A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I were attempting to buy tickets to the P!nk concert at Rogers Arena. We’d made our plans, and we were excited — this was happening. Yet when the general admission tickets went on sale at 10 a.m., local time, they were gone within seconds. Suddenly, they were being resold for 1,000 per cent of the original asking price.
Nosebleed seats that were originally $60 were being resold for $600-700 each; floor seats, for thousands. Suddenly, my friends and I were no longer able to take part in this experience, because the resale value was way too high for our student budgets.
Yes, going to concerts is a tremendous privilege. Yes, ticket reselling is sometimes inevitable; people get sick, things come up, and people choose to sell their ticket. It’s when people exorbitantly drive up the prices by exploiting the ticket sales and exploiting the fans that it becomes an issue. For a variety of reasons, you should not support the practice of ticket scalping, and it’s a problem that music fans need to start looking at.
Ticket scalping is not new, but it has evolved drastically within the last few years. One of the main issues is the use of bots, which are computer programs that enable scalpers to override the purchasing safeguards by purchasing hundreds if not thousands of tickets within seconds.
While many companies like Ticketmaster have limits on how many tickets an individual can purchase in one transaction, these bots are able to override the system. Scalpers often target popular shows or events that are often held at large arenas and resell the tickets on websites like StubHub. As a result of these bots being so pervasive, the odds are stacked against the average fan.
Various groups have attempted to combat this issue. From a legal standpoint, Ontario recently began to develop the Ticket Sales Act. This piece of legislation addressed the issue by making it illegal to resell tickets for more than 50 per cent of the original cost of the ticket. The BC NDP government is looking into implementing similar legislation within the province.
While legislation may seem logical, many industry insiders argue that it’s not the best response because the ticket scalping industry is ever-evolving. Another common response to scalpers is Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan. This enables people to sign up for the ticket presale and often gives each individual a special code to access the tickets, deterring ticket scalpers since they won’t be able to successfully obtain those codes.
The main challenge is that signing up for the Verified Fan list does not guarantee that you will have access if the event is in high demand. Instead, individuals will be chosen at random to receive the code. It’s a start for addressing the issue, but it is not without its flaws.
As an example, Taylor Swift partnered with Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan service for selling tickets for her upcoming tour. However, fans are able to increase their chances of getting tickets by participating in “boost” activities — the most controversial of which includes purchasing merchandise from her store.
Swift’s approach, though a response to scalpers, is problematic in that it reinforces the idea that access to live music should be dictated by class. The more money you have, the easier it is to have access to tickets to these events. The same problem of financial discrimination persists — just in a different shape.
Personally, I’ve had to miss out on shows for artists that truly mean a lot to me because of ticket scalpers. As a student on a budget, I don’t always have the ability to spend money on these shows when the resale value is through the roof. I firmly believe in supporting the artist for any show, but my money doesn’t even do that much when ticket scalpers get involved.
It’s unfortunate that I and others like me miss out on opportunities to share in the magical experience of seeing an artist you love perform live in concert. It shouldn’t be this way. Music is meant to bring people together, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Until we’re able to crack down on scalpers, it will only further complicate the relationship between artist and fan.