” she says. “It will depend on the availability of a treatment and vaccine for COVID-19, as well as the trajectory of cases.”
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Ticketmaster, in particular, has been taking heat, with some online posters claiming the company altered its policies because of the coronavirus. (In a statement to USA TODAY, Ticketmaster said that although it recently clarified the language in the policy, the basics remain the same.)
In response to the criticism, Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, announced an initiative Friday that will give ticketholders 30 days to request a refund once their postponed show sets a new date. If they don’t want a refund, their tickets will still be good for the rescheduled show.
The new policy, which begins May 1, also gives fans the option to receive credit they can use for future tickets, or to donate tickets to health care workers.
Live Nation’s rival AEG Presents announced a similar 30-day refund program last week, also starting May 1.
In most cases, there’s no set limit on how long organizers have to decide whether they’re going to cancel or reschedule a concert. If a person can’t attend a rescheduled show, Ticketmaster’s website suggests selling the tickets via a resale site.
Eventbrite, another major ticket seller, suggests contacting event organizers directly for details on potential refunds for postponed shows and events. Organizers are expected to reply to inquiries within a week, according to Eventbrite’s site.
But fans are finding it difficult to sell their expensive concert tickets when new dates and other details are scarce.
Andrew Doebler is one of those stuck with tickets to a rescheduled event he can’t attend. He says he spent $1,300 for two tickets and a tent at Bonnaroo.
Bonnaroo, on its website, says refunds are available “in the event of a full cancellation,” but the Tennessee music and arts festival wasn’t canceled. Instead, it was pushed from June to September.
“I cannot attend Bonnaroo in late September because of prior commitments and would not have purchased the tickets and tent rental,” Doebler says. “I have lost my job in the wake of this craziness of COVID-19 and could really use my money.”
Venues have been scrambling to find new dates for shows they’d booked months or even years in advance, says Colleen Fischer, director of booking for the Austin City Limits Live venue, home of PBS’s “Austin City Limits” and countless other performances.
“The process of moving six or seven months’ worth of concerts and corporate events has been daunting,” she says. “Calendar management is always a puzzle, but this pandemic has taken it to a whole new level.”
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A lot of money is on the line for performers, promoters and venues, which could explain why refunds are hard to get. With concerts expected to be delayed or canceled into the summer, the industry is looking at a minimum projected loss of $10 billion, according to Dave Brooks, Billboard’s senior director of live and touring. If the shutdown extends into 2021, it would be even more catastrophic.
“Like the airline industry, hotels, restaurants and any business where people celebrate in groups, the concert industry has been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus,” he says.
“There’s no income being generated for venues, artists or the hundreds of thousands of men and women who work in the events business, from talent agents and promoters all the way down to food service employees, ushers and security guards. Tens of thousands of people are out of work right now.”
Atticus Lite, who photographs concerts for a living, is one of those affected by the shutdown. The past few weeks have been overwhelming, Lite says.
“Everything is so uncertain at this point and reading articles as time passes is like reading symptoms on the internet when you’re sick,” Lite says. “I’ve read that concerts might not return until fall 2021. I’ve read the 6-foot rule might take us all the way through 2022, even if the world ‘opens back up.’
“I have just a toe in the music industry, and that’s an entire business that I worry about during this pandemic,” he says.
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Nikki Cali, who lives in Modesto, California, is one of many who’ve tried unsuccessfully to get money back for tickets purchased via Ticketmaster. She and a group of friends each have seats for a postponed Justin Bieber show.
“We all talked about whether or not we should get the tickets refunded or wait it out,” she says. “We came to the same agreement: Let’s just get (a refund).”
Their hopes of a refund quickly vanished, though, after several back-and-forths with Ticketmaster representatives, she says.
Tickets to the show cost $250 each, Cali said. That’s cash she could desperately use.
“That money would make all the difference right now,” she says. “Look at the circumstances. We’ve all lost our jobs, unemployment hardly covers our bills, and we have tickets for a show that is indefinitely postponed? It’s madness.”
As a Christmas gift, Scott Radcliffe got tickets from his wife to see the Avett Brothers at the Germania Insurance Amphitheater in Austin. The show, initially set for April 30, has now been pushed to June.
But Radcliffe suspects it may get bumped back again. He and his wife haven’t requested a refund – yet – saying they’re “waiting things out to a degree.”
If the show goes on as planned in June, will he attend?
“Hard to say, really,” he says. “If it would have held to the date in April, I can pretty safely say no, we wouldn’t be comfortable, but things are changing so fast that it’s possible … though I’m not sure we would even then.”
If you paid with a credit card and a refund isn’t being offered by your ticket seller, you could try to have your bank initiate a chargeback, says Billboard’s Brooks. There’s a chance, though, that the company you bought the tickets from could contest.
“Consumers will have to be patient as this complicated web gets untangled,” he says.
Whatever the outcome, don’t settle for less money than you paid, Brooks cautions. If you’re having trouble, he suggests contacting your state’s consumer protection office.
Contributing: Charles Trepany, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Ticket refunds won’t happen for many postponed concerts