By Joe Cohen Increasingly, conversations about the business of ticketing seem to be about the blurring of the lines between primary and secondary markets....

By Joe Cohen

Increasingly, conversations about the business of ticketing seem to be about the blurring of the lines between primary and secondary markets. For consumers, buying tickets has been “blurry” for a long time. Additionally, it is not all that clear to many market players how the industry will shake out in the foreseeable future.

Nowadays, ticket exchanges, such as Seatwave, StubHub, TicketsNow and TicketLiquidator, have grown up and are part of fans regular repertoire. The big players have anted up (eBay paid $310 million for StubHub; Ticketmaster paid $265 million for TicketsNow), but what we are now seeing is a reverse trend taking place; a great interest to integrate secondary sites back into the primary market – this is the blurring of the lines. Organizers and rights holders are now selling tickets directly on the secondary market (given this fact the name no longer fits), recognizing the potential to maximize revenue streams and their client base.

Ticket exchanges burst onto the ticketing scene nearly ten years ago with the proposition to solve a problem for consumers who were unhappy about the limited number of choices they had to purchase tickets. Fans were frustrated with spending their Saturday mornings listening to interminable hold music and maybe a seat in the uppers if they had the patience of Job and the luck of Moses. If not, then it was time to visit the local ticket broker… and we know all too well how that routine often went. Enter those online ticket exchanges, and suddenly there were websites where lots of people were selling tickets, competing with one another for consumers’ cash and someone behind it all who’d stand up if the tickets didn’t. For fans, the world of ticketing had changed – a service had evolved and new purchase options were created. Most people were even happy to pay the FedEx fee to get the tickets in their hands.

But are lines really blurring — and should they?

The exact same people who broke primary ticketing for consumers in the first place are now co-opting the emerging secondary market — for reasons we all know too well. It won’t be long before they break the secondary market as well. Seatwave is proud to say that in the past twelve months, a period during which the rate of inflation grew by 50 basis points, the average price of tickets sold on the site have come down by 20 percent. The purpose of any secondary market is price discovery and liquidity — and to the extent that primary tickets get diverted into this market, fans will take notice and soon enough will vote with their feet. Our choice is to either make buying tickets clear and easy for consumers or once again allow someone else to do it for us.

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Joe Cohen is the founder and CEO of Seatwave.com, a leading ticket company in the UK. He will be a panel speaker at Ticket Summit 2008, July 23-25, at the Venetian Hotel Resort Casino in Las Vegas.