Marketplace Scratch Pad

Taking the ticket out of Ticketmaster

Scott Jagow Jun 8, 2009

Ticketmaster has come up with a plan to wipe out scalping. Today, the company begins selling “tickets” for the Miley Cyrus tour this fall. Except there won’t be any actual tickets.

People who reserve seats will just show up to the concert with their credit cards, a la airline ticketing. From the Wall Street Journal:

The technology, which Ticketmaster tested last year, is meant to make seats impossible to sell or transfer because they can be redeemed only at the concert, using the credit card with which they were bought. The plan has scalpers and resale sites crying foul.

Yes, they are. StubHub spokesman Sean Pate admits StubHub doesn’t hasn’t come up with a strategy to combat this yet. So, he’s trying scare tactics:

Mr. Pate contends that the paperless arrangement will cause long lines at venues and force parents to accompany children who don’t have their own credit cards. He charges that it could even put Ms. Cyrus’s young fans at risk: “On Craigslist you’re going to see these listings saying, ‘Hey, 13-year-old girls, I’ll meet you at the venue and get you into the show.”

Man, the concert ticket business is a nasty one. Ticketmaster tried this technology with a few shows last year. There were reports of some delays.

I’m trying to figure out if this strategy helps or hurts Ticketmaster’s chances of merging with Live Nation. The online resellers argue this only strengthens Ticketmaster’s monopoly. But Ticketmaster was also accused of dumping tickets onto its own reselling site and charging far more for them. I suppose that couldn’t happen with this new technology.

Then again, you can’t trust these companies. Live Nation just started offering “No Service Fee Wednesdays.” And it’s true, there are no service fees if you buy lawn tickets on Wednesdays. But there are parking, facility and charity fees. See this story from CNN.

What’s better for ticket buyers — having scalpers snap up a bunch of hot tickets right off the bat and then resell them for more money or paying face value to Ticketmaster with all the fees tacked on?

In this case, at least, I guess Ticketmaster can’t charge people for printing their tickets at home.

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