When you try to buy a concert or sporting event ticket, you're not competing against fellow fans refreshing their browsers. You're competing against the software and buying teams of international corporations and professional ticket flipping organizations.
You know when a show's on-sale date is, you might even have a pre-sale code for it, but that's not going to make a difference. When a ticket is hot, international speculators will sweep in, get them before you, and resell them on websites such as StubHub (owned by eBay) and TicketsNow (owned by Live Nation/Ticketmaster). And of course there's not been a shortage of incidents where concert promoters and primary ticket sellers have been caught red handed placing seats directly onto these resale sites.
This week I was trying to get a ticket for the newly reunited British shoegaze band Ride's Toronto date (their manager released my group the Flowers Of Hell's earliest singles, so it's a show I feel indebted to attend.) The pre-sale seats went in a flash and two days before the actual general sale to the public, there were $35 face value tickets up on StubHub with prices set at over $2000. Those are mark up dollars that the band won't see any of. They're mark up dollars that won't go back into the music industry.
At 10 a.m. on the dot on the morning the general sale began, I clicked refresh and all that was available to purchase were five seats in the balcony. Some folks I know didn't even get that, it was just instantly sold out for them. Throughout the day, more and more tickets appeared on Stubhub with the lowest priced ones being at least double the face value.
This shit ain't right. Sure there's always been local scalpers buying tickets and flipping them, but the internet has transformed scalping from an activity of local hustlers to one of trans-national Wall Street traded businesses. In fact back in 2011 Forbes pegged the ticket re-sale market as being worth USD$325 million , with $80 million of that being profits.
There is only one solution that works to protect people against the businesses that are out to gouge them for a buck: pass legislation that prohibits a mark-up on re-sold event tickets. Can't go to the show? Return your ticket to TicketBastard and let them re-sell it at the same price to someone else.
Under Ontario's existing Ticket Speculation Act, re-selling tickets above face value is actually punishable by a fine of up to $5000 for an individual and up to $50,000 for a corporation. Yeah it's illegal, who knew? Apparently file sharing is too.
If your MP, MPP, and councilor are truly your representatives and not puppets of industry, they should be fighting for your interests. But they're not. They're being lobbied by foreign businesses who are telling them that online ticket resale sites prevent fraud. And so Ontario is actually seeking to change the Ticket Speculation Act to give an even greater go ahead to these foreign online businesses!
Without legislation that protects the interests of concert and sports goers, soon you will NEVER get a ticket when they first go on sale! Until December 8, the provincial government is in the process of soliciting feedback from the public -- if you fancy giving them an earful, they're inviting people to comment on the matter.
Sure, there'll be people who cry out that any legislation which interferes with the prices of the free market and prevents flipping tickets for a buck is anti-capitalist. But what's wrong with doing something anti-capitalist if it enhances citizens' enjoyment of music and sport? Both existed before capitalism was invented, and they'll exist long after it. They are part of humanity; the economy isn't.
Besides that, the live event industry isn't even an example of free market capitalism -- it's largely a monopoly controlled by Live Nation. And in this new era of monopolies and oligopolies, a revamped political approach is needed. The 18th-century free market capitalist vision of Adam Smith was based on competitive markets that no longer exist, yet our governments go on pretending that nothing has changed.
There is more to life than the economy and it's time for politicians to get on with representing the interests of the people. And if you've got a ticket to Ride, lemme know if you can't go.