Business

Ticket scalping and the pain of true music fans

ticket scalping
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Making money with the resale of concert tickets is big business. But not only the touters — or scalpers as they are called- profit from concerts worldwide. Online secondary markets and even some artists as well take unashamedly advantage of devoted fans.

For the 2012 reunion concert in England of the Stone Roses: 220,000 tickets sold out in 68 minutes. In the same year, Justin Bieber’s performance at Madison Square Garden sold out in a stunning 30 seconds. The 2017 world tour of  Harry Styles sold out, literally, in seconds. How is it possible that these big gigs sell out so fast and that their expensive tickets are hard to obtain?

Dean Budnick, an American writer and music expert, became so disgusted with these impossible-to-purchase tickets and their sky-high prices in 2012 that he decided to investigate the matter and write a book about it.

The truth is that the moment passionate fans try to get through the queues of telephone sales, most artists have already committed the biggest share of their tickets to allied credit card companies, to their fan clubs, to the promoters, sponsors and to the venue. Most big shows in the USA have no more than 20% of tickets available to purchase at the general sale.

Result: It’s very unlikely your luck will make it through the bingo at the general sales and it will be difficult to see your favourite artist finally live. At least, if you are not willing to spend the multiplicity of the initial price.

Assuming you are not that lucky 28th caller on the local radio getting a free Guns ‘N Roses ticket as well as a T-shirt and a meet-and-greet with Slash, your only chance to attend the gig is to redirect to the “secondary market”.  

These are online re-sale platforms such as eBay, Gumtree and StubHub where people can resell tickets they have already purchased. If the gig has a high demand, these prices inflate enormously.

Budnick says that it’s because of their existence that many people aggressively compete at first hour, online or by phone, for tickets. This ticket scalping, or ticket touting as it is also called, is often done by professional scalpers. They know how much tickets to the hot shows are worth, and they sell the tickets for a multiplicity of the face value.

Ticket Touting is big business. A ticket for Adele last years’ concert in London with £85 face value made headlines since it was offered for £24,000 on a secondary market. A Radiohead ticket, originally £65, getting sold at £3,934 on a resale site is not an unusual sight.

Seeing the same ticket of a sold-out gig popping up at double price only one hour after sales are off, is frustrating.

Not only for the fan, but also for the artist.  

To know that far away, in front of a computer, an anonymous guy is wielding an army of bots to harvest concert tickets at fast speed, without the slightest involvement in the actual show, is considered unjust. He’s making millions a year by reselling them off the artist’s back.

So the artists want a taste, too.

This leads to the bizarre act of artists keeping some inventory for themselves and the secondary market, where they can resell them at inflated prices. Artists like Katie Perry are known for doing that. In other words: they’re scalping their own tickets.

Over the last years, discontent against touting has risen, not surprisingly, England and its impressive music scene taking the lead.

The resentment resulted in Google announcing that from January 2018, ticket resellers will need to be certified before they can advertise through its service.

ticket scalping
Scott McIntyre

“All over the world, scalpers drive true fans out of shows. And if the scalpers are wrong, the artists play in front of a sad, half-empty room,” says Scott McIntyre, CEO of Weeshing. With the platform, power is handed back to true music fans.

“If you give power back to the fans early in the process, and make them the investors of shows, their seat is guaranteed, leaving less room for scalpers and more venues filled with true fans,” added McIntyre.

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Kwinten Wouters
Kwinten is a Belgian social-cultural worker, living in Colombia. He has worked for some NGOs in Latin America. He likes John Steinbeck, Belgian soccer players in the Premier League and looking at salsa.