Public perception of the secondary ticket market has drastically improved over the past decade. Organizations such as StubHub and TicketsNow have completely altered perceptions of the industry by introducing ticket guarantees and a safe and secure platform for exchanging tickets. Further, these two organizations (StubHub and TicketNow’s parent company, Ticketmaster) have lobbied heavily for the elimination of anti-scalping laws that no longer apply to the current state of the industry.
However, while the industry would appear to have attained legitimacy in the eyes of consumers and sport and entertainment industry professionals, public perception at the organizational level remains an important topic to address as academic research indicates that perceived legitimacy is a primary predictor of organizational mortality, particularly for young organizations. Further, research also suggests that the presence of illegitimate organizations within an industry can create a negative perception for industry as a whole (i.e., you’re only as good as your weakest link).
This article was originally intended to address a variety of strategies for increasing the perceived legitimacy and credibility of the secondary ticket market and the businesses that participate in it. There are certainly things that any broker or ticket Web site administrator can do to overcome the lingering antiquated views of the industry such as complying with anti-scalping laws and providing quality customer service and organizational accountability in the form of ticket guarantees and other policies.
However, as I spent the weekend in St. Louis attending the interleague series between the Cardinals and Oakland A’s, the angle for this piece abruptly changed course. Instead, this article will focus on one specific thing that already legitimate secondary ticketing businesses must do to build legitimacy at both the industry level as well as the organizational level.
Street scalpers have long been polarizing figures in ticketing. Entities in the primary market are reluctant to embrace them for they often hassle patrons and occasionally engage in unethical practices such as price gauging and seat misrepresentation. However, scalpers provide a key service for sport properties as they facilitate last-minute transactions. This reduction of no-shows allows sport managers to gain otherwise lost revenue from the sale of parking, concessions, and merchandise.
Similarly, ticket brokers often utilize these individuals to help rid themselves of unsold inventory in the hours leading up to an event. However, these associations, while profitable and convenient, are potentially damaging to the public image of that broker and secondary ticket market overall. Each one of the street scalpers that I spoke with had an existing association with a broker in the area and most had business cards ready to distribute on that broker’s behalf.
While this by itself is not problematic, the behavior of street scalpers often leaves a lasting impression on event patrons. These individuals swarm like bees and often treat patrons with a complete lack of respect. Any legitimate broker would hate to see their organization represented in this way.
The secondary ticket market has shifted towards a predominantly virtual setting. While this has allowed for tremendous growth in the industry, it leaves consumers with no visual image of legitimate businesses. Instead, consumers are left to develop their impression of ticket resellers from their encounters with members of the secondary ticket market.
Of course, consumers with experience buying from legitimate online sources may, in fact, have very favorable impressions of the industry. However, individuals whose encounters are limited to those with street scalpers are likely left with lingering distrust of the practice of resale (or fear of breaking the law) and may resist utilizing the secondary market as a result of the impression of this “black market” for tickets.
So this article serves as a call to ticket brokers to disassociate with street scalpers in the best interests of continuing to improve not only the image of their business, but the legitimacy of the entire industry. The big companies (StubHub, Ticketmaster, etc…) and regulatory agencies such as the National Association of Ticket Brokers will continue to lobby heavily for the deregulation of ticket resale. Brokers must now do their part to help the industry continue to thrive.
The technology exists to safely and securely distribute tickets in the hours leading up to the event but to change the nature of resale on the day of an event, brokers must be creative and ambitious. It is important to remember that street scalpers represent the company that they work for just like any other employee. In order to maintain high levels of consumer trust and satisfaction, these “employees” need to be replaced by more trustworthy and consumer-friendly representatives.
After four seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Joris Drayer completed his Ph.D. at University of Northern Colorado in 2007. Drayer’s dissertation examines the strategic interactions between the primary and secondary ticket markets in the NFL. Currently a professor at The University of Memphis, Drayer conducts research covering a variety of ticketing-related topic areas, including price determination, demand estimates in the secondary market, the development of competitive strategies, and consumer perceptions of price and value. Drayer also conducts research on consumer behavior, particularly in relation to fantasy sports participation. Drayer also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in sport marketing and finance.