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"Plenty of good seats still available..." (Misc. ramblings on prices, scalping, and the economy of live shows)


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cmooreNC makes a compelling argument and I agree. As nbayer has stated, the business side of this issue will be the driving force behind ticket prices—everyone has to make money otherwise there is little reason to do it. The band has always set the bar for a great show and I’m sure we all are grateful. They have a huge following and consquently, created a huge demand for their tickets. The result is skyrocketing prices, which for some of us are now out of reach.

 

So how do they keep prices at a level that most of us could afford and out of the hands of scalpers and still make money? I like the idea of U2 subscribers being able to pre-pay for their tickets, thus locking them up and whatever is left is available to the general public. I’d like to add that pre-paid tickets would be sold through U2’s site and verified by Technical Support—and yes, these folks would have to be trained much better—and sufficient time be given before tickets go on sale the the general public. I’d give two months to Subscriber Sales to allow enough time to resolve any issues—including scalping—and that would still leave four months time for the General Sale.  In addition, these tickets would be coded in a particular way so that they could not be scalped.  Trading tickets would be allowed.  Obviously, the TS staff and infrastrure would need to be improved so that any type of anomalies could identified. For example, the staff should be able to “see” large amounts of tickets going to a small pool locations, which would trigger an alert.

 

I can’t be sure if this will result in significant price reductions, but for the time being let’s just say that allowing fans the first true crack at tickets is the impetus, which is why the majority of us became Subscribers in the first place. If the band needed to raise membership fees by a small amount ($5 - $10), I’d be okay with it. But that increase would assure me access to the pre-sale and would be outside of Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s control.  No lottery, no selection process. Membership should have its privileges. I’ve got two months to decide on whether or not to buy tickets, after that I join the horde.

 

To address the disparity between “under valued seats” versus over-valued ones, the price of the GA tickets would probably have to rise. This would hopefully reduce the demand in the resale market (it wouldn’t eliminate it). In addition, the “nosebleeds” and any partial view seats would fall. The leveling in price might make it bit more palatable for ticket-buyers.

 

Finally, this would probably take some money off of the table from LN/TM. But I believe the band has the clout to negotitate better terms. Ideally, this would give more control to the band/mgmt and perhaps this might have been a responsibility they chose to relinquish. But if I were on the management team, I’d strongly suggest taking over (at least the pre-sale part) given the lackluster performance by TM. It wasn’t great during I+E 2015 or 360. So continue to partner with an organization that doesn’t have to improve hurts everyone. Sure, tickets will still sell if they don’t. But something better should be done for the fans who have “paid for the privilege”.

 

Granted, I am spit-balling here and I’m sure there are holes to be poked through my ideas. Yet I am willing to pay a little more to get more.

Edited by 504jumper
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The market for concert tickets has always fascinated me as a microcosm of the supply and demand economy.  Plus, as an avid music and sports fan, I wanted to understand how this economy worked, in orde

NBayer - I think a lot of your observations about the mechanics of ticket sales are correct. Where I disagree, and this may be more of an opinion disagreement than a factual dispute, is in this s

I agree. Most of these types of issues could be fixed with a better staff, or at the very least better training. The question is: who is responsible for that, TM or the venue? From what I've heard, TM

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Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal. 

No one can scalp an airline tickets.  Airline tickets can only be used by the people that buy them.  If you can't use an airline ticket, you can return it or exchange it (usually for a fee), but you can't give it away or sell it.  All they need to do is move to a system that treats concert tickets the same as airline tickets.

This is essentially what Credit Card Entry is designed to do.  The problem with CCE generally comes to inconsistent enforcement of the previously published rules, which creates wiggle room for scalpers to operate.  Remove the loopholes by following the rules, and the system works.  Add some of the good ideas from Ed Sheeran's Verified Fan presale and that'll help too.  Here's how you'd eliminate scalping completely:
1. All customers must use a credit card to purchase tickets.  The credit card must be a permanent card that has the buyer's name on it. 
2. When the buyer arrives at the concert, he/she must present the credit card used to purchase the ticket, along with a matching photo ID.  If the buyer does not have both of those items, they cannot enter.
3. All customers must agree during the check-out process that they will not attempt to resell the tickets or violate the posted rules about purchasing in any way, and that they agree that their purchase will be forfeited if they break this agreement.
4. In the event of an extenuating circumstance that prevents the buyer from being able to attend the show, they may return the tickets to Ticketmaster for a refund minus the ticketing fees.  (Or, Ticketmaster could agree to list the ticket at face value, and offer a refund only if Ticketmaster is able to resell the ticket at face value.)  This should be a one-time option that would then lock the buyer out of purchasing tickets to that show again.  The point is, this should be for fans who genuinely can't make the show and not an opportunity to make every purchase easily exchangeable. 

Steps 1 & 2 are already how credit card entry works.  The problems come when the rules aren't enforced.  The rules clearly state that you may not use a disposable credit card (because those don't have names on them).  Some scalpers do this anyway.  Some merchants already have the ability to detect whether the card payment they're receiving is from a prepaid card or a real card, so it shouldn't be an issue for Ticketmaster to cancel any purchases made with those kinds of cards.  The problem is that they don't.  Since the credit card doesn't have a name on it, the credit card literally cannot match any photo ID.  Venues should turn those people away.  The problem is that sometimes they don't.  Step up to 100% enforcement of both of those things and it's a game-changer.

Step 3 is what Ed Sheeran's Verified Fan sale required buyers to do.  By agreeing to those terms, that makes it very easy for Ticketmaster to enforce their rules, because in purchasing the ticket, you've clearly and explicitly agreed to those terms.  Sheeran's management recently canceled 10,000 tickets purchased by scalpers to a London concert in violation of those terms.  U2's management would need to start doing the same.

There's nothing in existence like Step 4 today, and it's not strictly required, but I do think it would be the decent thing to do.

In the State Of New York, Credit Card Entry is illegal, which means that they can't do this.  But CCE is legal in the other 49 states, and there's no reason why these things couldn't be implemented today.  Indeed, U2 used CCE for parts of their 2015 and 2017 tours.  The problem is that it was implemented poorly, with loopholes that punished fans who had emergencies that prevented them from attending, but rewarded scalpers by not enforcing the rules that credit cards must be permanent and not disposable and that photo IDs must match.

If you're a scalper and those rules go into effect, your business is done.  Even if you were able to buy tickets to shows, no one other than you could use them.  Scalpers make their money by buying and selling tickets that they have no intention of using, often for venues far away from their physical location.  How is a scalper going to make money with a ticket that's in his name only, that only he can redeem, and that can't be transferred or given away?

There is absolutely no reason that this system could not used now, if the goal was to eliminate scalping.

I am starting to question whether that is the goal.  Scalping does help the promoter by ensuring that tickets sell out regardless of actual demand, and pushes up demand by artificially limiting the ticket supply.

Additionally, there are laws in most states that limit how much tickets may be resold for.  These are almost never enforced.  In a lot of places, the limit is anywhere from as little as $5 over face value to 20% over face value.  The law that applies isn't the law of the state you live in, but the state where the event takes place.  People are free to do what they want because they know that the laws aren't going to be enforced.  But imagine if. for example, Stubhub was forced into compliance with these laws.  It would be pretty simple for a company like Stubhub to have the different resale restrictions programmed in.  For instance, if the show is in a state that only allows tickets to be sold for $10 over face value, Stubhub could use software that didn't allow a ticket to be listed for more than $10 over the face value.  Of course, Stubhub makes its money on commission so they won't do that unless they're forced to.  But if Stubhub is facilitating illegal resale transactions, which in many cases they are, why shouldn't law enforcement go after them and force them to stop?  Why should Stubhub be allowed to build a business where their primary source of revenue comes from encouraging people to do things that are against the law?

U2 - as band members - may have interest in reducing or eliminating scalping, but they don't run their touring business.  Live Nation does.  Live Nation has a very strong incentive not to discourage scalping.  Live Nation paid an above market rate for U2's touring business that in reality is probably above and beyond what a reasonable rate was.  As a result, they have had to increase tickets by unprecedented margins to recover this money.  Every ticket purchased by a scalper at full price helps them get to that goal. 

I also do not accept the premise that the band must get every possible dollar that they could get for a ticket.  I do not accept the idea that all things in life must be priced at "what the market will bear".  There are already plenty of things in life where this principle doesn't apply.  Why should the worst actors in this - the scalpers who violate local resale laws, who contribute nothing to society by standing between the artist and the fan but offering nothing in return of value - be the ones who set the prices?

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Ed Sheeran seems to have the method to keep tickets in the hands of the fans. I noticed there are no “resale tickets” on the Ticketmaster site for his upcoming tour. Pretty impressive. 

EDIT : upon further looking..... Ed Sheeran tickets ARE available via secondary scalper sites, the fact that there are no tickets via the "Official Ticketmaster Resale" avenue is a healthy nod to an artist's attempt to curb the availability of tickets from secondary scalpers....... still the scalpers are keen to adapt and prevail.    

Edited by hicksong
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You said, in the beginning of your post, that the artist wanted the money the scalpers were getting, or something of the sort. That is exactly what a good friend who manages a box office in Milwaukee says to me.  He started in ticketing 35 years ago and watched it all happen.  He pretty much called it. "You watch; sooner or later the performers are gonna want what the scalpers get and why shouldn't they?  It's their intellectual property and talent that precipitates the revenue. Why should some opportunistic jerk on the street get it?".   I hated hearing that, but knew he was right.

I am a rabid Pearl Jam fan.  I get high off Pearl Jam too.  It is a completely different experience, as you said.  They keep the price lower and it's all about the setlist and playing it live.  There are no bells and whistles. 

I love both approaches because I love the music.  If Pearl Jam was really expensive...I'd still try to go no matter.  It's a question of how much something is worth to the person buying the ticket.  You said this too.

Thank you.  I only know what I've heard from ticket people.  You added a lot between the lines.  It sucks what's happened, but it makes sense.  Few people now buy the albums/cds.  Sadly, most of us are the few that buy the cds and albums and we get stuck paying for the difference in that as well.

One good thing in all of this is that everyone makes union wages and has insurance and  is able to live a decent life.  That costs a huge amount of money that a lot of people forget.  I'd have less respect for any band if I found out its employees were only making fifteen bucks an hour.  It's expensive to put on any type of show.

Yours is one of the best posts I've ever read in these forums.  Thanks for sharing all this with us.

Edited by Manohlive
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On 12/9/2017 at 4:50 PM, vertigojds said:

Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal. 

No one can scalp an airline tickets.  Airline tickets can only be used by the people that buy them.  If you can't use an airline ticket, you can return it or exchange it (usually for a fee), but you can't give it away or sell it.  All they need to do is move to a system that treats concert tickets the same as airline tickets.

This is essentially what Credit Card Entry is designed to do. 

I think that too.  I just read that the problem with CC only is people who do not have plastic get shut out of the show.  Many people do not have plastic, even if it's a debit card.  They have a set income and plastic causes too many problems.  No matter how it gets approached, it sucks because people are greedy and don't even care about the music.  It's easy $$$.  That is why I love watching their asking price go way way down the days before a show.  I love it when they take a hit and lose money.

Edited by Manohlive
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On 12/8/2017 at 6:48 PM, 504jumper said:

I like the idea of U2 subscribers being able to pre-pay for their tickets, thus locking them up and whatever is left is available to the general public. I’d like to add that pre-paid tickets would be sold through U2’s site and verified by Technical Support—and yes, these folks would have to be trained much better—and sufficient time be given before tickets go on sale the the general public. I’d give two months to Subscriber Sales to allow enough time to resolve any issues—including scalping—and that would still leave four months time for the General Sale. 

Wouldn't that be problematic as well?  How can a band announce a tour these days and not have a public onsale for four months?  I'm not sure that would work.  I love the idea, but I don't think people will wait four months or even two to buy tickets.  For many people it's about being at the hip thing and the show doesn't really matter that much to them.  My theory is they are the annoying ones always talking!!!  We would wait, but would the majority of the concert goers who want a selfie at U2 or to hear the old hits just once wait? 

Also, wouldn't that give the scalpers months to figure out their strategy for each show individually?  How would we know if more shows are going to be announced?  There would be a tour and tickets would take four to eight months to go on sale for two shows in the same market.  Am I understanding you correctly?  I love the idea of going back to Propaganda mail service or whatever it would be.  I think there might only be new problems.  People are greedy.  That will never change.  They always find a way to pursue the $$$.

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What I was thinking was, say the tour begins on June 1st. Pre-sale tickets go on sale December 1st six months prior. From December 1st to January 31st, only U2 Subscribers will be allowed to buy tickets. The idea being letting Subscribers more than just a few days to try and get tickets. They would still get codes and pay with a credit card.

 

Then on February 1st, tickets go on sale to the general public. I believe that the people that are not Subscribers, will wait two months for the General Sale. The last U2 show that I attended, that wasn’t sold out, was PopMart ’97. I think the demand for them is high, even for the folks “who want a selfie at U2 or hear the old hits”. I sat next to a group of folks who were probably the kind who just wanted to be at the “hip thing” for JT ’17. They talked—even shouted—during the beginning of the show (about work stuff), then finally shut up. I had Club Level seats, which weren’t cheap ($335 each), and wondered if these tech guys were going talk all night. If they were, I was going to say something—politely. Fortunately, they remembered they were at an awesome rock show and I didn’t. 

 

And yes, maybe 2 months would give the scalpers more time to strategize on how to get as many tickets as they could, and this would screw the people who buy during the General Sale. But the Subscribers would already have their tickets. So, if one truly wanted to beat the scalpers and the bots and whoever else, they should become a Subscriber. Yes, they would have to pay the membership fee, but they would definitely get to the buy tickets during the Pre-Sale if they wanted.

 

I always thought the band added shows after seeing how quickly the first group of shows sold out. Here in the SF Bay Area, I know that a second show is usually added. They did that for i+e ‘15, Vertigo ‘05 and Elevation ‘01. It could be that they arenas sold out quickly—consequently giving good reason to add a second show—and the stadiums shows did not (only 1 show for JT ’17 & 360 ’11). So I’d say, why not just announce two shows at the outset? The fanbase is pretty big here and they would sell out both shows easily.

 

Again, I know that there are flaws in my ideas and there must be a wisdom in announcing a tour, and then adding shows as time progresses. Yet, I believe the band will sell out their shows no matter what, so why not take better care of the folks who have paid for the opportunity?

 

I would totally be willing to go back to the Propaganda days and agree that it probably isn’t tenable. Greed is always the monkey-wrench that screws up the works.

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17 hours ago, Manohlive said:

I think that too.  I just read that the problem with CC only is people who do not have plastic get shut out of the show.  Many people do not have plastic, even if it's a debit card.  They have a set income and plastic causes too many problems.  No matter how it gets approached, it sucks because people are greedy and don't even care about the music.  It's easy $$$.  That is why I love watching their asking price go way way down the days before a show.  I love it when they take a hit and lose money.

I like this idea, too. What I noticed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Ca. was that the devices the staff were using took several seconds for each CC holder. They worked as quickly as they could, but swiping the card and waiting to the tickets to print, took time. This caused a bottleneck that got much worse as time went on. We were near the front of the line (about 50 ahead of us) at around 3:00 pm. By 5:00 pm there were several hundred people behind us and this was just one line.

We watched the lines from the Club Level and it was bad. There were ticket holders who didn't get in until after the band took the stage. This sucked if they had GAs.

But, I'm all for doing everything humanly possible to thwart the scalpers.

Edited by 504jumper
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On 12/9/2017 at 5:50 PM, vertigojds said:

 

Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal.

 

I get the impression that the “intent” was there but I am not sure if that was the “goal”, too many loopholes for scalpers to sneak through. I like everything you said in your post, seems reasonable to me, things could have played out very differently if that was the “goal”. For me I think it’s more a pricing issue, too expensive a ticket to go and watch tv at a live show. Nice post ! 

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On 12/11/2017 at 1:45 AM, Manohlive said:

Eliminating scalping would be really easy to do if that was the goal

Also, I was lucky to get 2 GA for Philly, these are physical tickets in my hands, so at this point there is nothing in place to stop me from selling these, I wouldn’t do such a thing because I am a fan and want to see the show. Just saying I could, know what I mean ? 

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