LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Between fan club pre-sales, credit card company
pre-sales, VIP packages and a nationwide network of highly organized
ticket brokers - what used to be called scalpers - the average person looking to buy concert tickets faces many more obstacles than in the past.
days of waiting in line to get a good ticket are over," said Dean
Budnick, co-author with Josh Baron of "Ticket Masters: The Rise of the
Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped."
Ann Meuer and her daughters, Cassidy and Caitlin, were on their computer
ready to pounce on tickets to see musician Ed Sheeran. The tickets went
on sale at 10 a.m., but by 10:05, the show was sold out.
10 minutes later, out of curiosity, I went on, I think it was StubHub,
and they already had several tickets for sale, for a lot more money,"
said Meuer, 43, of the Highlands, Ky.
Before public sales
of the obstacles are new, but all have become commonplace, and it's not
unusual for an artist to offer fans multiple options for buying tickets
before they go on sale to the general public.
There are also
dozens of tech-savvy ticket brokers, who either use automated computer
programs or pay people to man laptops or stand in line to buy tickets
for hot shows. The subsequent mark-up can be substantial.
None of it is illegal, but, as Meuer found, it can be annoying.
show we put on sale for (the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.), the
first 10 people in line are going to be scalpers, the guys who sleep
outside all night long," said Dennis Petrullo, general manager of the
Yum! Center. "And he's not the real scalper. He's being paid X amount of
dollars by somebody.
"You can go online an hour after a show goes
on sale and find hundreds of tickets for sale on StubHub. So how are
those people buying all of those seats?"
Simple, Petrullo said.
Scalpers also take advantage of pre-sale offers, either by joining fan
clubs or using credit cards that offer the benefit. Companies such as
American Express and Citibank frequently offer pre-sale deals to
members. And, of course, actual fans often use pre-sales, which are
typically available several days before the general public sale date.
said the artists dictate how many seats go to their fan clubs. If a
credit card company is involved, it dictates how many seats it may need.
The artist may also pick 100 or more of the best seats and offer them
in expensive VIP packages that often include meet-and-greet
opportunities, and every artist has a guest list that eats up a few more
Scalping is legal in 38 states as long as it's conducted off-site, which is why online ticket scalpers have flourished.
addition to StubHub, which is owned by eBay, other major players on the
secondary market are TicketsNow and TicketExchange, both owned by
Ticketmaster, and Coast to Coast tickets. These sites don't buy tickets
for resale but provide a marketplace for scalpers and take a cut of each
In recent months, artists such as Justin Bieber and Lady
Gaga have been criticized for scalping their own tickets, a practice
that Budnick said goes back decades and, again, is not illegal.
Ticketmaster also has been called out for its hypocrisy in speaking out
against scalpers while running two secondary market websites.
was recently named in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of fans
that claims the industry giant withholds tickets to the most popular
shows for later resale on TicketsNow.
After a 2009 incident in
which Bruce Springsteen fans were redirected to TicketsNow when
face-value seats were still available - an incident that Ticketmaster
said was a "computer glitch" - U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey
introduced legislation that would, in part, require artists, venues and
ticketing companies to reveal whether they're scalping their own
tickets. It also would prohibit the use of automated programs used by
scalpers and prohibit scalpers from buying tickets until 48 hours after
they go on sale. It has not passed.
A handful of artists are
trying to stymie scalpers by using paperless ticketing, which comes with
restrictions that also bother some consumers. You gain admittance by
showing your ID and the credit card used to purchase your seat. If
multiple people are attending together, everyone must arrive at the same
time to enter with the cardholder.
Plus, you can't simply give
the ticket away if you can't attend at the last minute. Reselling is
only possible at point of purchase through a cumbersome online system
that has additional fees.
Budnick sees benefits to artists having
tighter control over ticket sales, but also sees the secondary market
as a potential gold mine for savvy shoppers. He has a friend who decided
in 2012 that he would make scalpers his friends.
everyone that he was going to pay below face value for every single
ticket he purchased" in 2012, Budnick said, "and through StubHub and
various sites, he's been able to do that. He's gone to, I think, 28
shows without paying face value. He's very proud of that."
What are best routes to tickets?
the fan club for the artist in which you're most interested, thus
becoming eligible for pre-sale offers. Some fan clubs are cheap - Kid
Rock is $15 annually, for instance - and some aren't. Justin Bieber
charges $108 and Bon Jovi's top price is $160, although he also has a
Typically, bargain fan club prices entitle you only
to the basics, which is primarily access to tickets a few days early,
some online features not available to casual fans and possibly a signed
Some artists don't have fan clubs, but they will typically
offer pre-sale deals through a second party, such as American Express.
All you have to do is read the fine print about pre-sale options when
shows are announced, and then get or borrow the appropriate card.
patient, get lucky. Most artists release tickets the afternoon of the
show, and some are very good. They might be seats associated with VIP
packages that didn't sell or unused friends-of-the-band tickets.
the scalpers. While sellers on sites such as StubHub prefer to make a
profit, prices can drop significantly as showtime approaches. In cities
with professional sports, for example, it's not unusual for fans to
score prime $5 seats.
Jeffrey Lee Puckett, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal