A day after brokers were told that the lines between their market, the secondary ticket market, and the primary market were going or gone, along came a dose of reality on day two of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) industry conference on Saturday.
During a panel discussion about secondary ticket exchanges, top executives from major secondary ticket companies StubHub, TicketsNow, viagogo, RazorGator, Ticket Technology and Ticket Community, the sentiments of the previous day where all but forgotten as battle lines appeared to be drawn among those companies and several brokers in the audience.
What continues to divide secondary ticket exchanges and brokers, even though both depend on each other, is the issue of trust and data protection. Both Cheryl Rosner, president and CEO of TicketsNow, and Chris Tsakalakis, president and CEO of StubHub, took great pains to try to reassure brokers that they are not out to destroy their businesses, in part because the two said they embrace transparency and open markets. But, broker after broker seemed unwilling to fully take them at their word.
“The way you feel about subsidizing FedEx and Google is how we feel about all of you,” said Jim Holzman, owner of Ace Ticket in Boston. He was referring to a comment the day before by Live Nation’s Greg Bettinelli, who half jokingly said the only people making money in the secondary business are FedEx and Google.
Tsakalakis said that if there is any blurring of the lines between brokers and primary ticket companies, it’s due to greed, which he added was not a negative. “It’s profit motive,” he said, and he advised brokers of three things to help them in their businesses: “buy well, price well and do the best thing for the customer.”
“Our job is to create demand for the supply of inventory that our broker clients provide,” Rosner told the group, adding that one of TicketsNow’s goals is to help create more efficiency and provide a better consumer experience.
Eric Baker, an original co-founder of StubHub and now the president and CEO of UK-based viagogo.com, said he remembered the resistance he and the other StubHub executives faced when launching the site, but he does not see the lines blurring between brokers and primary ticketers. “There’s more risk right now being a primary ticket seller than there is being a broker,” he said.
Jeffrey Lapin, president and CEO of RazorGator, said that part of the problem with the ticketing industry over the past several years is that for a long time sports teams and music artists didn’t think of the secondary ticket market as a profit center, but now they do, partly because with the transparency that the Internet has caused they all want more of a piece of the financial pie.
“It’s squeezing the margins out of the market,” he said. “Whoever controls the customer will win, but for the smaller broker it will become more difficult.”