Ticketmaster Trying To Cut Down On Scalpers… Or Increase Fee Collection For Itself?

from the some-good,-some-bad dept

Earlier this year, we had covered the news that Ticketmaster was pushing paperless tickets as a way to cut down on scalping, and now that story seems to be getting much wider coverage. The idea is that if you buy a ticket, you have to be the one to show up, with an ID and the credit card you used, in order to attend. Ticketmaster will allow you to transfer… but it can limit the price of a transfer and charge you a fee for the transfer. That makes it seem like this is a lot more about collecting more fees from the secondary market, than really cutting down on scalping. Not to mention that it seems likely to cause problems. How do you handle buying tickets for someone else as a gift? Under this system, you’d need to buy… and then “transfer” at a fee. And what if you really can’t go, but the ticket has already been transferred once (a limit they set on the system). Finally, does it really make sense to block out basic market mechanisms? I recognize that there’s an issue of scalpers buying up huge blocks of tickets, but there are better mechanisms to deal with that, that don’t involve limiting what legitimate purchasers can do with their tickets.

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Comments on “Ticketmaster Trying To Cut Down On Scalpers… Or Increase Fee Collection For Itself?”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

I recognize that there’s an issue of scalpers buying up huge blocks of tickets…

What issue could there be with buying low and selling high? Is that illegal now?

If the artists and venues set ticket prices which accurately reflected demand, scalpers would and could no longer exist.

And please don’t whine about high ticket prices. There are plenty of things in life we cannot afford. There is no right to cheap prices on the things we want. If you can’t afford something, earn more money or live without it.

Luci says:

Re: Re:

Wow, you are a whiny little bitch, today, aren’t you? Why should I pay you twice the face value of a ticket just because you want to make a buck? Sounds to me like you’re pushing an elitist society, since some of us have zero ‘earned’ income due to issues beyond our control. Basically, you’re saying ‘I’ve got the money, so it sucks to be you.’ You know, like the **AA?

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why should I pay you twice the face value of a ticket just because you want to make a buck?

Um, because you live in a capitalist society?

And the only reason the “face value” of the ticket is so low is because it is artificially low. It is intentionally set below market value. And that’s exactly why scalping exists. They buy low and sell high. If the tickets were set at the high market price, scalpers would be out of business.

Sounds to me like you’re pushing an elitist society…

If having an understanding of basic economic principles is somehow “elitist”, I guess I am. But to me confusing an understanding of such principles with elitism makes you an idiot.

I’ve got the money, so it sucks to be you

I certainly could not afford the true market value of a concert ticket for a major touring act.

azuravian (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I wasn’t going to be as harsh as Luci here, but I do wonder what an artist should do if they don’t want their shows to be “exclusive” events catering only to the top 5% (by income) of their fans. Your solution for ridding the world of scalpers is basically to remove a secondary market by pricing the item at a price that will still sell out, but which only a select group can afford. This limits an artists outreach severely.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your solution for ridding the world of scalpers is basically to remove a secondary market by pricing the item at a price that will still sell out, but which only a select group can afford.

Yep, the exact same is true of cars made by BMW and Lexus, watches made of real gold, and diamond encrusted iPods. When there is a high demand for something exclusive, prices rise and some people are left unable to buy. That’s life. Get used to it.

This limits an artists outreach severely.

If the artist feels so bad about the high cost of his or her ticket prices, he could decrease demand by increasing the supply. I.e., tour more often. Heck, tour all the fricken time. Eventually people would get so sick of seeing him he’d be unable to even give away his tickets for free.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

tour more often

As I wrote, if a major artist really wanted to connect with all of his fans, the rich and the poor alike, I suggested he tour more. That’d certainly work. I did some figuring.

The artist could stick with the top 20 cites in the US and play ten times in each city each year in the largest arena available. That’s only 200 days, leaving him 165 days to tour the rest of the world. Football stadium usually hold about 80,0000 people in concert situations, i.e., when the ground is used.

Playing such an area 10 times would be a whopping 800,000 tickets for each city.

I think it’s pretty easy to guess that even Bruce Springsteen could not sell out 800,000 tickets in an area the size of Detroit, Chicago, LA, etc. Accordingly, plenty of those tickets would go unused. Thus, their market value would be zero. Thus, the very poor would be allowed to attend.

Problem solved.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re: Re:

what an artist should do if they don’t want their shows to be “exclusive” events catering only to the top 5% (by income) of their fans.

Complete hogwash. A ‘true’ or ‘real’ fan will save up money to see their favorite artist live. Do you really think that it is people in business suits buying tickets from scalpers?

Matthew Cruse (profile) says:

UI’ve necver understood what the issue withscalpers is, as far as the ticket provider is concerned. They get paid their fee, say $50 for ticket plus $10 handling fee plus $7 venue fee plus $5 taxes for a total of $72. So that’s what the scalper pays to ticketmaster. then the scalper sells for what the market will bear. Sounds like free enterprise to me. Ticmketmaster has no worries, they already got all of their money, the artist and his producers got their money. Now the scalper is doing commodity trading, if he guessed right he stands to make a mint, if in the three months between the time he purchased the ticket and the time he sells them the artist is indicted for something, in an accident, goes into rehab, the scalper loses his money.
sounds pretty simple to me

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Scalpers piss off TicketBastard because the scalpers make money. The way TicketBastard sees it they are entitled to those profits, not the scalper. It seems that lately not all tickets go on sale at the same time, they hold some back and then auction them off (or charge way more money) later, closer to the show date. By limiting the secondary market TicketBastard is trying to grab more profits for itself. There are so many issues with the monolpoly that is TicketBastard I do not even know where to begin. These assholes are ruining the live show experience before folks even get to the show. Fuck it, I give up on music – live, recorded or otherwise. When the greedy assholes wreck the markets and go home maybe I will open my wallet again.

vastrightwing (profile) says:

Bring it on!

I wholly endorse this move. Why? I enjoy watching the greed of of the entertainment industry. My favorite one was the baseballs players strike, then the RIAA suing everyone, then Ticket Master and all their nonsense. Now the newspapers all crying and threatening us with pay walls. Sure… go ahead. My bet is you don’t do it for long. It won’t work. Yea, like watching sharks in a feeding frenzy. I won’t pay the fee to go to a live event; it’s just way too expensive for me to enjoy it without feeling ripped off. So ticket master, go ahead, make my day, raise your fees, stop the people who buy tickets for others, less people will put up with the hassle. Geezzeeee!

cm6029 (profile) says:

Re: Bring it on!

Total agree with this sentiment. As the theme of this blog in all about trying new business models, I believe everyone has the right to try something new. As for the value that scalpers add to the ecosystem, I have my doubts. All they seem to do is pervert the scarcity of a product and make their profit on that, yet add no value. Ticketmaster may not be the most admired business, but if they are going to limit the rip-off factor with this change, I, for one, may even be tempted to buy a ticket from them. The frustration I’ve had in the past has kept me away from buying tickets for such over-hyped events for more than decade, and I’ll bet a lot of people stay away for the same reason.

Richard (profile) says:

I recognize that there’s an issue of scalpers buying up huge blocks of tickets

Usually this happens because of some other bit of corruption within the industry. It’s the corporate entertainment and the free tickets to insiders that drive scalping (or touting as we call it in the UK). If it was just the public buying tickets through the official channels it would be really easy to stop (eg limit to 2 tickets per credit card account )

Gregg says:

I like this move! (non-sarcastically)

I think this is a bold and great move. I am not directly supporting Ticketmaster…..but some kind of clearing house option. I hate scalpers…..they are feeders and offer no value whatsoever. I am amazed that people are trying to support them. They are a symptom of a broken market and do not have any native right to exist. A ticket should just be seen as an advance gate fee, not as real property. You get your ticket….you can’t go you should be able to return it. I see no benefit to the “market” by letting a small group buy a limited product with a known value and a huge demand mark it up just because they were in the right place at the right time. That takes money out of the system that could be used to improve upon it or even maybe make it into the hands of the person/group/thing that you were buying the ticket to see. Why the frig does Charley or Snake the scalper get to make 300% and not the sports team, promoter, advertiser, concessioneer, musician or arena owner or heaven forbid you actually get to put it back in your pocket. THEY are the ones adding value.

Agree with the points about corporate blocks mind you. I think they are mostly for regular scheduled events and the sidewalk arseholes tend to be more for the concerts etc. But again with corporate blocks they should be able to refund those tickets BACK to the seller and not need to send them to a “secondary market”. So you could…you know….just buy them from the actual ticket window/website. Seriously…..what value does a secondary market have that a simple refund system can’t accomplish.

Ok…..i would just like to have a fair chance at Leafs tickets during the season. There is said it.

Matthew Cruse (profile) says:

Re: I like this move! (non-sarcastically)

Despite what my comments may sound like, I was being a bit facetious, I do not like scalpers and feel that they are like you said a product of a broken system. My main point was that why should Ticketmaster care. They already got there cut, so why do they care if someone else is getting another cut. If I use my credit card to by tickets for a buddy who doesn’t have a credit card and want to charge him $5 for the interest I’m going to accrue on my card, why does Ticketmaster think it’s entitled to another piece of the pie?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I like this move! (non-sarcastically)

I don’t get it. I do not support scalpers at the prices they charge so why would I support TicketBastard at the same price level? Its not abouting supporting scalpers vs. supporting TicketBastard. We can agree that the sytem is broken the way it stands but I have more of a choice not to support scalpers. If TicketMaster creates artificial scarcity by holding back and limiting the market then I have even less choice. Now if want the tickets I pay the scalper price no matter where I get the tickets. How is that better for anyone but TicketBastard?

Vincent Clement says:

Re: I like this move! (non-sarcastically)

Your post is utter nonsense. Scalpers most definitely offer value. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be paying over face value for a ticket.

But your are correct that the system is broke, but not for the reasons you believe. It’s broken because ticket pricing does not follow the laws of supply and demand.

Most concerts I’ve been to, have minimal tiered pricing. A floor seat is the same price regardless if you are in the front row or 100 feet away. In essence, those farthest from the stage are subsidizing those closet to the stage.

Brendan (profile) says:

Just one more reason to hate TM

I’m not sure why there are rules that apply to ‘scalpers’ but not TM. Both charge arbitrary fees above and beyond the face value of the ticket, simply because they have the tickets.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like scalper buying up big blocks… but why is TM allowed to do the same?

I’ve been wanting some serious competition to them for a while. A ticket vendor committed to low/fair/transparent customer charges. Who wants to help build this? Toronto area…

Jrosen (profile) says:

On the whole

I don’t really give a good goddamn about ticketmaster, scalpers and so on and so forth. Main reason is, I DON’T BOTHER with concerts, and I have a problem most ‘Professional American’ sports. I think in my 35 years of being on this planet, I’ve gone to MAYBE a half-dozen concerts. And of those, ONLY one of them did I actually pay (personally) for the ticket(s) myself. One or two I won via radio-call-in’s. The rest were purchased by parents (Always when I was too young to purchase them myself). Check that, might be two if you count Blue Man Group, but I saw them back in my old hometown of Boston, which is where they got their start. And to me, they are more ‘theater’ than ‘concert’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why the frig does Charley or Snake the scalper get to make 300% and not the sports team, promoter, advertiser, concessioneer, musician or arena owner

Don’t blame Charley or Snake because the people who set the prices grossly underprice them.

With the technology we have today, I don’t understand why tickets even have fixed prices any more instead of being sold auction-style.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Don’t blame Charley or Snake because the people who set the prices grossly underprice them.

With the technology we have today, I don’t understand why tickets even have fixed prices any more instead of being sold auction-style.”

That SHOULD make sense, except that you’re missing an important part of the equation which is that in many cases the initial ticket providers have some degree of a relationship with the “scalpers” as a way to provide a kind of plausible deniability.

As an example, it’s fairly well-known that the Chicago Cubs own a couple of the largest brokers, or “scalpers”. They “sell” their tickets to themselves at face value, and then the brokers resell them at 200%-400% face value. This way it doesn’t look like the Cubs are raping their less affluent fans, even though they clearly are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just another ploy for ticketmaster to screw over both the artists and their fans. The reason why there are all these “fees” in the first place is that ticketmaster has to split the ticket price with the artists, the “fees”, they keep for themselves. So a $20 lawn seat gets marked up to damned near $40 after all the “fees”, and the band splits $20 with ticketmaster, and ticketmaster pockets the other $20. They’ve already started their own secondary market, and many of the tickets for events go directly to that, instead of being sold as they were intended. Bruce Springsteen had a big problem with that, tickets to his shows showed up on Ticketmaster’s auction site seconds after they went on sale, which is simply not possible for a 3rd party to have done. Now they want to take the non-refundable tickets they sold you at an insane markup, limit YOUR resale ability, charge you MORE for them ($2.50 fee to print them yourself and save them the cost of printing tickets and mailing them), and hassle you to prove you were the one that bought them? No thanks, I’d rather just not go.

Another AC says:

Do not buy on the secondary market

I will not buy on the secondary market, If I cannot get them for face value I or whomever I am trying to buy for(wife, daughter) does not go. I feel that face value is what it is worth, paying anything more than facevalue plus service charges is just a ripoff.

I play that way for everything else as well, my family wanted a Wii when they first came out, no way in hell was I paying $350 for something worth $250, so it took a while but we did get it.

The scalping problem is the ticket agencies with their corporate clientelle that are willing to pay the added cost because they are not the onse paying for them.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Not such a bad idea IMO

Your trying to balance conflicting objectives. The person playing the music WANTS low cost tickets to attract new customers. Ticketmaster wants to sell bulk tickets to collect its fees, scalpers want to sell a few high priced tickets.

Weird Al comes to a town, when playing at a ticket master location, his show is sold out but the place ends up only half full. Now hes just lost new fans to buy his CDs because the cost of seeing him live was to high. Even worse he cant invite people in or resell empty seats as people who cant get tickets wont show up.

Next he plays at a “collect at the door” location, and gets a total sell out and a few people cant get in. Those who cant get in get a free CD and shirt and the location is completely full.

TicketMaster changing how its doing it is aright, but it could be better, If at the purchase time you were able to select “Gift” it should ask the first and last name of who your giving it to. (joe smith + guest for instance) Then require picture ID to get in with the ticket. This additional flexibility is needed or else we get the “sold out half full locations” problem above.

Scalpers suck, Ticketmaster is just a broker and like it or not, there are costs to selling 20k tickets to an event. There are most costs to sell 500k tickets a day to different events.

One last thing everyone talks about is refunds for not going, why cant ticketmaster just buy back tickets?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not such a bad idea IMO

The problem with the Gift idea is that it doesn’t prevent credit card fraud – You could buy on a fraudulent card but put your own (real) details in.

The real card holder complains, police come checking, you say you gave the money to somebody else to buy and the police aren’t interested any more. Or at least in England they’re not.

tracker1 (profile) says:

Better idea...

Limit sales to *in person* only… limit a single person in line to only four tickets. Then if a scalper wants to operate, they’d have to wait in line… Alternatives could include a double-blind auction for tickets, instead of straight sale… with tickets being made available in blocks… over the course of several days. Anti-cheat methods used in gaming to detect purchase timing etc could be enacted to allow for a better distribution of initial purchase.

I think the problem is that the scalpers tend to purchase huge blocks of tickets in an automated fashion that prevents actual people from being able to buy… Or, they could limit the best seats to purchases made *in person* and limit sales to 2 per customer… making other seating available online. This way fans who want the best seats have a chance, and the rest can go hog wild. There are a lot of options here beyond limiting resale.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Better idea...

The Kings have done exactly this for the playoffs in the past. In-person only. 6 ticket maximum. The big problem were the line-cutters.

We got there way early, were about 150th in line (for a 16000 seat stadium), and were the LAST ones to get tickets. The people behind us didn’t get them, because of the line-cutters. There were a couple fights and no security or police to be found.

I was very glad when it went to phones and internet instead. A lot less violent that way (and no hour-long drive to LA).

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Better idea...

As far as I know, most concerts and sporting events have a limit on how many tickets you can buy at once. That is why sports teams have a separate group events section to deal with groups.

Scalpers simply hire people to wait in line for them. Or they hire people in India to buy tickets online.

Scalping is a clear market signal that tickets – or certain tickets – are underpriced. The simple (and cheapest) solution is to auction off tickets.

The complex (and most expensive) solution is to introduce laws that ban scalping (which means a redirection of limited enforcement resources), systems that require ID and a credit card as proof of entry, or an exchange system that requires yet another payment to simply ‘transfer’ a ticket to another individual.

And we all know how those complex solutions work out. Ask all the people that purchased music with DRM that no longer plays because the DRM server is dead. Or people who couldn’t play a legally-purchased CD on their computer. And so on.

otb says:

oh ye of little involvement, and as such, understanding

I love seeing live music, and I see a lot of it. As such, I’m forced to deal with TM on a fairly regular basis.

I firmly believe TM opens up blocs before tickets officially go on sale to sell to the secondary market (aka scalpers) I don’t know if they get a cut or charge a fee or what, but they’re making money off of it. There’s plenty of evidence to support the claim -> During the last RR Phish run some phishy fanatic (and there are a lot of them) was checking three times a day every day on the TM site even though he knew they wouldn’t be on sale.

But lo and behold, one day he entered an the tickets were available! Over a week before scheduled to go onsale! The word spread like wildfire in the tight knit phish community and thousands of tickets ended up being sold > TM nullified all the tickets and gave everyone a $50 “Sorry” gift certificate. Hush money.

As for increasing prices to match demand, what a crock of shi**. This isn’t the free market capitalism, this is the world of art. 98% of artists don’t want their fans having to pay an arm and a leg to see their shows… weird i know, it’s not ALL ABOUT MAKING AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE.

Ticket Master is the devil. If they make any move at all you can bet it’s been planned out as a money grubbing scheme in a diabolical fashion. They don’t even DO ANYTHING. They just ride the coattails of the artists who are usually forced to go through their outlets due to venue contractual obligations and such. They’re leeches, and they’re very good at it.

Irving Azoff says:

You missed another part Mike

In addition to being an old news story you did not mention their “dynamic” pricing model they plan to employ. I have been looking for you to give an analysis of it.

Stub Hub and other companies are already closely tied or run by TicketBastard as well.

In pseudo-defense of the fees, many of those are required by the artist or venue (as reported by TicketBastard). It makes it seem as if TM(TB) has agreed to be the “bad guy” on this situation and then gets compensated nicely for it despite taking a PR hit.

Rosedale (profile) says:

Buy but give away

What if I buy, but then give away the tickets. I bought two tickets for a concert. My wife suddenly couldn’t come so I asked a friend to come along. Now perhaps that wouldn’t have been such a problem since I purchased the tickets and all, but what if I skipped out and told him and his wife to go?

I just don’t like the idea of locking things out like this.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:


Rosedale, The goal is to cut scalpers out, having 100% non transferable tickets is a way. So long as your told when buying your ticket I don’t see what the problem is as when you got it you assumed the risk you might not be able to go.

The call should be to Ticketmaster to provide more flexible ways to buy tickets as long as something identifys a person going. They should sell things like 4 packs with one or more name attached so that you get situations where Joe Blow or Jane Smith have to go but they can take up to 3 friends (who may not have to be named)

OR we could pass anti scalping laws with more teeth, and go after people who do it by issuing special credit cards, doing charge backs on them when cops buy the tickets and arresting the scalper. (flag the card in the system for being used by law enforcement) More would take his place and we could lock up a whole ton of people. (Im only half joking)

anymouse (profile) says:

Ticket Scalpers have become Ticket Speculators

The reason tickets are often on sale before the event is that many ticket scalpers are becoming ticket speculators. As an example, I heard about a comedian coming to our area and wanted to get tickets, I went direct to the venue and followed their links to find tickets, but the only tickets I found were high priced and the seat/rows didn’t really match up with the venue seating chart. This was something my wife and friends really wanted to go to, so I went ahead and purchased the lowest priced tickets (4 tickets at $89 each + $16 fee) that said they were in section C row 14. The next week the venue actually released the tickets for sale (they weren’t officially on sale when I purchased them from the scalper… not knowing it was a scalper), so I received 3 $41.50 face value tickets (in section 6 row 13 or something, but not the tickets I had purchased online), and the receipt showing they had purchased 4 tickets for $208 (total with fees). Yes they mistakenly sent me the receipt rather then the 4th ticket… Word of warning to all you ticket scalpers out there, if you expect to make a %100 profit, you better at least deliver what your customer orders, or you give them easy legal means to void the sale.

So not only did this ‘scalper’ expect to make over a %100 markup, they didn’t even bother to provide the tickets that they had agreed to sell me (and there was NO communication until I told them to void the sale and refund my money, one automated 3-mail, then the 3 tickets and receipt in a fed ex envelope with no other material). I canceled the order and got my tickets directly from the venue, but this is just one example of how worthless these ‘middlemen’ are. They can’t even put 4 tickets in an envelope when they are expecting to get paid over $200 for it….. (the original order cost me $426 for $208 worth of tickets…)

The Ceej says:

Ticketmaster ARE Scalpers

I’m sorry. I’m choking on irony. Ticketmaster are the worst scalpers in the current world. They are guilty of the most scalping and, for all practical purposes, have a monopoly on scalping. I’m sure any alleged scalper could be acquitted by arguing that they only did what Ticketmaster does on a smaller scale and it’s not scalping when they do it.

If I were Ticketmaster, I’d be careful. They’re going to inadvertently illegalise themselves.

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