Independent Ticketing Company Brown Paper Tickets Accused of Withholding Revenue | Playbill

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On the Rialto Independent Ticketing Company Brown Paper Tickets Accused of Withholding Revenue

The ticketing platform, which was previously sued by the state of Washington, is now being accused of withholding profits from an Off-Broadway theatre company.

Brown Paper Tickets and Soft Brain Theatre Company

The troubled ticketing company Brown Paper Tickets (BPT) is in hot water once again for withholding revenue. 

BPT, a Seattle-based ticket-management company, was once favored by independent producers and venues for their simple-to-use interface and relatively low start-up cost, with notably lower fees when compared to its competition. The company positioned itself as an ethical alternative to Ticketmaster, which itself has come under fire for exorbitant fees and dynamic pricing that frequently drives the ticket price for in-demand events into the stratosphere (so much so that Broadway theatre owners have largely stopped using Ticketmaster). 

Since the COVID-19 shutdown, however, BPT has come under fire for withholding profits from the very venues that utilize the service.

In a suit filed by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in 2020, BPT was sued for millions in withheld revenue. When the case was settled in the Attorney General's favor, to the tune of $9 million dollars, BPT was acquired by the La Jolla, California-based, with hopes that the company would return to its previously trustworthy state.

These hopes have been proven misguided, with new allegations emerging, this time on the East Coast. In New Hampshire, two established music ensembles were not given access to their revenue until legal action was again threatened. A Detroit performer and promoter had her entire season upended by the company's inaction, marking the end of what had previously been a fruitful working relationship.

Now, Soft Brain Theatre Company (SBTC), the Off-Broadway physical commedia troupe responsible for The Raven and Puss in Boots: After Dark, allege that BPT has withheld thousands of dollars in revenue from the previous quarter.

"We are a small, new company and through Brown Paper Tickets, we sold hundreds of tickets. They collected $12,000, and even after their commission, they owe us $9,500 from our ticket sales," said Nicole Tsarouhas and RJ Tabachnick, Co-Founding Artistic Directors of Soft Brain Theatre Company in a joint statement to Playbill. "Brown Paper Tickets’ failure to pay us what we are owed has caused us to operate our green company from a place of debt, though if we had been paid on time, we would have had the unique of opportunity of operating profitably. Without the funds Brown Paper Tickets owes us, we haven't been able to fully compensate our actors/crew/creatives for our last production, and we haven't even been able to reimburse some designers for the cost of materials they purchased on their personal credit cards. It makes moving forward as a young company very difficult and quite uncomfortable—as producers, how can we feel good about hiring new actors and creatives when we still have outstanding payouts to a handful of trusted collaborators? Brown Paper Tickets is literally suffocating our company and squashing our growth by failing to pay us our earned revenue."

SBTC alleges that, in addition to the withheld finances, BTB never informed them of the acquisition, ignoring industry standards that require such information be disclosed within existing partnerships. Since the acquisition, customer service communication lines have been shut down, and support phone lines have been disconnected, while BPT's website remains open for booking.

Repeated requests for comment to Brown Paper Tickets have gone unanswered.

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