The Fans First Coalition, formed in May 2011, appears to be a consumer group formed to oppose scalpers who buy event tickets and then re-sell them to the public at prices greater than face value. What is less apparent is that the Fans First Coalition is and astroturf group created with the help of a Washington, D.C. public relations firm and funded by Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of online ticket seller Ticketmaster. The Fans First Coalition sprang out of a fight between Live Nation and a website called StubHub (a division of EBay) where people can buy and sell event tickets. To defeat ticket re-sellers, Ticketmaster started using a paperless ticketing system in which tickets are issued electronically. Ticket purchasers must present identification to collect their tickets when they arrive at the event venue. To battle Ticketmaster's new paperless ticketing system, StubHub created its own fake grassroots group, the similar-sounding Fan Freedom Project, which, like the Fans First Coalition, was created with the help of a Washington, D.C. public relations firm. The Fan Freedom Project argues that Ticketmaster's restrictive electronic ticketing system infringes on consumers' rights to possess, transfer or resell tickets as they desire. Such fake, grassroots front groups are unusual in the entertainment business, but all too familiar to those involved in politics. Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which monitors lobbying activity, says "This is a classic -- where you find many so-called grassroots organizations financed by interested industries" to do battle with one another. Miller says, "The campaigns present themselves as ground-up activities, but they are really nothing more than fronts for particular interests."
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