The Shubert Organization, one of the primary organizations lobbying hard to add onerous restrictions to the right of consumers to re-sell their own tickets in New York, is in fact a major player in the secondary market itself, scalping its own tickets at steep markup while misleading consumers that they are actually getting the tickets at a discount price.
Shubert, which owns and operates 17 Broadway theatres and numerous smaller venues in New York and hundreds of venues across the country, also owns Telecharge in the primary market, which it announces right on its home page. Its secondary holdings are much less publicized, but no less substantial.
Since 2011, the Shubert organization has owned Plum Benefits, (formerly SVM Marketing) acquiring the property from its founder in 2011 for a reported $2 million. The ticketing platform specialized in offering Broadway tickets to employees at participating companies. In 2014, Plum was merged with Entertainment Benefits Group, with the Broadway tickets becoming just one aspect of that platform’s “TicketsAtWork” program, which offers event tickets to consumers.
More recently, EBG acquired secondary ticketing property TicketMonster, which similarly offers resale tickets to members. While TicketsAtWork purports to be a discount ticket platform for its members, it allows partners to determine what offer they’d care to make and at what price level. TicketMonster is an even more obvious “scalper” platform, in that it is a deliberate resale operation that states in plain English (and capital letters) on its terms page that “THE PRICE THAT YOU PAY MAY BE SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER THAN THE FACE VALUE PRINTED ON THE TICKETS.” It just markets itself as a discount platform because it marks tickets up less than other secondary platforms.
Tickets for Saturday’s performance of Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre – a Shubert owned and operated venue – are available on TicketMonster. Center Orchestra, Row N tickets are pricey – $465 per ticket. But the website doesn’t charge service fees, so a member will get them for a mere $900. The issue is, if you visit Telecharge, you’ll find that all of the seats available in Row N of the center orchestra are unsold and available at the regular price of $150 including all fees.
This seems to imply that there isn’t a ticket broker listing these tickets at the high markup on Ticketmonster, but rather the Shubert Organization itself. Or, perhaps the Shubert Organization is only against tickets being speculatively listed at major markups for resale when they aren’t listed on a website that it has an ownership interest in. Tickets for numerous other events both on and off the Schubert ownership list are available on the company’s resale platforms. Tickets to Hamilton – staged at the Richard Rogers Theatre (not owned by the Shubert Org.) are available, including a front row seat for Tuesday’s show at just under $2,000.
Why does any of this matter? Because the Shubert Organization is pushing extremely hard to restrict the rights of anyone else to sell tickets. The updates to New York’s law that will likely see a vote this week have been written with organizations like the Shubert group in mind, and most legislators aren’t even aware of the fact that the company is deeply involved in the business it seeks to regulate.
There’s good reason the acquisition of TicketMonster by EBG was not publicized when it happened earlier this year. It’s the same reason that neither Plum Benefits nor EBG is publicized on the Shubert Organization’s main website. Plausible deniability.