Category Archives: Ticketmaster

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.”

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.



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, 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.