Have you ever tried to purchase a ticket to a concert featuring one of your favourite musicians or bands, only to see the tickets all snapped up before you could land one?
Usually, that leaves two other options – paying through the nose for a ticket from StubHub, TicketsNow or another third-party broker – or giving up on seeing the show.
The problem of ticket scalping has been an issue for years in the entertainment and sports industries, with third parties looking to cash in by buying up blocks of tickets and then reselling them for an exorbitant markup.
A story in October by CBC’s “Marketplace” indicated that third-party brokers and automated software, known as bots, grabbed two-thirds of the tickets for the Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem tour last summer, leaving just one-third for fans.
The CBC story quoted Joe Berchtold, chief operating officer of Live Nation, the world’s largest tour promoter and owner of Ticketmaster, as saying that as a result, ticket resellers garnered an estimated $25 to $30 million in price markups on the Hip’s tour.
About the time of CBC’s story, Ontario’s attorney general announced that the government planned to introduce legislation aimed at outlawing ticket bots.
Laws, assuming they are properly enforced, might be one way to deal with the problem. But country music star Eric Church is taking matters into his own hands.
An Associated Press story reported that Church, who has waged an ongoing battle with ticket scalpers for years, is cancelling 25,000 tickets for his spring tour that were bought up by third parties and is putting the tickets back on sale for fans.
“They buy thousands of tickets across the U.S., not just mine, and they end up making a fortune,” Church said in the Associated Press interview.
Church has taken similar steps for individual shows, but this latest effort is on a much larger scale.
“We’re getting better at identifying who the scalpers are,” Church said in the story.
“Every artist can do this, but some of them don’t. Some of them don’t feel the way I feel or are as passionate.”
Most artists likely don’t follow Church’s example because it’s extra effort and besides, they probably don’t care who is buying the tickets or what prices are being paid, as long as the tickets are being purchased.
But at the end of the day, that’s unfair to fans.
The AP story referred to a 2016 report in which investigators for the New York Attorney General’s office cited an instance which saw a single broker buy 1,012 tickets within one minute to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden, despite the vendor’s claim of a four-ticket limit.
By the end of the day, that broker and one other had latched onto 15,000 tickets to U2’s North American shows.
The report went on to say that third-party brokers resell tickets on sites like StubHub and TicketsNow at average margins of 49 per cent above face value and sometimes more than 10 times the stated price.
Kudos to Eric Church for doing what he can to combat this problem.
If more artists would follow his example – and if laws were tightened, and enforced, to deal with the issue – perhaps more true fans would have a chance to buy tickets to events without having to pay huge markups.