Brown Paper Tickets still owes millions despite a settlement with the Washington State AG. Here’s the latest.
In September 2020, the Washington state attorney general sued the Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets, saying the company owed $6.75 million to event producers and ticket buyers across the globe. In March of last year, the Attorney General’s Office increased that figure to $9 million owed to 45,000 event producers and ticket buyers after it received an additional 1,200 complaints about the company. Brown Paper Tickets has paid approximately $7 million of the initial $9 million it owes, covering all its customers in Washington, which the attorney general required the company to prioritize.
“BPT has until December 30 to substantially complete refunds to other customers,” says Brionna Aho, a spokesperson for the attorney general. She advised unpaid producers whose events took place after November 2020 to file new complaints, as the attorney general’s order only covered events through November 1, 2020. Aho adds that her office has received 285 complaints in addition to those that prompted the initial lawsuit.
“Brown Paper Tickets will continue making daily payments to event organizers and will continue to do so until everyone is paid in full,” says Brown Paper Tickets’ general counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Michael Sennott. “The Brown Paper Tickets team looks forward to accelerating the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and getting back to focusing on supporting event organizers with their events.”
Brown Paper Tickets asked producers still awaiting payment to stop sending multiple emails requesting payment, citing that the deluge of requests would slow the process. But producers who have complied have said they now regret it since others have been paid in full while they have not.
“They were just supposed to be holding onto this money that they were going to take a little cut of and send us what was ours,” says Nicole Jost, theater company Queer Cat Productions’ co-artistic director. Jost had received a check from Brown Paper Tickets but was told not to deposit the check. Jost then had to pay a bounced-check fee in addition to not receiving her payment.
“My biggest frustration this whole time has been all their excuses about a pandemic,” Jost continues. “They passed the burden along to all these small arts organizations and individual artists, and that’s disgusting.”
Brown Paper Tickets does not disclose prominently that it might not pay event producers promptly or that it’s struggled with legal trouble — leading to some producers and artists using the service unawares. Many have questioned Brown Paper Tickets’ business model since the company supposedly only takes a fee on top of the price of a ticket. It’s unclear why it hasn’t been able to pass along to the producers of an event what consumers have paid for it.