Wellington promoter threatens to cancel major act in the capital

Concert promoter Phil Sprey.

Concert promoter Phil Sprey.

A Wellington promoter claims the capital will lose out on a $2.5 million international act following the announcement that Ticketmaster will control all ticket sales at major venues in Wellington.

Capital C chief executive Phil Sprey has suspended plans for the capital to host the major act and said he will cancel it if the dire situation doesn't change.

He could not confirm who the act was, but in the past he has brought in major acts including Elton John, Kiss and Bon Jovi.

St James Theatre, Wellington: one of the affected venues.

St James Theatre, Wellington: one of the affected venues.

The problem boils down to a six-year contract agreed by Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) and Ticketmaster and will take effect from June 1.

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WREDA manages Venues Wellington, including TSB Bank Arena & Auditorium (Shed 6), the Michael Fowler Centre, the St James Theatre and the Opera House. 

Ozzy Osbourne, left, with Wellington concert promoter Phil Sprey.

Ozzy Osbourne, left, with Wellington concert promoter Phil Sprey.

However, Ticketmaster comes under major United States promotional company Live Air Entertainment.

They also have full tickets sales rights over Auckland's Spark Arena and Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

"It's anti-competitiveness: The Commerce Commission should actually be stopping this," Sprey said.

Ticketmaster signed a contract with WREDA to sell tickets for Venues Wellington venues.

Ticketmaster signed a contract with WREDA to sell tickets for Venues Wellington venues.

"And we are not the only ones - there are other concert promoters that are now pulling their concerts out of Wellington because of it. 

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"It's having the absolute reverse effect that WREDA said what it would have - I'm now taking my business elsewhere."

The former contract was held by Ticketek, however Wellington promoters are calling for more control over ticket sales and general production.

"Sure there are issues with both major agencies in the fact the venue tells you who you have to use, so that's an inherited problem," Sprey said.

"But Ticketmaster has a particular extra problem and that is that they are a global promoter.  

"If I'm a promoter why would I give all the information on who I'm going to bring, when I'm going to bring and the venues I want bring to, to the company that could be behind my back bidding against me."

He said plugging the act could mean a $12 million loss to Wellington. A WREDA spokesperson said Sprey had no bookings with the venues.

Social Cooking director Graham Bloxham said he too has strayed from holding major events in Wellington because of a lack of control over ticket sales and catering.

Social Cooking holds interactive cooking events for cooperate groups and classes.

He said strict rules surrounding catering at venues meant Social Cooking has moved its annual 10 Wellington based events, at a cost of about $50,000 each, and was now doing them in Auckland.

"It's an anti-competitive playing field for promoters to use their (Wellington) venues," Bloxham said.

Promoters wanting to supply catering at a venue must contract a Venues Wellington's preferred or a Venues Wellington-approved caterer.

WREDA venues, marketing and destination development general manager Dave Perks said the agency takes "a flexible approach to working with hirers here, with many touring acts bringing their own chefs, or engaging a single backstage caterer for their whole New Zealand tour".

But Bloxham claimed he was paying three times the amount in Wellington per head than he was in Auckland.

"We will struggle to do events in Wellington under that quasi monopoly," Bloxham said.

"Who misses out? Wellington, because they (WREDA) forced this ridiculous behaviour."

Instead, Social Cooking holds a gig at The Boat Shed on the Waterfront, and while the venue was much smaller, he said the working relationship was easier.

Live Nation would not comment.

 - Stuff

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