Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton”, recently penned an Op-Ed to the New York Times, “Stop the Bots From Killing Broadway.” Most brokers and ticketing industry insiders, including my company, TicketNetwork, absolutely support proposals to eliminate the use of bots to circumvent the ticket buying security measures.
We were excited to see that NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman supported reforming the industry through his report, “Obstructed View: What’s Blocking New Yorkers From Getting Tickets”, and answered his call for assistance with doing so.
We understand the public’s concern with the almost instantaneous sell out of tickets. The regular ticket buying public are confused, and the misinformation spread by producers, venues and artists has clouded the issue. Unfortunately, it is mathematically impossible for everyone to get a ticket to “Hamilton”; there are just too many fans and not enough tickets, no matter at what price they are sold. Trying to control the price by artificially controlling the free market, and making scapegoats of those who legally and fairly participate in that market will not solve that problem.
Mr. Schneiderman’s first finding is telling. The report states that “Our investigation found that the majority of tickets for the most popular concerts are not reserved for the general public at least in the first instance. Rather, before a member of the public can buy a single ticket for a major entertainment event, over half [54%] of the available tickets are either put on “hold” and reserved for a variety of industry insiders including the venues, artists or promoters, or are reserved for “pre-sale” events…”
Venue owners, artists, promoters and other industry insiders fail to mention the fact that they were the first culprits identified in Mr. Schneiderman’s report as blocking New Yorkers access to tickets. They take the best tickets and repackage them as a “Platinum” or “Gold” package, and then subsequently resale them at two to three times the face value. Yet, if an enterprising ticket buyer does the same, they are branded as a criminal. Deflecting the blame to ticket brokers and the secondary market, who are bit players in this production, does not solve the problem.
Nathan Hubbard, the former CEO of Ticketmaster, wrote a very good insiders perspective of the industry for online news source “The Ringer”, which he called “a fans guide to why you are totally screwed.” He stated that the biggest artists normally sign contracts that guarantee them payment equaling 100 percent of the total tickets face value. At that rate how does the promoter make money? Hubbard writes, “by selling some of the best seats directly in the secondary market, so that artists don’t get flack from you for pricing them high right out of the gate. That means the artist [and venue] is either directly complicit, or that the artist is taking a massive check for the performance while looking the other way”.
For years we have repeatedly led the charge to add transparency to ticket selling by submitting legislation in many states, including New York. We have proposed that venues and artists publicly list the total number of tickets available, as well as the number held back from the general public. Venues, artists and promoters have always led the charge to defeat these proposals. Why? Simply, if consumers knew the truth – the game is fixed from the start – they may not remain fans. As Hubbard put it, “they’re terrified of getting criticism” from fans for the price of their tickets, so they shift the blame somewhere else.
We believe in the American concept of fairness and balance. We absolutely supported the original bot bill by Assemblyman Marcos Crespo. To balance that, we also support adding transparency to the industry by making it a crime for any venue, artist or promoter to hold back tickets from public sale without disclosing the number of tickets held back as well as where they were distributed. This introduction of transparency would refocus the spotlight on the true culprits, as well as provide valuable information the venues and artists may not want fans to know.