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Ticketmaster adds actual prices, return policy

Ticketmaster (owned by Live Nation) is making some big changes in an attempt to overcome a tough concert season.

This summer's concert season has been brutal for the music industry, with cancellations and discounting galore. Blame the economy, blame the lack of marketable big-name artists on tour, but whatever the reason, concert ticketing giant Ticketmaster (which is owned by concert promoter and venue owner Live Nation) is responding.

Ticketmaster interactive seat map
This interactive seat map shows me that the best available tickets for the October 12 Jack Johnson show in Irvine are in Loge section 5, and shows me exactly where that is...before I buy them. Ticketmaster

In the inaugural post of Ticketology, the new Ticketmaster blog, the company has announced the end of a longstanding annoyance: service charges that get tacked on to the ticket price late in the buying process. Now, when you select a ticket on Ticketmaster's Web site, service fees are included in the up-front price. So, for instance, if I want to buy a ticket to the Arcade Fire's September 29 show in Seattle, I can see immediately that the actual price is $50.71--that's $38.00 for the ticket and $12.71 in various fees. Shipping and other fulfillment charges still can't be included until you complete your transaction, and some venues aren't participating yet.

The other changes include interactive seat maps for some venues, so you can home in on available tickets in precise areas (check out this sample), and a three-day return policy at Live Nation venues (up to one week before showtime) in case you change your mind.

The blog post also hinted that the company is going to be experimenting with pricing in hopes of reducing both scalping (which happens when good tickets are too cheap) and unsold inventory. I wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of flexible pricing scheme like the airlines have used since time immemorial.

Music fans love to beat up on Ticketmaster--I certainly have--but these are steps in the right direction, and I hope to see more of this kind of innovation.