The real cost of ticket scalping

An undercover Ticketmaster investigation illuminates the damage caused by resales

With the recent backlash Ticketmaster has faced after being caught up in a new scalping scandal, the question inevitably arises: “Is scalping really that bad?”

The answer is yes.

Scalping is the resale of tickets, primarily for concerts or sports events, on a secondary market, usually at a skyrocketing rate.

Nobody wins when it comes to scalping — except, perhaps, Ticketmaster. An undercover investigation by CBC News and the Toronto Star concluded that Ticketmaster is essentially allowing scalpers to purchase tickets in bulk at face value and then resell them on their own platform at whatever price point they see fit.

Ticketmaster says “It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers.”

The catch is that Ticketmaster allegedly collects fees twice: once from the initial purchase and again when a fan purchases the ticket at resale price. This is why this particular scandal is different before. Ticketmaster appear to be helping the “bad guys.”

For example, the well-known punk band Alexisonfire played a four-night stint at the Danforth Music Hall last December. To no one’s surprise, tickets sold out almost instantly. However, a simple check on secondary ticket sites showed tickets for the shows at a significantly higher price.

Those shows aren’t anything out of the ordinary, either. A quick check of one of these secondary sites for multiple shows at Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) yields several tickets way over face value for shows claiming to have low ticket availability or be sold out.

This hurts everyone. Having purchased scalped tickets, I can tell you it is not a good feeling to spend an arm and a leg, only to find yourself sitting next to someone who might have paid a small fraction of what you did.

It can also hurt the bands. Having a chunk of tickets taken away from legitimate fans is never good. Toronto is a city with a lot of mid-sized clubs and theatres. Those smaller acts would feel the blow from scalpers significantly more than the superstar artist, since the pool of tickets is smaller to begin with .

Bands that play at these types of places aren’t the millionaire Jay-Z or Beyonce type but rather more modest touring bands.  One hundred scalped tickets does a lot more damage at Danforth Music Hall, with a capacity of 1,500, than it would at Rogers Centre, which can hold more than 50,000. Having some of those tickets go unsold because fans found them too expensive on resale sites would have more impact at these smaller venues.

There was a brief sign of hope for a more fair ticket market. The Ontario Liberals had anti-scalping legislation set to take effect on July 1, 2018. The bill would have capped the price at which tickets could be resold at 50 per cent above face value. However, Ontario’s Conservative government shelved the bill, crushing the dream of finding a fairer way to buy tickets.

The supply and demand for scalping and secondary sites is evidently still very high, and that needs to change.

Not having to get tickets months in advance, or getting a second chance at those hard-to-acquire tickets, seems pretty nice. But is the price really worth it?

About this article

Posted: Oct 17 2018 12:16 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Opinion