Guest Commentary: The death of the ticket broker Guest Commentary: The death of the ticket broker
Twenty-two years ago, the way ticket sellers made money was to get on the phone and call other ticket sellers (brokers) to find out... Guest Commentary: The death of the ticket broker

Twenty-two years ago, the way ticket sellers made money was to get on the phone and call other ticket sellers (brokers) to find out who had what, so they could quote some tickets to their clients. They wrote the information on a piece of paper and used something called a “rolodex.” Those were the days when it was good to know “a guy” that could get you tickets to that hard-to-get-to event.

The natural progression of making that process easier through technology in conjunction with the rise of online sales was ultimately the cause of death for the “ticket broker.” Much in the way the travel agent became a dying breed, the ticket broker was soon to become instinct as well, if he could not adapt and recreate himself.

At first technology made communication easier for ticket brokers as they created their first wholesale (internal) exchange called Ticket Trader. Anybody remember “Marty”? He created the first known wholesale exchange in the ticket industry. It was easy. You would list your ticket on the system, as every other ticket holder did. The system synched everyone’s data (that was a big deal back then), and then you had access to hundreds of thousands of tickets, instead of whatever tickets you had in your hand. There were restrictions in being able to list your tickets on Ticket Trader. Marty policed it well as to not let everyone in who wanted to become a ticket broker; he attempted to keep the value of our industry high.

Then things sped up. The problem was that the average ticket broker could not keep track of or tabs on how fast the technology was advancing and in which direction. It wasn’t going to be long before something or someone would come along and replicate Ticket Trader, make it better and, worse yet, open it to the public.

Marty saw the writing on the wall. He sold Ticket Trader, which at the time must have had somewhere in the range of 300-400 users, to a company called “Openfield,” aka Razorgator. As this was happening, another company was already planning on taking what Ticket Trader had done and making it accessible to the public at large. You may have heard of them: StubHub.

Now no ticket broker would have believed that the day would come that their “loyal” clients would end up doing what the broker was doing all along — get in the business of buying and selling tickets. But it only made sense that they would and StubHub made it easy. They now had transparency, control and market share.

The industry wasn’t regulated. Ticket brokers were at times making 100% to 500% on mark-ups without question. The public exchange would be the buyer’s best resource in putting that to check. The buyer now had transparency to the actual market value of a ticket in this public exchange and thus became a more educated buyer. Loyalty vs. saving money — saving money wins.

The public exchange was a game changer for the secondary ticket market. Now suddenly the actual market value of a ticket became clear. No need to go to a broker anymore unless they actually held the tickets, which is one of the two ingredients required today to have a successful ticket company.

The second requirement is having a comprehensive online marketing department, an SEO-friendly Web site, social network development, and more. Pay Per Click became a mixture of art and science with very thin profit margins that made it very hard for the newcomer to break through.

Not to digress, but soon there were more exchanges and ultimately affiliate programs from those exchanges to capture more of the online market share. In short, the days of brokering tickets was done, with the exception of a few events where you can’t list seats on an exchange, like your World Cups and awards shows.

The stark reality was the ticket reseller either had to have their own inventory of tickets in a niche market to be identified within or have a comprehensive online campaign. The ticket brokers who chose to adapt and started learning about the Internet and online marketing had a learning curve. Some managed to survive and recreate themselves — those that didn’t died — and the new face of the online ticket seller emerged.

A bite more tech savvy then he had ever envisioned or hoped to be, but still alive.

Amir Khalighi is the president and CEO of TicketPlatform.com, a leading company in custom Web site and application design in the ticket industry. For the past four years, Ticket Platform has been providing hundreds of subscribers with affordable, user-friendly and SEO-friendly ticket sites in addition to helping them with their online marketing and social networking development.

Updated: Monday, October 3, 9:37 a.m. (EDT)