Here’s a typical scenario. One of your all-time favourite bands announces a concert date in your city and are booked into a typical 18,000 seat arena. Word goes out that tickets go on sale at 10am Friday.
You prepare to purchase. Computer synced to UTC within less than a millionth of a second? Check. Credit card information programmed into auto-fill in your browser? Check. Finger poised above the “enter” key, knowing that it will take precisely .023 seconds for you to fully depress it? Check.
After an interminable wait, the appointed second comes. You hit “enter” and…you’re greeted with a message that says “SOLD OUT.”
What the f*ck? What the f*cking f*ck?
This is more-or-less what Pearl Jam fans faced last week when the band announced two shows for the Air Canada Centre. How could so many tickets be sold in seconds?
One word: bots. Goddamn ticket-buying bots run by brokers and ticket resellers.
In milliseconds, they elbow their way to the front of the line and scoop up the tickets you and thousands of others were hoping to buy. The Pearl Jam incident was particularly galling considering that the band once risked its entire career by going against The Man (i.e. Ticketmaster) to make ticket-buying more fair. If you need a history refresher, they eventually threw in the towel, even after testifying before government committees.
Rage against the machine all you want, but you’re screwed. Totally, utterly screwed. Technology has stacked everything against you. You will lose. Every. Single. Time.
Late last summer, like countless other people, I sat at my desk at work and frantically tried to get tickets to Paul McCartney’s tour. The show I was desperately hoping to see, in Buffalo—the former Beatle’s first concert in that city ever—sold out in under five minutes, much to the dismay and confusion of people stuck in Ticketmaster’s online waiting room, to say nothing of those lined up outside the venue with fliers that, they assumed, guaranteed them tickets after waiting in line for hours.
This is hardly an isolated incident. Just this week, people were lamenting their poor fortune in trying to buy tickets to Pearl Jam’s upcoming North American tour and coming up empty handed. The same goes for sporting events, too: Big events are selling out faster than ever, and while technology was supposed to make it easier for fans to have access to their favorite performers or teams, it’s technology that’s ruining the fun for everyone.
New York State Attorney Eric Schneiderman has decided to do something about it. In a damning report released Jan. 29, he calls services like Ticketmaster, StubHub and other online sellers and resellers out for their ability to be compromised and outsmarted by bots.
“Consider, for example, that on December 8, 2014, when tickets first went on sale for a tour by the rock band U2, a single broker purchased 1,012 tickets to one show at Madison Square Garden in a single minute, despite the ticket vendor’s claim of a ‘4 ticket limit.’ By the end of that day, the same broker and one other had together amassed more than 15,000 tickets to U2’s shows across North America.
Naturally, those brokers resold the tickets at prices far beyond face value.
“Consider that brokers sometimes resell tickets at margins that are over 1,000% of face value. Consider further that added fees on tickets regularly reach over 21% of the face price of tickets and, in some extreme cases, are actually more than the price of the ticket. Even those who intend their events to be free, like Pope Francis, find their good intent defeated by those who resell tickets for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.”
F*CK your bots. But like I said, it’s us who are f*cked. It’s all fixed and there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can do about it.
Question: If I’m in Pearl Jam and I know that ticket resellers are making money off the public’s demand to see us, shouldn’t I be pissed that I’m not getting a cut of that extra margin? Or is there something else going on that we don’t know about?
Get The X-Files on this one. The truth is out there.