Last Thursday (September 19), the Black Keys played a gig at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, their first return to the stage in about a year. Being a club show, tickets were in limited supply and in high demand.
Fair enough. Another night in rock’n’roll. But although the gig was sold out, there was a little more room to move about than usual. Why? Because the venue was under orders to turn away people who bought tickets on the secondary market. Those who presented tickets purchased through StubHub, Vivid Seats, SeatGeek, and so on were told they weren’t getting in.
The original price of the ticket was $25. Those who spent upwards of $800 on a ticket from StubHub or whatever, did not get in.
Why not? Because someone associated with the presentation of the concert–which might be the band, their management, the promoter, or the label–decided on a policy that tickets to the show were 100% nontransferable. That meant the only way in was to have purchased a ticket yourself from the original seller–in this case, Ticketmaster–and use the ticket to gain admission for yourself.
If you bought tickets from Ticketmaster and then tried to flip them on the secondary market, they were declared null and void. No Black Keys for you.
Who made this call? Indications point to the band itself. They issued a statement: “Last night’s concert tickets were $25 and geared toward the fan club. This was our first show in over four years and the kickoff of the Let’s Rock Tour. Because we were playing a venue far smaller than the rest of the venues on the tour as a warm-up show, we turned off ticket transferability to ensure that our fans got in the door at the low ticket prices we set for them.”
Getting rid of transferability was apparently a tactic to punish the secondary sellers for marking up tickets 500-800%. However, this does raise some interesting questions.
- Did Ticketmaster make it clear to buyers that tickets were not transferable? Or is this something that happened after the fact?
- Who controls a concert ticket from initial sale to the gig itself? Who has the right to say what an what cannot be done with the right of attending a show? A ticket is like a revocable passport that allows the bearer to the right to admission. Does it remain under the control of the issuer? The entity that grants a license for sale to the issuer? The person who buys the ticket?
- Should a performer be able to say “I want my fans to get into my gig for $50?” Or should standard market forces be allowed to take over? (My take: Yes. Absolutely.)
- Couldn’t the invalidated/cancelled tickets in this case been resold at the venue box office at the correct price? Just askin’.
- And what do governments think about all this?
In Ontario, the proposed law known as the Ticket Sales Act 2017, reads “(e) prohibiting any person who makes tickets available for sale from limiting the transferability of the tickets or prescribing the manner or circumstances in which the person may limit the transferability of tickets made available for sale.”
It’s expected that ALL paper concert tickets will be eliminated by 2025. Handing a piece of paper allowing you admission into a gig will soon be awfully old-fashioned.
I spend a LOT of time thinking about the issues facing the concert ticket industry.
Right now, I’m mulling over the idea of ticket lotteries. Fans have to log in to be eligible to get a ticket. If you get one, sweet, but only YOU can use it (mechanism to be determined). If you don’t, well, too bad. The show will still be considered sold out but capacity will inevitably be less than 100% (i.e. the sellout number minus those lottery winners who couldn’t make the gig.) This is essentially what The Grateful Dead did for decades.
Will concert tickets become more like plane tickets? When you buy a seat on a flight, no one gets that seat but you. If you gave a ticket purchased in your name to someone else, they’d never get on the plane.
Another way to express that is that a concert ticket is a license to get in to a gig that can be taken away from the purchaser if there is some kind of violation of that license. This is NOT a matter of property rights.
How about this: If you want to buy a ticket for yourself, you get it for one price. If you buy it to flip, then charge that person a 200% markup. We’ll need some kind of app for that.
Another option: Create a situation whereby the artist benefits from the extra markup on the price of a ticket sold on the secondary market. There’s gotta be an app for that, too, right?
Background here. (Via Chris)