Thursday, 18 January 2007

Scalping the Big Day Out

Big Day Out promoters are bleating about ticket scalpers, meaning (to the promoters) everyone who bought a ticket and then resold it. Naughty people. People who buy these tickets face being barred from the venue tomorrow, says a snippy Big Day Out promoter, Campbell Smith.

What a dickhead. A voluntary seller does a deal with a voluntary buyer; they both get what they want, no-one misses out ... and Campbell Bloody Smith and Trevor Bloody Mallard want to pass laws to put a stop to it. What a pair of dickheads. I could explain at length why they're dickheads, but I don't need to: you see, I'd hardly need to change a word from what I said when I explained how the U2 promoter was just as economically illiterate, another poor lamb who simply doesn't understand a good thing when it leaps up and helps him out financially...

LINKS: Scalpers cash in on Big Day Out - NZ Herald
Scalping U2 - Not PC (Dec, 2005)

RELATED: Economics, Music, New Zealand


  1. FYI said they won't bar any tickets because security will be too busy to check ticket numbers.

  2. And I never thought I'd say this, but there was some bloddy good sense on this subject on National Radio, from a hip-hopper whose name I didn't catch:
    If people don't like scalpers, they should go buy their rickets early.

    And, FYI Campbell Smith, I had tickets to the sold-out run of The History Boys at the last Arts Festival that I couldn't use, and sold to a friend for a (modest but not trivial) premium. Who exactly lost out? I wasn't left out of pocket, my friend and her husband has a great weekend away they wouldn't have otherwise had, and the season was a roaring success for everyone for the festival.

  3. But Craig, if the same thing happens to them as happened to me when I tried to get Sevens tickets last year (honest effort, waiting in interminable phone queue, paltry ticket allowance exhausted before I could get through), what then?

    I feel vaguely comfortable that someone discovering they had tickets they couldn't use should be able to punt them off to whomsoever is willing to pay. What I totally disagree with is arseholes who buy as many tickets as they can specifically for the purpose of resale at a higher price.

    They deny folks like me a chance to come along, and they artifically inflate the ticket price. Fuck them.


  4. Den MT,

    There are no guarantees that said arseholes will actually be able to sell the tickets at a higher price. They are taking on a business risk and removing that same risk from the organisers. If you think they are making easy money then why don't you get in on the act yourself? And why not give them a bit of competition by selling at a price you consider fairer?

  5. Brian S: What risk is there in buying excess tickets specifically for resale to events like the U2 concert, the Sevens here in Wellington, or BDO? They always sell out. so there is minimum risk.

    The wankers who engage in scalping are not taking on any real risk, and the only value they add is in reducing the total amount available. Way to produce, producers!

    So there is no question that the scum-sucking leeches are making easy money. But there is no way in hell that I would participate in such a process - I would much prefer that legislation ensures that tickets which the promoter intend not to be transferable, are actually not transferable. Of course, thats just the pinko commie in me.


  6. I think everyone's missing one significant point here: buyers are expressly prohibited from onselling the tickets at a higher price by the terms of purchase, which I understand are printed on the damn tickets themselves.

    Now, I don't think that scalping should be a criminal offense - a goal lobbyists are currently trying to achieve. It should be a civil issue, in other words, if promoters wish they could take the scalpers to court and claim costs.

    Furthermore, I think the public reaction against scalping is motivated by antipathy towards the profit motive - which makes speaking out against the scalpers significantly less palatable to me.

    But we shouldn't ignore one simple fact: the scalpers are in breach of contract.

  7. And, FYI Campbell Smith, I had tickets to the sold-out run of The History Boys at the last Arts Festival that I couldn't use, and sold to a friend for a (modest but not trivial) premium. Who exactly lost out? I wasn't left out of pocket, my friend and her husband has a great weekend away they wouldn't have otherwise had, and the season was a roaring success for everyone for the festival.

    Well, said Craig, I agree totally.

    And well said, Brian.

    And, DenMT, you clearly fail to understand the nature of the scalping business. And I find your, "Of course, thats just the pinko commie in me," rather disturbing.

    Duncan, you have a good point about the condition, however, that condition is silly. By doing it the ticket sellers and concert/sports organisers are shooting themselves in the foot. That is rather silly really. If I was doing a concert/sports event my tickets would have no such condition.

    However, I agree with your comment about the motivation of the public reaction to scalping. Hate of profit is common in even the Western world with non-Muslims even. The hypocrites are quite willing to profit of their labour, however, and to strike for more profit from their labour. They are also willing to help businesses make profit by buying things off them. In short, they fail to act consistently with their own beliefs. No surprise there.

  8. Kane, in exactly what way have I misunderstood 'the scalping business'? I am holding on barely to civility here - your arrogant high-handedness is misplaced. If you have an argument to make, make it.

    The point as I see it is that tickets to a concert are a finite good - fans have no opportunity to purchase an equivalent competing 'product'. Having been at the unlucky end of a telephone queue in trying to get Sevens tickets (I've missed out two goddamned years in a row now) I get grumpy very easily with scalpers.

    Even if you don't buy my morality argument, Duncan makes the excellent point above that the conditions of sale on the ticket are a binding contract - the right of resale is expressly withheld. Those free market common-law cheerleaders would do well to recognise the contract law issue here.


  9. denmt,

    Nonetheless, those scalpers would be well within their rights to do what they're doing ... if it were not for the conditions of sale (and I agree, they're bloody silly conditions of sale).

  10. Duncan, it's all hypothetical. Scalpers 'would' be well within their rights in a libertarian dystopia, but as it stands they are in stark breach of contract.

    I'm certain that when Kane gets around to putting on his 'Kaneapalooza' concert extravaganza featuring well-known Objectivist bands from the world over, he will make a point of stipulating that tickets are welcome to be onsold at a profit. And as the promoter, that would be his prerogative - the ensuing clamour for tickets would no doubt see him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

    It is surely Campbell Smith's absolute right, in punting tickets to his event, to set out exactly what it is he is selling. Property rights and all, what?


  11. The conditions of sale will prevent on sale for a profit. Of course, many people sold rugby memoribilia, accomodation, socks and boxes of matches that came with "free" tickets to Lions Tests in 2005. Change the law and this will happen for all events.

    The risk Scalpers take is not trivial. Take those who tried to on-sell Elton John tickets at above face value found themselves out of pocket as the concert did not sell out. They had to either sell them below cost or risk not selling them at all.

  12. denmt,

    You are not listening to me. I said they would be well within their rights if there were no conditions of sale. As it stands, even under a Libertarian Government, they would still be answerable for breach of contract.

    I happen to think that such conditions of sale are silly, but that's unimportant to the issue, which is: there are conditions of sale, and the scalpers are breaching them, so they're in the wrong.

    I think we're agreeing here you know.

  13. I lost $30 trying to scalp U2 tickets. I almost considered going to the concert!

    denmt, imagine a situation where you miss out on a popular event because the tickets went too fast (as you have). In this case which would be better; an event where every ticket is held by a fan who won't give it up for anything, or an event where scalpers can sell you a ticket, if you care enough to pay for it.

    Neither scenario is "good" but sans scalpers the slow or unlucky are fucked.

  14. Duncan: Am in total agreement! I was just (snidely, I guess) suggesting that perhaps promoters' motivations might be somewhat different in a libertarian world.

    Anon: Am very sorry for your loss of $30, which is a real indicator of the huge risks taken on by the brave entrepreneurial scalpers. I hope you financially recovered over time.

    But seriously, how can you suggest that by effectively taking tickets out of a finite market that scalpers save the 'slow and unlucky'? There are still the exact same amount of slow and unlucky folks looking for tickets, they just have to go to the trouble of looking under all the rocks and down disused alleyways for scalper vermin to sell their souls to for tickets, rather than go to the usual outlets.

    Was U2 the first time you have 'scalped', or do you make a career of it?


  15. Do any of the banning advocates seriously think that this law will be properly enforced or respected?

    Just how easy do you think it will be to find those 'scalper vermin', who will still exist and still have the tickets you want when the official ones are sold out, once their actions become criminal?

    Instead of running crying to the government here are a couple of ideas that promoters could try right now: selling by Dutch auction or allowing people to make a bid for tickets and then allocating to the highest bidders.

    If they are intent on not selling tickets closer to the true market value (the root cause of the scalper phenomenon) they could at least try regulating the flow of tickets on to the market so that they don't sell out right away and give more people at least a chance of getting tickets.

  16. I have scalped tickets in the past (to a Bledislow Cup match). I listed the tickets on eBay with a starting bid equal to the purchase price. The final sale price was twice the purchase price, so I did nicely.

    I have also had an experience where I tried despately to buy scalped tickets to a concert but couldn't, because there were no sellers (I won'tname the band because they are terminally uncool to all but their fan(atics) like me.

    Legislation banning the act of scalping is pointless because it is unlikely that there could be effective enforcement at the point of entry. Additionally, like any prohibition, you are not going to stop people (on both sides of the transaction) wanting to do it.

    Realistically, the only viable legislative approach is a statutory limitation on the number of tickets a promoter could sell any single purchaser (or possibly a mandated staggering of the release of tickets into blocks). In either case the promoters won't go along with this as their interest lies in selling the largest number of tickets as quickly as they can.

    People are just going to have to wake up and realise that no event is unmissable and if they don't or can't get a ticket, that's just tough.

  17. Its obvious... promotors have a monopoly on the entertainers.

    Therefore the government must unbundle them for the good of all the people.

  18. denmt, I appreciate your sympathy. U2 was a one-off, I treated it as a gamble really and had I sold quicker I might've broke even.

    To (try to) clarify my earlier point, if there are more people wanting tickets than there are tickets, someone is going to miss out. If the world were an economics text-book the price would go up until demand lowered to match the supply. But in reality the price isn't raised to the "perfect" price, probably, I guess, because there's the risk the sellers might raise it too high and lose money.

    If scalping was banned (and magically enforced somehow) a situation like this would mean only the fastest would get tickets. In fact, if the selling isn't done in a queue (the ticketek phoneline for instance) and everyone puts forth the same effort then it's basically random. People will miss out and it will be because they were either slow or unlucky (or both). Unless they can convince someone to sell their ticket for the same price, the missing-out-people are shit out of luck.

    Enter the scalper. Same situation: surplus demand, people miss out. But now there's a chance to go, if you want it enough to pay extra. And whoever wants it the most, pays the most, and gets to go*. This is most obvious when done by auction -- highest bid wins. That's the essence of scalping. They're an intermediary between the actual supply and demand that increase the price in order lower the demand so those with the highest demand get the tickets.

    I think it's one of those things that people hate, like futures trading, because it doesn't look like any "real work" is being done (I think the name doesn't help either), but if they weren't being useful to someone they would disappear by themselves.

    *You might say that the person who pays the most might not want it as much as someone who just can't afford it, i.e, demand != ability to pay. But if someone wants it enough they'll earn the money. In the case of BDO, if you can't live without going, and you know it's in January every year, and you know tickets sell out in ~10 minutes, and you earn fuck all -- start saving!


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