By Stacey Willets
Four years after opening, Wicked is still theatre’s hottest production, turning the classic story of The Wizard of Oz on its head by painting the Wicked Witch of the West as the central and sympathetic character. When it comes to more-misunderstood-than-evil Elphaba, ticket-buyers are all for vindicating the villain. When it comes to the big bad brokers peddling Wicked and, more importantly, Hannah Montana tickets, not so much.
With the timing of Ticketmaster’s lawsuit against RMG Technologies becoming widely publicized in the midst of the Hannah Montana debacle, whether you have an iota of interest in Miley Cyrus or not, it’s been nearly impossible to access any form of media without seeing headlines such as: “Brokers snatch joy from Hannah Montana fans” or “Sold Out: How ticket grabbers ruined fans’ chance to see Hannah Montana” or the recent “Scalpers 1, Kids 0: Hannah Montana Ticketing Scandal Under Scrutiny.” Much of the coverage of the sellouts reports that the vast majority of Hannah tickets were snapped up by brokers using “sophisticated software” to “cut in line” and shut out the true fans. So the court’s ruling to grant Ticketmaster an injunction against RMG Technologies is a glorious triumph in the epic battle between good and evil, right?
Not exactly . . .
The reality is that most resellers don’t use the so-called “back door technologies” allegedly provided by companies like RMG. “I don’t think [the RMG technology] is very prevalent in the industry,” Don Vaccaro, CEO of TicketNetwork recently told the Hartford Courant in an interview. In fact, comments on TicketNews.com’s story on the ruling were left by brokers on board with the decision. If people are led to believe that the world is overridden with high-tech scalpers using illegal software bots, they are going to be confused and angry when brokers continue to do business just as they have through the ages.
As for most events, ticket brokers did acquire a portion of Hannah Montana tickets. Though unsure of exact amounts, industry professionals estimate less than 20% of the total available tickets turned up on the secondary market in the hands of brokers. One speculated maybe even less than 10%. To someone unfamiliar with the workings of the industry, it certainly looks like more than that because many brokers sell their tickets through multiple channels, perhaps listing the same seats on first-ranked secondary site StubHub.com, second-ranked TicketsNow.com, and third-ranked TicketLiquidator.com to increase their chances of finding a buyer. There are tickets listed on eBay and Craigslist, though those aren’t likely to be big-name brokers, but rather small or one-time resellers capitalizing on an obvious opportunity and the ease of reselling through the Internet.
Ticket resale is a nuanced industry. People have a general understanding that there are “scalpers” who purchase blocks of tickets to live events for the purpose of reselling them for a profit. Beyond that rudimentary knowledge of the ticket brokering business, there is still a lot of misunderstanding that leads to frustration, suspicion, and litigation.
There are many misconceptions about the Ticketmaster vs. RMG case, for example. The top ticket seller is not attempting to vanquish the secondary market, but rather looks to maintain a level playing field. Ticketmaster President and CEO Sean Moriarty said, “We recognize and respect the necessity and reality of a vibrant resale market, but we will not tolerate those who seek an unfair advantage through the use of automated programs.” Ticketmaster itself has a stake in secondary ticketing, and third-ranked primary seller Live Nation also plans on joining the resale market.
Tickets will always find their way into the secondary market, and occasionally prices will spike to obscene amounts, but while brokers may very well be the bane of many a ticket-buyer’s existence during an onsale frenzy, these are the same brokers that offer event tickets for below face value, that help ailing productions fill the venue, and that buy tickets for sports teams even in their worst years for the chance to resell tickets in the good ones. Consumers may not advocate their business, and that is their prerogative, but they should be exposed to the facts about the industry.
To see all the Top Tens websites rankings, check out the press release in the Daily Buzz section of TicketNews.com. Visit the Industry resources section of TicketNews.com for full lists of the Top Twenty Secondary Ticket Sellers and the Top Twenty Overall Ticket Sellers, or to read an explanation of how we calculate the rankings.