The future of event ticketing, maybe

Some of you may remember my previous post on ticket scalping made in response to Trent Reznor’s post on the NIN forums. Well, I was recently reading Mashable and found this post about a new startup called SaveFans! (abbreviated SF in following text) which is an offer-based ticket platform. Now if you remember my original post, I quote Trent Reznor as saying:

My guess as to what will eventually happen if / when Live Nation and TicketMaster merges is that they’ll move to an auction or market-based pricing scheme…

At the time, I said this would be a bad thing, and as suggested, with the ticket providers unilaterally setting “market-based” prices, it would indeed be disastrous for fans.

The twist with SF is that buyers are allowed to negotiate with sellers. This, by itself, is not a bad idea on the surface. It is still a possibility true scalpers will use the system and not accept perfectly reasonable offers for tickets they hold.

However, it does give the fans a chance to say what they think about truly usurious and monopolistic pricing. SF is not a panacea. Ticket buyers still need some form of protection against egregious scalping as well as not being stuck with unusable and yet non-transferable tickets. Ticket sellers need some form of protection against scalpers profiting at their expense as a result of an attempt to keep shows affordable for fans.

The only way I see to keep everyone happy is to allow event managers/promoters to opt an event out of SF or similar sites or move to a model where ticket transfers are tightly regulated or simply cannot happen without the express approval of the ticketing agency or the event’s management/promoters. Many event managers/promoters nominally prohibit the resale of tickets above face value; it is a long-standing policy of most venues (at least those in Houston) that resale of tickets on the property of the venue and adjoining parking lots is prohibited, sometimes just resale above face value, sometimes any resale. It should be noted that platforms such as SF can be used for good or evil. They aren’t much different from eBay or Craigslist in this regard. It’s still up to the ticket buyers (fans) to promote responsibility and defend their rights.

I see it as unlikely, here in 2010, that more states/cities will pass anti-scalping legislation. In 1999, the New York Office of the Attorney General released a report on scalping. In that report, several suggestions were made on how to reform the ticketing process, and protecting licensed ticket brokers by raising the premium they are allowed to charge above the listed price (at the time of this report, the greater of $5 or 10%; it’s not clear whether or not the extra fees are included in the amount the 10% is calculated on). It is interesting to note that some of the ticket brokers (and I am deviating a bit from my usual “scalper” terminology here, since this is New York we are talking about, where the types and quantity of ticketed events are vastly different) label their markup as a “service fee” which was not addressed by the applicable law. This, however, should be seen for what it is: an attempt to exploit a legal technicality.

I’m not sure what became of the release of this report. I do know that a decade later, scalping is still a major problem.