Concert Ticket Resale
Concert Ticket Resale
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In August of 1969, as American youth found themselves in the midst of what in retrospect would be known as the Summer of Love, one of the smallest towns in the state of New York literally overnight became one of the largest towns in the state of New York. This did not happen due to some economic boom or the discovery of oil wells or goldmines; rather, this happened due to the fact that, by some estimates, over half a million people besieged a musical festival which was simply called “Woodstock” (Talbot). From that point forward, savvy businesspeople realized that the sale of concert tickets could, and indeed would, become a major moneymaking enterprise. Unfortunately, however, this enterprise over the years would become tainted by greedy ticket resellers, outright counterfeiters, and deception/manipulation of all types in what should be a simple transaction between a concert fan and the original seller of the concert ticket. This research will explore the essence of the problem in the sale of concert tickets, possible solutions to the problem and some general observations. Overall, upon conclusion of the research, all facets of this growing problem will have been better understood and explored.
The Essence of the Problem
In order to offer substantial solutions to the problem of manipulation and fraud in the concert ticket business, the essence of the problem must first be understood. It is with that understanding in mind that an overview of the problem is now presented.
First, although it was mentioned earlier that the Woodstock debacle essentially signaled the dawn of the modern musical concert business, this is not to say that there were not moneymaking machines in place for the public exhibition of music, indeed centuries before the 1969 festival that began this research. The following quote from an 18th century European opera concert contract is not only evidence of the long-time existence of paid public music performances, but also the root of the problem about to be explored:
“That the said impresario shall have complete freedom of action in all matters concerning the theatre, the operas and the performances, and that the said noble co-proprietors undertake not to become involved in anything to do with them, no exceptions being allowed (Talbot, p. 12).
What this quote essentially means is that the performer would contractually have the benefit of realizing a promised income from their performance, the buyers of tickets would receive those tickets at a fair price, and the wealthy individuals financing the performance would not be able to manipulate ticket sales or venue conditions for their own unethical gains. However, this is exactly what the problem has become over time- the fact that for all of the contractual protections in regard to concert tickets, those who resell concert tickets at unusually high price markups, aka “scalpers” can take advantage of the long period of time between the availability date of concert tickets and the actual date of the performance to essentially create a secondary market for those tickets, basically making them available to the highest bidder, with the average person often being placed at unfair advantage, as they lack the funds and connections to be able to buy tickets to concerts (Happel, et al) that are often times a few miles away from the homes of these victims, but may as well be a million miles away due to the artificial barrier to gaining these tickets in the first place. The ability for resellers to widen this gap and markup tickets even higher is made possible by Internet technology; for example, auction sites like EBay frequently host concert ticket auctions, which once again takes away all controls of the intended price of a ticket for the sake of maximum profits by those who also improperly harness technology to purchase massive lots of concert tickets through online box offices, with no one being the wiser until available tickets at the actual prices vanish and the highly marked up tickets suddenly flood the market. A quote from literature reviewed for this paper really drives home the point, as well as the massive amounts of money involved:
“Ticket America (1998), using its primary market estimate of $7.2 billion for 1997, assumes that brokers resell 10 percent of the primary market and double their prices, which leads to an estimate of $1.4 billion for the secondary broker market (Heilbrun, p.1)”.
Basically, through scalping, a billion-dollar secondary market is created from thin air, much like a Ponzi scheme of the highest magnitude. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the majority of the United States have no law in place against scalping, making something which is not illegal, but immoral, capable of taking unfair advantage of the consumer (The Daily Mail). Thankfully, powerful forces have fought back, which will now be seen in the discussion of solutions to the problem.
Solutions to the Problem
As has been seen, the concert ticket scalping issue has a major impact on the average buyer of the tickets, as unfair manipulation of the ticket prices themselves all but excludes someone on a limited budget from legitimately buying a concert ticket. Surprisingly enough, the victims on the upper end of the concert ticket value chain-the performers themselves- have fought back in order to bring some credibility back to the professional music business and to protect their loyal fans from basically having their pockets picked by those above them on the socioeconomic scale.
Bruce Springsteen is not only an icon of rock and roll/folk music, but is also one of its most popular performers, literally attracting millions of fans to his concert tours around the world. It would seem, encouragingly enough, that Springsteen is not only a symbol of hope for the downtrodden through his compelling lyrics and public activism, but in the wake of rampant ticket scalping, has shown to also be a hero for those who have been scammed in trying to obtain fairly priced tickets to his concerts. Over the past several years, Springsteen has devoted his own funds to the development of anti-scalping technology and the development of regulations which have made it more difficult for ticket prices to be increased by 3rd party resellers (Cavicchi). What this has done is to make it possible for average people to have a fair chance to see Springsteen, as well as other performers who have utilized the same tools that Springsteen has pioneered.
Yet another weapon in the fight against scalping has come from the non-profit sector. For years, top-name performers, including the previously discussed Springsteen, Elton John and many others, have long made it known that they will perform free of charge if the proceeds from their appearance will be 100% payable to a legitimate charitable organization. In order to benefit charities and make concert tickets available to everyone, charity concerts have been organized paid for by corporate sponsors, with tickets being given away or sold directly to the supporters of charities, thereby cutting the scalpers out of the equation (Strahilevitz).
Overall, what can be said in terms of solutions to the problem at hand is that there are solutions available to combat the improper use of technology to unfair advantage. Therefore, what should be emphasized is an increase in innovation to battle scalpers and return the concert ticket market to a more level playing field.
When this research began, what seemed like a basic problem was presented- the issue of obstacles coming between legitimate individuals purchasing concert tickets from the legally entitled sellers of those tickets, without middlemen and frauds complicating the process and victimizing both buyer and seller. As the research progressed, it was seen that the introduction of Internet technology only amplified the problems, but ultimately, it was also seen that technology can in fact cut both ways and make it possible for some fairness to be brought back into the equation-something which is endorsed by many. Therefore, in conclusion, let it be understood that with diligence, vigilance and time, the fraud and deceit which has plagued concert ticket sales over the years will soon become a thing of the past.
Cavicchi, Daniel. Tramps like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
“Curse of the E-Touts; from Concert Tickets to Designer Clothes, a Cynical New breed of Internet Profiteers Is Snapping Up All the Latest Must-Haves – and Selling Them on eBay at Rip-Off Prices When Stocks Run Out.” The Daily Mail (London, England) 26 Mar. 2007: 22.
Happel, Stephen K., and Marianne M. Jennings. “Creating a Futures Market for Major Event Tickets: Problems and Prospects.” The Cato Journal 21.3 (2002): 443+.
Heilbrun, James, and Charles M. Gray. The Economics of Art and Culture. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Strahilevitz, Michal. “The Effects of Product Type and Donation Magnitude on Willingness to Pay More for a Charity-Linked Brand.” Journal of Consumer Psychology 8.3 (1999): 215-241.
Talbot, Michael, ed. The Business of Music /. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2002.