For close to three hours during its recent annual meeting in Las Vegas, members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) fiercely debated...

For close to three hours during its recent annual meeting in Las Vegas, members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) fiercely debated but ultimately split down the middle over the issue of speculative ticket sales and how the secondary ticket industry trade organization would deal with it.

The common practice of listing “spec tickets,” as they are called, involves brokers “pre-listing” or posting tickets to events before they have obtained them. The issue has become a target of scrutiny in recent months, as politicians and other critics zero in on the practice in a supposed effort to improve transparency in the ticketing industry.

While some of the NATB’s 200 members support doing away altogether with the practice of spec tickets, an equal number of members support keeping the practice in tact, though perhaps with slightly tougher language in the group’s Code of Ethics to define how sales of such tickets will be handled.

The exact language that may be added to the code was not finalized during the meeting, but it may state that before a sale brokers clearly identify whether the tickets listed are spec tickets, and stress that a buyer may receive a comparable or better ticket by a certain date. Currently, the NATB requires that brokers inform buyers whether orders are guaranteed or not, but the code does not directly address the issue of spec tickets.

“If a broker were to tell me 10th row center for an order, but then gives me eighth row center, as a customer I’d be happy,” said Ken Solky, voted the new president of the NATB, replacing Tom Patania who stepped down. “I would just want to know that before I made the purchase.”

Just when a customer is notified is also part of the issue, with some members wanting that notification up front before the sale, while others want it mentioned at the end of the sale.


Also being discussed is what specifically constitutes an upgrade? For example, for some shows, such as the Blue Man Group, seats closer to the stage are considered “poncho” seats because they are likely to get sprayed by confetti or other matter, while at many NASCAR races, the better seats are often higher in the stands to allow for a better vantage point of the whole track.

“At the end of the day, it’s our job as brokers to get the customers what they want,” Solky said. “I don’t like hearing from disappointed customers, ‘I thought I was getting X but instead I got something else.’ Fortunately, of the hundreds of thousands of transactions that occur in the secondary ticket market, only a small fraction end up like that. But, our goal is to have none.”

Patania, owner of New Jersey based ticket brokerage Select-A-Ticket, stepped down as president, he said, to become more involved in the association’s year-old commercial ticket venture NATB.com, pump up the group’s public relations efforts and act as a liaison between the NATB and the ticket exchanges, such as TicketNews’s parent company TicketNetwork and StubHub.