Ticketmaster Furloughs Hundreds of Staffers After Issuing Millions In Refunds

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Ticketmaster has furloughed hundreds of staffers as part of a broader plan to cut $500 million in expenses amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The impacted employees represent approximately one-quarter of Ticketmaster’s team, according to preliminary reports. At the time of this writing, neither Ticketmaster nor parent Live Nation had publicly addressed the massive expense-reduction measure, but additional money-saving initiatives are expected to be announced in the near future.

Two weeks back, Digital Music News was first to report on the imminent cuts, which Live Nation highlighted in an SEC filing. Importantly, the layoffs closely follow Ticketmaster’s decision to issue tens of millions worth of refunds follow intense public pressure, though it’s not clear if the refunds are directly linked to the furlough decision. Live Nation had been resisting the move in a desperate effort to conserve costs.

“For context, Live Nation has had more than 8,000 concerts and festivals impacted since March, with 6,500 events postponed and 1,500 events cancelled,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently emailed staff. “And to date, we’ve already refunded $80 million to fans.”

Ticketmaster’s furloughed employees will cease receiving paychecks at the start of next month, though their health insurance benefits will remain in place. It bears mentioning that the ticketing platform intends to bring the affected workers back onboard once normal operations resume. But with states and countries only beginning to take preliminary steps to reopen their economies, it’s unclear when that will be.

Moreover, some health professionals anticipate that live events will require an especially long time to return, relative to other business spheres, because of their inherent person-to-person contact and close-quarters interactions.

Last month, Live Nation placed each of its upcoming shows – including Bonnaroo – on ice in response to the COVID-19 crisis. (Now, Bonnaroo is tentatively scheduled to take place on September 24th.)

Predictably, Live Nation has been forced to weather severe fiscal and operational hurdles, which were amplified by widespread customer dissatisfaction with the refund policies of Ticketmaster. Live Nation and Ticketmaster have addressed these concerns by debuting the Ticket Relief Plan.

Two days back, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia purchased a $500 million stake in Live Nation, via common stock. While it seems likely that the government will hold onto the investment for the foreseeable future, as part of a long-term plan to bolster its entertainment industry and tourism sector, the shares have already become over $50 million more valuable.

That’s because Live Nation’s stock hiked nearly seven percent today, to $46.53 per share. This price is far from the company’s 52-week high of $76.60, but it’s more than twice the low of $21.70 that the shares touched during the domestic onset of the pandemic, and roughly 10 percent more than the $38 or so per share that Saudi Arabia paid.