Category Archives: ticket sales

The cold harsh reality of ticket scalping

 

Recently, I ran across an article by Consequence of Sound that didn’t surprise me one bit, yet reading the words infuriated me anyway. Surely you must know what I mean: when something tells you what you already know, even so, it makes you angry to read the words in print. That was my reaction when I read the headline alone.

“Ticketmaster has been reportedly been enlisting scalpers to purchase tickets in bulk, and then resell them at higher prices on the Ticketmaster-owned platform, TradeDesk.”

https://consequenceofsound.net/2018/09/ticketmaster-scalper-program/

I have to ask, just how many people are surprised to read any of that? I doubt many, particularly if you’ve gone to many concerts over the years. If anything, you read the headline and while you weren’t shocked, you are definitely at least a little angry.  Even though as of Friday morning, Ticketmaster denies any such claim, it is hard to imagine that the reports weren’t just wild accusations.

Here’s the thing, we all know Ticketmaster condones at least some form of secondary marketplace because they run one. It is on their website, and the reseller tickets are offered right alongside the regular ones. These tickets are sold by private individuals, but Ticketmaster facilitates the sale. Yes, as Ticketmaster admits through a disclaimer right on the site as a customer is browsing, resale ticket prices may be inflated over and above the face value. But is that scalping?

By definition, yes. However, the scalping practice that Ticketmaster and others have spoken out against in the past usually involves a bot purchasing more than the posted ticket limit, typically in large volume, and then reselling those tickets for ridiculously bloated prices.

How many times have any of us participated in a Ticketmaster pre or general sale, only to come away empty-handed just moments later because the show had sold out in what felt like record time? We can thank the bots for that, right? How would you feel though if those bots actually worked with Ticketmaster, as the article claims?  What if they were actually being recruited to participate?

TradeDesk is Ticketmaster’s professional reseller product, which allows resellers to validate and distribute tickets to multiple marketplaces. The article claims that Ticketmaster turns a blind eye to those who use automated systems to amass tickets for resell using TradeDesk. It doesn’t mention whether these tickets are sold at inflated pricing, but you and I know that of course they are. Again, I have to ask, isn’t that scalping, at least by definition?

Even through TradeDesk, there is a CoC (Code of Conduct) that applies. There are limits to how many tickets can be purchased, and according to Ticketmaster, there is no program in place to enable resellers to amass tickets in volume, nor is it acceptable for resellers to create fictitious user accounts to circumvent the system.

The question of what constitutes scalping still hangs thick in the air. The answer depends on whom you’re asking. For Ticketmaster, that line is very clear. As long as they are profiting, both on the front and back-end, it’s not scalping.

To many of my friends, this subject comes down to fairness. We want to be able to get good seats, we want fair pricing. With volume resellers in the business right beside Ticketmaster, a scenario involving fairness happens less and less. I’ve gone online in search of tickets for a few gigs lately. More and more often, within moments of a show going on sale, there are fewer and fewer primary sale ticket available. Everything shows up as a resale, and that means paying augmented prices right off the bat.

When I was young, and quite frankly – stupid, I wanted to believe that The Powers That Be wanted this system to be fair. I looked at bots and scalpers as the root cause to the problem. I felt that Ticketmaster just couldn’t evolve quickly enough to circumvent the work-arounds that bots (and the like) could create. As I’ve grown older and far more cynical, I recognize the real problem. My friends, you and I don’t matter.  This has never been about fairness to the consumer. Fair ticketing doesn’t matter. It is about money, and by that I mean Ticketmaster’s money, not yours.

-R

 

Back on the bike ride to ticket sales desperation

There is nothing like a last-minute show announcement or  Duran Duran concert ticket sales to get the blood pumping.

This morning, I trudged to my computer, ready to get my day going, when almost immediately I was met with notifications that I’d been tagged on Facebook posts. My jaw dropped when, out of nowhere, I read that Duran Duran was announcing a show in Los Angeles in conjunction with a Lynch Foundation event at the Ace Hotel.  I blinked (because obviously I was seeing things), shook my head a bit, re-read the post again, and then realized that DDHQ had once again outdone themselves with advance notice.

Ticket sales were to begin in AN HOUR.

Listen, I’m all for reacting quickly to news. I’m a parent. My entire life is spent reacting to things I’d tried to prepare for in advance.  Quickly, I did the math in my head, knowing that Spring Break for my kids was the week after the event (Is anyone else chuckling that the event is on April Fools Day? Irony. A-mazing.), but what did that mean for Amanda? Would she want to fly out? Would she be willing to go for the cheap seats? Would the show even be worth my time? (Wait. Stop right there. Worth my time?!? This is Duran Duran, right? Right??)

I email Amanda with our special “you’d better check this immediately” code.  What is THAT, you ask?

This is an Official Duranie Alert!

(that’s the code!)

I wait. Fifteen minutes and several of my nails later…I text her, knowing that yes, she’s probably in class, and yes, she’s almost certainly working.  It’s Duran Duran, dammit!  Would she ignore a text from John Taylor? I think not!

In the meantime, I shuttle the youngest to school, come home and realize that the ticket sales link isn’t working. Stop the presses…the  link isn’t working? For ticket sales that begin in an hour…scratch that…in twenty minutes??  I check Twitter, no one is saying much other than the couple of other people who are looking for tickets. I go to Facebook, hoping some kind soul has found the golden link and is willing to hand out such intel. No dice…in fact, oddly enough, on a post about a show in Los Angeles with sales that begin that very morning, there are oddly few posts. Less than twenty when I post for the first time…and most of those are people begging for shows in other places. I post my comment that the link doesn’t work, and only a few respond. Weird. I start wondering if I’m in an alternate universe. Maybe I dropped into a black hole last night while I slept! (I KNEW our mattress was wearing out!!) 

Finally, the phone rings. At first I’m annoyed. Don’t people realize I’m  about to buy Duran Duran tickets?  Then I recognize that it’s Amanda. AMANDA! I grab the phone, announce that I hate the band (Standard operating procedure here at Daily Duranie – and I think it’s become a bit of our password to one another. When we greet one another that way, we know we’re talking to the right person.) and then launch into a very animated retelling of the morning’s events thus far.  Even though Amanda cannot see me, my hands are moving at lightning speed, because I am Sicilian, and in my family – that means we talk with our hands. It’s a sight to behold.

After I calm down, we notice the link is finally working, and triumphantly wait to see that…wait a second…ONLY VIP tickets are being sold. Huh? Listen, I love Duran Duran. No one should probably assume otherwise despite my avid name calling…but there is no way on this Planet Earth that I am paying $1000 for tickets to see the band. No way. Especially not since they are one of about 15 other fine folks scheduled to perform or “interpret” that night. (I am secretly nervous about what that might mean at this point…)

“For a show that price, I’d have to be sitting on stage, with the band…in a recliner. :D” – Rhonda on Twitter

So it was quickly established that nothing other than VIP was being sold. As Amanda and I vented on the phone, she and I would try to pull tickets every so often, and I almost continuously pulled up the same two pairs of VIP tickets, telling me that either no one was buying, or there were only two pairs of VIP tickets available.  Odd. Still no one saying much on Facebook or Twitter. Am I the only Duran Duran fan left, or do all other LA fans have the inside track to ticket sales??

Not minding that Amanda is at work and should probably be spending her time doing a thousand other things than talking to me on the phone, we agree that if we can get tickets, she’s coming out here for Spring Break (something that, the longer we talk on the phone, the more I realize I desperately need).

Why stress now when you can stress now AND later?

As we continue chatting, another friend spots that the ticket sale has now moved to 11am and communicates this intel. Because you know…why stress now when you can stress again in an hour?  So we have a game plan, and once again, we find ourselves in the desperate act of hoping for tickets to a show.  Have we not learned a SINGLE, SOLITARY thing in the past several years??

Actually we have, which is why we’re going for the cheap seats. 🙂

“It’s like riding a bike, Rhonda, you don’t forget!” – Amanda, on fandom and ticket sales.

I need therapy. Group therapy.

-R

BTW – we ended up with a little more expensive than “cheap seats” (I’m addicted and obviously in need of rehab. More rehab.)  Love you, Duran Duran.

 

When it comes to making money say yes, please, thank you

I don’t know many people who love Ticketmaster. Personally I put it in the box marked “necessary evils”…alongside things such as bathroom scales, dentist appointments, trips to the post office during the month of December…and of course the IRS here in America. I love going to concerts, but I do hate the process of actually getting tickets.

Back in my day (and probably yours), we had to camp outside of a Ticketmaster office in order to be in line for tickets. That was all fine and good until the powers that be decided to make it “fair” and hand out wristbands instead. Then all hell broke loose, and the “rules” depended upon what show you were trying to buy. In some instances, wristbands were handed out in some actual order. In others, wristband numbers were handed out randomly, so even though you might have arrived at 10am (or even the night before) and were first in line – you might have ended up with wristband number #238 or #10 or even #562. It was annoying and for a while, I actually stopped trying to go to concerts – it was more trouble than it seemed to be worth.

Nowadays, you get online, and you begin clicking ‘refresh’ at 9:58am (because you never know when tickets will go live a little early or when your clock is a little off – it happens!) and then pray to the concert gods that your request for two pit seats actually comes through.  Truth be told, mine NEVER did. Perhaps your experiences have been different over the years. Then something miraculous happened, and Duran Duran started DDM. Now while I am not a fan of DDM in most ways, I was at least partially appreciative of their presale tickets. I didn’t have to deal with Ticketmaster any longer and had a semi-decent shot of not only getting tickets, but being close enough to actually see the band. Then there were the VIP ticket offerings, and while I hated the price (and still do), I appreciate the fact that they are available through Artist Arena. I also appreciate that I can see what tickets I’m actually buying before I get to the venue or before I get my tickets in the mail. (Old DDM presales were not that way.)

So this morning, when I read this article about Ticketmaster, I have to admit that my first emotion was annoyance. The article, from motherboard.com, explains that Ticketmaster is well-aware that humans are in fact losing the human vs. bot race to get tickets. They are also well-aware that scalper-bots obtain 60% of the concert tickets out there, and that the goal for Ticketmaster is merely to slow the bots down, not stop them.

Rest assured, Ticketmaster is not trying to stop anyone from buying tickets. That means if you and your buddies have figured out a way to beat the system – Ticketmaster isn’t necessarily going to stop you. Let’s face it – their goal is to have the seats sold. They don’t care how or to whom, because it’s not their business. That’s just plain old dollars and cents.  They truly cannot worry themselves over whether Darla Diehard Duranie was able to click fast enough to get the front section of a show or if she’s sitting in the back, or maybe didn’t get a ticket at all – they just want the seats sold as quickly as possible, because the burn rate AFTER the first 35 minutes a show goes on sale (meaning the rate at which tickets are sold) drops like a cliff and I’m being pretty generous with that time table – I would bet that after about minute 19 they’re already seeing a significant drop in sales per minute. Why? For a lot of bands, if you’re not online within the first minute or so that a show goes on sale you’re going to get crappy seats at best. Duran might not necessarily be in that league today, but artists and bands like Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, and plenty of others I’m not taking the time to mention still play ball in that game. So, after the first half hour, it becomes a case of “Well, should I even bother looking?” The sales per minute rate falls drastically, if there are still tickets left.  In the case of those big leaguers, there might not be – but for hundreds of other acts, the diehard fans buy their tickets first, and then whatever is leftover after that 30 minute mark gets sold at the rate of a trickle. So sure, Ticketmaster is going to sell to whomever comes to them with a credit card that works.  Their goal is merely to try and slow the bots down so that fans at least have a teensy chance in grabbing tickets. It’s reality.

The “fairness” of buying concert tickets on Ticketmaster has been a debate for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t about camping out before tickets went on sale, it was about waiting on hold for an operator to get to you for your request, and now scalp-bots. Concert tickets are big business – even artists themselves consistently say that these days it’s about the touring – records don’t sell, but tours still seem to sell-out. Scalpers are going to take advantage of that, and to be fair – I don’t think there is really much that Ticketmaster or any other agency can really do. The technology moves too fast, and for Ticketmaster – those scalper-bots are fantastic customers. They buy in bulk.

So the next time DDM announces a presale, I’ll be sure to take a moment to extoll their virtues before cursing them for giving me 12 hours notice.

-R

Tickets Tickets Tickets

Did you know that Ticketmaster desperately wants to be our buddy? Their latest and most brilliant idea yet is to be our Facebook friend. It’s not enough that Ticketmaster wants to take our last dollar (and the very next one we make as well) by inflating ticket prices by as much as 50% due to all of the convenience charges and whatnot. No, now they want to be friends.  Why?

Ticketmaster has recently started asking customers if we’d like to post our purchases to Facebook. When a customer agrees, Ticketmaster notices that they can track an additional $5.30 in ticket purchases to that posting. In addition, if we’re enthusiastic enough and post our seat locations because we want to brag that we got amazing seats even without that DDM member presale, that amount goes up to $8.00!

Did you know that the average Ticketmaster purchase is 2.7 tickets? The site already knows plenty about us, thanks to the super fancy customer tracking that is done.  (and truthfully, every other consumer based website out there does similar) What they really want to know, and why they are begging to be our friends on Facebook, is who are those other 1.7 people.  Call me fascinated.  

Read more about ticketmaster HERE.

Ultimately, the name of the game for Ticketmaster is keeping people away from secondary markets like StubHub. While I would agree that of course Ticketmaster wants our money…and customer loyalty can certainly be found through various methods, the real issue are the tickets getting to StubHub (and similar) in the first place.

The problem for Duranies is simple: we want the best seats. If DDM or the band offered the best seats to fans, and we were guaranteed to get them – I’d buy them (assuming of course that I had the funds to do so). Wouldn’t you? In my experience with DDM, however, that just is not the case.  I’m unsure of the percentages with Artist Arena (I would have to imagine that they are similar if not slightly worse), but when DDM handled presales directly, I knew that they would offer 10% of the best AND worst seats at a presale.  This was posted somewhere on the website, and I made note. For those of us who are insistent about sitting as close to the stage as possible – our choices are either to buy a VIP ticket which is at or near $300 USD (or even more!), try for a seat at the regular Ticketmaster sale, or go to StubHub. The prices fluctuate greatly because they are set by the seller, but there are good seat locations to be had, and the prices are not quite VIP level. Sure, there are plenty of scalpers that operate on StubHub.  Yes, there are plenty of reasons not to buy from StubHub, not least of which being the chance of counterfeit tickets out there, but the allure remains.

Read more about those nasty scalpers:

An interview with a scalper 

Secondary ticketing is wrong

Scalping and technology

-R

It’s a Delicate Balance

From what I’ve read everywhere this morning, it sounds as though the Nokia Theatre show here in LA last night was a success.  The encore appeared to have been beefed back up to it’s normal standards, and I’ve yet to hear any concerns about Simon’s voice.  (Just so everyone understands – I am just as tired of typing those words as you might be to read them.  I’d love to move on and forget all about the past 6 months.  Trouble is, right now it’s still a very big deal.  They can’t tour with out his voice.  They can’t really be Duran Duran without Simon.  So I report what I read and hear.)  I did catch some video and they looked as though they were on fire, and for the LA crowd – that’s important because as you all should know, it’s an industry show.  People from “The Business” are there, along with 7,000 other people that actually make a difference as to whether or not the band gets any kind of visibility here in LA or elsewhere.

As I was doing my morning reading, I came across a discussion about ticket sales.  On one hand, there were people declaring that the tour isn’t selling well and that everyone should be worried.  On the other, there were a couple fans declaring that any tour is a good tour.  

This is a delicate subject and a balance has to be struck somewhere.  Of course having the band tour is a great thing.  I don’t think anyone would disagree – except for those who enjoy playing the devils advocate for whatever decision the band has made most recent.  Any fan wants the band to tour, naturally.  That said, in order to continue touring, ticket sales must be made.  Shows do need to sell out or come very close to doing so.  I hate knowing that.  I would much rather be a cheerleader for just being glad they’re here, but I also want them to be able to continue, monetarily speaking.  I’m sure we’ve all seen where entire tours for other artists have been scrapped simply because ticket sales were not where they should be.  Typically in a touring situation, a band works with a promoter, whose job it is to get the band booked.  Promises are made, deals are struck, contracts are signed between venue and the band.  The band makes money no matter how many tickets are sold (typically)….within a respectable preset limit between the promoter, the band and the venue.  However, if a band doesn’t sell enough tickets, and the promoter has to go back to the venue saying that only a certain percentage has sold, the venue may back out of future deals, and I believe in some cases they can even cancel that particular date if the percentage sold is low enough. Since bad news rolls downhill, when it comes time for the band to do a new tour, they might have trouble finding a promoter that will work with them.  Of course, this is a very simplified version of what happens and there are a million “what ifs” here, but this is the very basic idea.   Album sales have gone down across the board for every artist – Duran Duran most definitely included in that – and as such, they make their money touring.  They need to be able to fill shows, and if they are booking places that seat 7,000 but are only selling 3,500 tickets – that’s not good.

So where is the balance?  It’s finding the sweet spot between booking great venues that hold a fair number of people, knowing that those tickets will sell…and providing just enough shows on a tour to create a demand for those shows.  If they’d booked 3 nights in a row at Nokia Theatre, would those tickets have sold well?  Those are questions that have to be answered to find the balance.   Yes, it is great to have the band tour.  I’m not in the camp that believes they shouldn’t have come back to the states so soon – quite honestly ticket sales weren’t that much better for them here in the spring, and yet they were doing smaller theaters then as well – to dictate to me that it was too soon to return.  My suspicion is that perhaps they need to be booking smaller theaters next tour.  Nokia seats 7,100 which is pretty large.  I think Valley Center on Saturday is going to be quite a bit smaller than Nokia, but LA is a very big city and could support selling 7,000 tickets – although I don’t believe that show sold out completely.  I still don’t think that the Valley Center show is close to selling out and I think that theater has a capacity closer to the 3 or 4,000 range. In April I believe they stuck to places between 3,000 & 4,000 – and I think if they tour with that being the highest capacity for the largest cities, then smaller cities having smaller 2-3,000 capacities, that would probably work well for them.  Yes, it’s great to have those huge arena shows.  It’s also not 1984.  Let’s be glad their touring AND wish for great sales.  It takes both.

-R