Ticket Scalping Season

Photo by Valentinian

I figured it would be appropriate to address one of my least favorite aspects of the music industry given the number of large on-sales this time of year. I have seen a great number of people get screwed out of tickets or be completely ripped off by scalpers in my short time in this business. Some people genuinely use sites like stubhub to unload tickets that they can't use for face value. Others abuse the system, lie, cheat, and steal from one another. 

Let's first start with the basics.. A venue has an inventory of tickets to sell. They will use one service to sell their tickets to the public (Ticketmaster, Ticketweb, Cincyticket, etc). Of the tickets available, the artist will typically hold some back for their artist pre-sale via their website. These typically go up for sale first to make sure that their hardcore fans get tickets. During the on-sale, Brokers buy as many tickets as possible & list them for sale on their website with a markup . Sometimes these companies are so sure of themselves that they list the tickets for sale before they even have them. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of buying these marked up tickets instead of purchasing them from the primary source at their face value. Most of these sites operate legally and do sell legit tickets. The problem is that most people don't know which are legit and which are selling fake tickets. 

I take issue with sites that use Google Adwords and other SEM to make novice internet users think that they are the legitimate source for tickets. Search "Riverbend Music Center", "Aronoff Center", or "Taft Theater" & you will see a sponsored ad from at least one broker. They typically go as far as to use the venue name as a sub-domain so it looks like they are legit. Unfortunately, there is nothing illegal about doing this. They are not cyber squatting because the actual domain is usually generic. They are not violating any trademark (normally) as long as they don't use the logo of the venue. However, Ticket scalping (selling a ticket above face value) is illegal in some municipalities. 

Ticket scalping laws are set by each state. The state of Kentucky prohibits scalping without authorization of the original seller (which is not likely going to happen - outside of Ticketexchange, which is owned by Ticketmaster.com). So, if someone approaches you outside of The Madison Theater and tries to sell you a ticket above its face value they are breaking the law. Ohio allows each municipality to regulate, so Cincinnati sets it's own rules. Cincinnati mandates that it is illegal to sell a ticket for more than face value unless you’ve obtained a ticket-sales license from the city treasurer. Even then, there is a limit to the percentage of the face value the ticket can be marked up. I can't find anything in writing, but I've always been told that it is 20%. 

The problem with the internet (God, I sound old) is that people feel like local laws don't apply to them because the server lives somewhere else. Trying to enforce these laws on reseller sites such as Stubhub (owned by eBay) is virtually impossible. The problem with Stubhub and eBay is that you are purchasing directly from another person & the site is only serving as an intermediary. There is no guarantee that the ticket you are getting is real at all. I've seen people copy a ticket & sell it 3-4 times. Obviously, only one person gets in if the venue is scanning tickets. 

Here is an interesting interview I read with a ticket scalper: http://www.billboard.com/features/confessions-of-a-ticket-scalper-billboard-1006346152.story#/features/confessions-of-a-ticket-scalper-billboard-1006346152.story

The moral of the story is to only purchase tickets from the primary ticket seller. Go to the venues website & click through from there. If you want to purchase a ticket to a sold out show, go through a legit source such as ticketexchange. I absolutely hate seeing people get ripped off.. Especially a mother with her little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Scalpers are scum.