Recently an article on ticket scalping appeared in The Bulletin, a newspaper in Oregon that was not particularly remarkable in any way, but did highlight through its predictable reporting the lack of understanding, and sometimes pure deficient journalism on this subject.
It starts off with the premise referred to in the headline, “Counterfeit concert tickets on the rise”, and makes the bold statement in the first sentence that “thieves and counterfeiters are preying on fans” who could not get Dave Matthews tickets before the concert sold out.
This article is typical in its reporting in that it only interviewed two venue spokespeople and one state legislator who previously had drafted legislation to limit the ability of ticket brokers to do business in a free market society. No quotes from ticket brokers, no conversation with any of the major ticket resell marketplaces like StubHub or TicketsNow, not even a comment from a supposed “scammed” ticket buyer. I can almost understand why they would not have a quote from a ripped off ticket buyer, you might have better luck finding a Yeti, but the brokers and marketplaces are easy to contact, and always eager to tell their stories.
So what is the truth, are fake tickets a huge problem and are crooks preying on unsuspecting fans? Let’s deconstruct the article to see what statements are myth and the truth.
Myth: Marney Smith, the director of the Les Schwab Amphitheater, stated in the article that for this concert “she’s seen more fake tickets and tickets being sold above face value” than any show since they opened in 2002.
Truth: I spoke with Ms. Smith and asked her to be more specific. Where has she seen these sales? How many fake tickets has she seen? How much were they over face value? And finally, did she have any examples to provide? She stated that she did not see any tickets herself, but she assumed that some must have been fakes since they were listed on resell sites like TicketsNow and GoodSeatTickets before they went on sale at her box office. She also said that she received a few calls from ticket buyers who were upset that their tickets were sold to them above face value.
I also asked her for the average number of fake tickets caught at the gate. Her answer, only four or five. In fact, her venue seats 8000, and the most she has ever seen turned away at the gate for counterfeit tickets was ten. That’s right, TEN! So, let’s make sure we understand these numbers. On the average .06%, or less than one half of one percent of the folks entering the arena were preyed upon by charlatans. Now of course having even one customer ripped off is bad for business, but ten is a long way from ticket counterfeiting becoming a menace to society.
Myth: Concert tickets were sold out in 90 seconds. Ticket brokers are buying all the good tickets, driving up the price of tickets.
Truth: Smith stated that fifty percent or 4000 of the tickets went to the Dave Matthews band, and another 700 were distributed by the venue, leaving 3300 available to general fans through the online seller Ticketfly.
Myth: Smith stated that any ticket sold over face value was illegitimate, her definition of ticket scalping.
Truth: I wanted to know if she could point me to the state or federal statute that outlawed free enterprise in Oregon. Her response, “I was just wrong”. She went on to state that even though buying and selling tickets above or below face value is not illegal, in her personal opinion it is immoral.
Fortunately for ticket reseller, Oregon has a “very strong free market constitution” says State Representative Julie Parrish. She’s on a mission to make that constitution a little less free market friendly. In 2013 she authored a bill that would have limited the ability of ticket brokers to sell tickets, claiming that ticket resellers “just sell air” by marketing tickets they may not have physical control of. Her goal is to stop brokers “from selling tickets without control of inventory.” In other words, if the broker did not have a physical ticket on hand, they could not advertise that ticket for sale. She also believes that venues can use copyright infringement laws to stop ticket resellers from using venue seating maps on their websites. Her bill failed in 2013, but she is already working on a redraft for 2015.
Regrettably for the ticket resell business, The Bulletin article is typical of the inadequate reporting that perpetuates the myths and lack of complete transparency that surrounds the ticketing business. Newsrooms are losing money, and as a result are cutting back. They have cut veteran reporters, and have replaced them with just graduated youngsters who are under pressure to get the story out quickly. No more time to adequately research and vet these stories. They have become story mills, and as a result print drivel that does not in some instances resemble anything close to the truth. But despite these pressures, there still isn’t any excuse for a reporter to not ask the simple follow up questions, or to ask for proof of assertions made by sources.
We are supposed to trust and believe the fourth estate as an independent and fair distiller of the story. But how can we trust and believe when only one side of the story is told?
The industry believes they are easy scapegoats for the venues and artists. Perhaps they are correct. Don Vaccaro, CEO of TicketNetwork, a leading online secondary marketplace for tickets thought that “traditional papers don’t give brokers a fair shake, TicketNews does, thank you TicketNews”.
The ticket resell business has become easy targets, like lawyers. They tell the jokes, and wish they didn’t exist. No one likes them, but everyone needs them at one time or another. When you can’t get that ticket to the Bieber concert your daughter wants to attend, who are you going to call? A safe bet is not Rep. Parrish, and certainly not the venue, which has already given away half the tickets to “VIPs”.
Q. Why did God invent ticket brokers?
A. So that lawyers would have someone to look down on.