September 9, 2023
Music Industry

Why Are There So Many Empty Seats at “Sold Out” Concerts?

London’s Daily Mirror published this photo of a supposedly sold out show at Wembley Stadium.

Rihanna Wembley

Seems to me that there were a lot of empty seats at a gig for which there were no tickets available. What’s going on? Scalpers, that’s what.

Scalpers–“ticket tout” in UK-ese–bought up thousands of tickets, sold what they could at huge markups. Those they couldn’t sell were thrown in the bin unused. Rihanna was reduced to playing in front of a half-filled stadium while thousands of fans were screwed out of the opportunity to see the show.

Read the whole story here. (Via Tom)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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3 thoughts on “Why Are There So Many Empty Seats at “Sold Out” Concerts?

  • It has become very tough to get tickets to shows without using StubHub or a scalper, or joining a fan club at a cost just to get access to tickets in the primary market. Sadly, this means I can afford to go to fewer shows, because I have to put aside $200 every time just for the scalpers cut of my ticket purchase. In Canada, their are either no laws about this or no one is bothering to enforce them. I’m not sure which. At the recent Chili Peppers concert in Toronto, the scalper GANGS that operate in front of the ACC had fistfulls of tickets an hour before the show, but no one was buying them because they were hundreds of dollars over the asking price. If they sell even a percentage of those tickets they make a profit, but those seats should have gone to real fans.
    It’s a shame, but no one in the city or provincial government seems to care. They just cite capitalism and the free market.

  • This should really be a crime. Scalpers add no value to society and they are preventing people who want to use the product to access it, just so they can make a massive profit of the artificial scarcity they created themselves.

    It might be true that for some very popular artists, the regular ticket price is below market value. I would believe that if all tickets sold out within days to actual fans. However, something like 50%, if not more, of the tickets go to scalpers before actual fans even had a chance to buy so although demand will be high, a lot of that is artificial.

    TicketMaster is said to actually facilitate scalpers just so they can collect the admin fee of a sale twice (once when the scalper buys hundreds/thousands of tickets, and the second time when the scalper sells these tickets to actual fans). That’s terrible. I don’t see why any venue or artist wants to have their tickets sold through a platform like TicketMaster. I wonder if perhaps venues are somehow tied to TicketMaster and as an artist, you then either accept tickets sold through this platform or you don’t get to use that venue?

    The solution is for no one to buy from scalpers so that scalpers make massive losses as opposed to massive gains. However, that means thousands and thousands of fans will have to miss out on their favourite band/team/play for at least a few months if not longer.

    There is plenty of technology available to resolve this problem so it’s clear that sites like TicketMaster actually are happy with the scalping, otherwise they would have already solved the issue (they also knowingly allow scalpers to buy large numbers of tickets before actual sales, so that’s all deliberately done to facilitate scalping). I’d like to go back to the days where you just had to pitch up a tent in the queue of your local record store in order to get sought-after tickets for a show. Bands should demand only in-person sales and a max. of 2 tickets per person for that show, and those max. 2 tickets should be tied to the name of the cardholder who should be the same person as is making the purchase. You then need to register the name of the friend you are bringing at the latest 1 week in advance and that person will also need to bring ID so that both people can proof the tickets are for them. If you want to get rid of the tickets, you can only sell them back to the vendor at the latest 2 weeks before the show, who can then offer the ticket(s) to someone else at face value. Perhaps the person who wants to sell tickets back to the vendor can be asked for a small admin fee.

    This is all feasible.

    I’d really like to see Rammstein again but their only show in the UK seems to be sold out and scalped tickets start at about 300 GBP. Nope, not going to happen. I’d be happy for ticket prices to go up a bit, but I want that money to go to the artist/crew, not to a scalper.

    Scalpers are the lowest kind of people. They have nothing of value to add to society and are basically parasites. If I had a friend who I would find out is a scalper, I’d end that friendship since in my eyes, scalping is immoral.

  • Iron Maiden and Meatloaf started making shows ‘Ticketless’ to combat this. It meant that a show that was sold out just had the odd empty seat here or there. The ticket price? £60 It meant that the scalpers started buying up tour T shirts but that was one I could do without. In any case a competent sales policy would be to put the limited edition merch inside the paid area. Really the only way to tackle scalpers and not go ricketless would be to release tickets on the door so fans can buy them at face value and cancel scalpers tickets. Make a condition of sale that says no refunds to scalpers or something


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