June 5, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Can the Net make ticket scalping legit?

Add ticket scalping to the list of professions being pressured by the Internet.

The practice of reselling tickets was once the purview of street-corner hawkers and fly-by-night ticket brokers. Street vendors, who took positions outside stadiums and concert halls, often dealt in counterfeits. Brokers often failed to send tickets on time for events--if at all.

Analysts now say the Internet is helping to move the secondary market out of the back alleys and into the boardroom. Internet companies such as TicketsNow.com and StubHub are trying to clean up the industry's image by weeding out con artists, offering up no-nonsense pricing and guaranteeing on-time delivery.

Of course, reselling tickets online isn't new. Some teams and opportunistic ticket holders have been doing it for years. The difference now is that the majority of professional sports teams, primary ticket companies and music venues that once shunned the secondary market are either jumping into the business or partnering with one of the top secondary companies.

On Tuesday, TicketsNow announced that it had become the official seller of secondary tickets for the National Football League's Baltimore Ravens. San Francisco-based StubHub has similar agreements with seven NFL teams as well as with various National Hockey League teams and college franchises.

"The sports clubs are acknowledging that there is a free market for tickets," said Carrie Johnson, an e-commerce analyst for Forrester Research. "They'd rather the sales happened safely than in a willy-nilly way."

The size of the overall secondary market is hard to pin down, said Johnson. Estimates vary dramatically, from $2 billion to $25 billion a year. The overall industry is mostly driven by season ticket holders who can't use all their tickets. In the past, these people would sell the extras to individual brokers, who in turn would sell them, sometimes for far more than a ticket's face value. Before the Internet, zealous fans who'd do anything to see Led Zeppelin or U2 could end up paying far more than the market value, as there was no easy way to compare prices.

Individual brokers still exist, and they've moved online, but sites like TicketsNow, StubHub and eBay--the No.1 source for secondary tickets, according to StubHub--serve as clearinghouses where a host of different sellers can offer their wares side-by-side, and buyers can pick and choose.

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But StubHub, TicketsNow and other such sites know that if they're to gain true credibility for the secondary market, they need to offer more than just an efficient way to shop--preventing buyers from being ripped off is paramount.

More than 600 brokers post their inventories on the TicketsNow Web site and all have undergone a screening process, said Mike Domek, the company's CEO. Unscrupulous brokers were notorious for promising a ticket to one customer and then turning around and selling it to someone else willing to pay more. The first customer was lucky to get his or her money back. Not at TicketsNow, Domek said. Any company that doesn't honor the listed price of a ticket at TicketsNow is booted from the site for life.

"The Internet has tamed the secondary market," Domek said. "We're responsible for 100 percent security. Music or sports fans don't want to be in that small percentage that couldn't get into the stadium because they bought a counterfeit ticket or didn't receive their tickets on time."

StubHub is an online marketplace where anyone, brokers and individual ticket holders alike, can buy and sell. To secure transactions, the company holds the money paid by a ticker buyer. Then, like an escrow service, StubHub tracks the ticket and pays the seller once the buyer receives it.

The service has worked well for the University of Southern California for nearly three years, said Jose Eskenazi, one of the school's associate athletic directors. National Collegiate Athletic Association national champions in football in two of the past three seasons, the school has already sold out of season tickets for the 2006-'07 season. Demand for secondary tickets is likely going to be high, Eskenazi said.

"It's been a good partnership," he said. "We can send our fans to a company they can trust and know that they don't have to deal with some scalping type of operation."

Despite the precautions, Forrester's Johnson is still unsure that such a "dicey market" can ever be totally secure. One of the problems is that most event organizers still deal primarily in paper tickets and that means they can always be duplicated, she said. Some of the other challenges the nascent industry faces are antiscalping laws and prohibitions against the reselling of tickets by some sports teams and venues.

In Massachusetts, the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots will ban season-ticket holders caught violating club rules against reselling for more than face value. The Patriots will sometimes even query fans during games to make sure they are the rightful owners of the seat they're sitting in. The clubs don't expect season ticket holders to attend every game and have established markets for fans to resell tickets for the original price.

Some musicians and performers also don't like the secondary market, said Johnson.

"An artist runs the risk of alienating fans if tickets are sold above face value," he said. "It can create a perception that the artist is greedy."

Jeff Thomas, director of operations for Exclusive Tickets, based in Mountain Lakes, N.J., says that while companies like StubHub and TicketsNow are helping to clean up the secondary market, there are still plenty of pitfalls.

"When the Internet first emerged, it helped questionable companies," Thomas said. "Anybody could create a Web site and start a business. Vinny on the street was able to mask himself as a professional ticket company and he sort of blended in with legitimate establishments. Companies that are succeeding now have brick-and-mortar stores, 401(k)s, profit sharing, payrolls and understand what we sell today is professionalism and protection."

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18 comments

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Reselling illegal in UK
As far as I am aware it is illegal to resell match tickets in the UK. That's not to say it dosn't happen.
Posted by davidralph2 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Illegal in UK
As far as I am aware it is illegal to resell match tickets in the UK. That's not to say it dosn't happen.
Posted by davidralph2 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Legitimacy"? "Secondary market"? It's still scalping...
...and it's even more sleazy when the team themselves is making money off the gouging.

"Legitimacy." Yeah, right.
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Reply Link Flag
STUB-HUB not what it said it would be!
When Stub Hub came out several months ago it was advertised as a place for people that had tickets to an event they couldn't use to sell them to someone that could. It's obvious their intention is to let scalpers sell on their web site. You want to keep the scalper ****** out, then only allow the tickets to be sold at face value with no phony handling charges. Otherwise they are ticket ****** just like the scalpers.
Posted by Bar20 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Fan and Broker Tickets
Stubhub.com is a fan and ticket broker upload. TicketsToGo.com along with other ticket broker sites all upload to Stubhub to sell tickets. Payment from Stubhub is only received after the concert is come and gone. Tickets never exchange hands with Stubhub. The tickets are shipped directly to the buyer from the seller. Most all ticket brokers are networked together making their inventory extensive. Finding the right broker really means finding the one with the best customer service. If you are happy with the service you receive from the broker, than you should stick with the broker. Brokers with experienced sales staff is always helpful because sometimes your seats can be upgraded at no additional cost or you can be informed that seats that you ordered are obstructed view. TicketsToGo.com has always been my preferred broker because of the excellent customer service.
Posted by sandkat001 (1 comment )
Link Flag
"when StubHub came out several months ago"
why dont you do alittle research StubHub has been around for 5 years. StubHub is like ebay but they only deal with tickets anyone can sell ANYONE. I sell tickets on StubHub on the side make little extra cash is there anything wrong with making money. Its called DEMAND. Not only do i sell tickets on StubHub but I have bought them well below face and im sure they were from someone who had extras or couldnt go and just wanted some money back. And IF YOU want tickets at face F N go to ticket master and get them when they release otherwise dont cry about. SOME PEOPLE NEED TO GROW UP!
Posted by Kingofallnews (4 comments )
Link Flag
A perishable commodity
A ticket is nothing more than a perishable commodity...the right to be at a certain place at a certain time. Once that time has passed the commodity becomes worthless. Other perishable commodities (like bushels of corn) are subject to dynamic pricing, meaning that the laws of supply and demand apply.
It is naive to think that the price of entertainment should remain fixed.
Posted by rfmmfr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Clear Channel made scalping tickets a new profit center
I hate them. Now front row tickets go to the slimy rich instead of
those willing to wait. Those Mays brothers should be jailed. They
ruined the live music business in America. Slimy Texas billionaires
are a lot of what is wrongest with this country. I hate them all.
Posted by JackfromBerkeley (136 comments )
Reply Link Flag
STUBHUB.COM RULES!
It is the best idea and i use it constantly.
They make it possible for middle income people like myself to be season ticket holders, becasue I know I will sell 1/2 my seats to games, the only way i can affford, Baseball & football season tickets.
Posted by wbowens (1 comment )
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stub hub ticket broker
i've used stub hub to sell golf tickets twice now. last year i had no problem with the results but this year they lied to me multiple times. don't trust the cutoff times they list for your tickets to sell that they post on your listing because they can unilaterally decide to terminate your posting earlier, yet still continue to list other tickets to the same event.
ticket sales in the ny area (where i live) have always been the sanctuary for unbridled corruption and it appears that stubhub has dipped its hand into the same pot.
Posted by morais24 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Scalping is scalping
As someone who looked into all these sites when trying to buy
tickets for a sold-out concert, I was appalled at what they were
charging. It's bad enough that sites like eBay and Craigslist take
advantage of sports/music fans desperate to see a game or a
show. How can they possibly justify selling tickets for 10 times
face value? How is that even remotely fair? Anyone who thinks
this is legit obviously has more money than sense.
Posted by toolchick332 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Secondary Market
This is just another way for scalpers to sell tickets to a larger market Did you know Dallas Mavs tickets are selling for as much as 5000 a ticket!!!!
Posted by konflicted357 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You Shouldnt have to worry about cut off times
Maybe you priced your tickets to high? Did you think about that?
Posted by Kingofallnews (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You Shouldnt have to worry about cut off times
Maybe you priced your tickets to high? Did you think about that?
Posted by Kingofallnews (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You Shouldnt have to worry about cut off times
Maybe you priced your tickets to high? Did you think about that?
Posted by Kingofallnews (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's all economics. If you don't like it, don't buy.
Sports teams and music artists aren't performing for free. These events are put on as money-making ventures; there's no public entitlement to attend them.

This is Economics 101: Supply and Demand. The tickets to these events are worth as much as people are willing to pay. If the price is set too high, people don't buy and the price comes down. If you don't like scalpers' prices, exercise your power as a consumer and DON'T BUY THEIR TICKETS.

We don't crucify stock brokers, bankers, clothing designers or real estate agents for profiting from high demand for their commodities; nor should we do so to ticket scalpers for doing the exact same thing.
Posted by wolfgang_17 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I think its no different than reselling anything else that is in high demand. If people are willing to pay for it then people should be able to charge them for it. The best site available for this thus far is Ticketsnow.com and now that they have been bought by Ticketmaster they have a 100% guarantee on the tickets so you are sure to get your tickets or your money back. Its all legitimate so why shouldn't they be able to do this. I've worked for the Ticketmaster corporation for some time and now i've joined the company they just bought Ticketsnow and its been great so far and things have been coming along great since they joined Ticketmaster.
Posted by et0650 (1 comment )
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