AXS gets $5 million, 5-year contract from Denver government for ticket sales at city-owned venues

Some Council members balked because of a congressional probe into the company, but they ultimately voted it in.

Sylvan Esso plays Red Rocks, July 18, 2018. (Courtesy Kevin J. Beaty)

Sylvan Esso plays Red Rocks, July 18, 2018. (Courtesy Kevin J. Beaty)

staff photos

The city government isn’t worried about a federal probe into ticketing company AXS, which was awarded a five-year, $5 million contract with taxpayer-owned venues Monday.

Denver City Council members unanimously voted to enter into the agreement, which makes AXS the booking agent for Red Rocks Amphitheater, Bellco Theatre, the Colorado Convention Center, Denver Coliseum, McNichols Building, the Buell Theatre and Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Denver and AXS have been partners for five years already.

Several ticketing companies including AXS, which is owned by Philip Anschutz, are the subject of a congressional probe aimed at vetting “potentially unfair and deceptive practices,” according to a press release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The investigation is not a criminal one, but more of a fact-finding mission, according to Brian Kitts with Denver Arts and Venues. He said it’s part of an effort to reintroduce the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales Act, or the BOSS Act. (Yes, it is named for Bruce Springsteen.)

Kitts and others downplayed a recent Denver Post report on the contract, which Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer called “clickbaity.”

“It’s not something that we’re afraid of, that AXS is afraid of,” Kitts said. “I want to be clear that what congressional committee is doing is not looking into criminal activity. It’s asking for information.”

Those fees you pay when buying tickets online have something to do with the agreement, but not much, according to city documents. AXS gets $3 per ticket sale, according to the contract. Denver gets $2. A small percentage goes to the cost of processing credit cards, but the rest — about two-thirds — is an add-on from the concert promoter.

In the end, elected officials thought the contract offers value to Denverites, in part by lining city coffers. AXS has collected and transferred more than $35 million in Denver’s “seat tax” directly to the city’s treasury, according to city documents. The alternative would include relying on individual promoters to self-report tax remittance.

City officials also say ticket buyers’ data is valuable for analyzing the success of their venues, and AXS provides audience demographics to the government.

AXS is the second-largest company of its kind in the United States behind Ticketmaster.

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