You know the feeling: You log on to Ticketmaster a few minutes before tickets for your favorite performer’s concerts go on sale. You make sure your credit card is in hand, and then you get a finger cramp pressing refresh for five minutes, only to realize you’re out of luck – you weren’t one of the lucky ones to hit refresh at exactly the right moment. Now, those tickets that were $50 just minutes ago are $150 on StubHub, and the cost of the date night you envisioned with your significant other is more than your student loan payment.
In reality, there probably weren’t that many tickets available to the general public in the first place. But even so, it feels unfair to be competing against seasoned scalpers and scalper bots. They couldn’t care less about the artist, and yet they’re ruining your chances of seeing the one show you had on your wish list this year. Though scalpers will likely always be an issue to some degree (they were talked about even during the Roman Empire), artists like Adele are beginning to take steps to thwart the industry estimated to be worth about $8 billion.
In 2014, Taylor Swift used her meteoric rise to fame and the release of her insanely popular album 1989 as a platform to speak out against streaming services like Spotify that, in her opinion, don’t offer artists a fair price for their music. Adele made a similar decision, but that battle is already being fought by Swift and others, so Adele could focus her efforts on another black hole of the performance industry: scalping.
Adele’s anti-scalping moves
For the release of tickets for Adele’s tour through Europe and North America in 2016, the artist teamed up with Songkick, a platform that tracks ticket buyers in an effort to prevent scalpers from buying up the entire ticket inventory. According to The New York Times, Songkick sold 235,000 tickets for the tour through Adele.com, and the company estimates it blocked 53,000 sales to suspected or known scalpers. By some estimates, that saved Adele fans $6.3 million in price markups.
“By selling the highest number of tickets we were able to through our own channels, and working with Songkick and their technology, we have done everything within our power to get as many tickets as possible in the hands of the fans who have waited for years to see her live,” Jonathan Dickins, Adele’s manager, said in a news release.
That’s great news for fans, but there’s still a long way to go before a bulk of tickets are sold without threat of a huge markup, Martin Shkreli-style. Songkick had the rights to sell about 40% of tickets for European venues, but the company’s influence is much smaller in North America, where it only sold 8% of tickets to some concerts, the Times reports.
On top of that, screening ticket-buyers can slow down the checkout process, often exacerbating issues already created when thousands of people flood one website trying to attend the concert in their home city. Ticketmaster, who controls most of the U.S. market for ticket sales, earned the wrath of numerous Adele fans when the process was incredibly slow, leaving most people in the cold.
Other anti-scalping measures
Despite the challenges, even sites like Ticketmaster are beginning to cooperate with premier artists whose concerts are likely to sell out. For both Adele’s 25 tour and Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming concerts, Ticketmaster sold a portion of them as “paperless” or “credit card entry” tickets, meaning the concert-goers are required to show the credit card they used to purchse the tickets, along with a government ID to get in.
“When credit card entry is the only option it’s probably because the tickets are in high demand, and the artist, team, or venue wants true fans like you to get the seats you want at face value by eliminating unfair competition from professional scalpers,” wrote Ticketmaster online.
This is promising for the future of ticket sales, and your wallet. But until it becomes common practice, you’re at the mercy of the artists and their managers, who make the decisions about how their tickets are sold. If the goal is to sell out no matter what, some performers might not mind that scalping was a factor in making it happen. Others like Springsteen and Adele are taking a stand, conceivably for their fans but also likely on a moral standard. No matter the reason, it will take several big-name artists like these to make a lasting change in the ticket-sales model.
“He’s [Springsteen’s] powerful enough he can dictate terms, Adele’s powerful enough she can dictate terms,” Rich Tullo, an analyst with Albert Fried & Company who covers Ticketmaster in the United States, told The Star.
No matter what, the reality is that concert tickets for huge shows will always be difficult to get. Ticketmaster only had 400,000 tickets for all of Adele’s concerts, compared to the millions of people who attempted to buy them in mid-December. Basic supply and demand says not everyone will be a winner. But at least with anti-scalping measures coming into place, you’ll have a better shot of scoring some, and you won’t be outraged by the price if you do get lucky enough to get past the “refresh” page. With hope, you won’t run into many people asking $9,494 for concert tickets anymore.