April 11, 2019

Time to shine a light on how the ticketing industry really works

Have you ever sat at your computer waiting for event tickets to go on sale, only to find them suspiciously sold out? It’s a frustrating experience that is all too common for fans.

The ticketing industry, and in particular the secondary ticketing market, has been a hot topic in Canada and beyond in recent years. However, in order to truly understand the issues impacting access to tickets, we need to closely examine the industry as a whole and how it can be made better for fans.

The truth about bots

Let's start with bots: StubHub fully supports legislation prohibiting the use of bots to procure tickets. Full stop. We have actively advocated against bots in the US and the UK and we look forward to continuing this conversation with legislators in Canada.

Using bots to circumvent ticket limits imposed by event organizers gives an unfair advantage over average fans. We know that primary ticket issuers have the ability to identify bots usage and it’s critical that they share information with law enforcement so that action can be taken against bad actors.

However, it should be noted that the issues impacting ticket access are much broader than just bots.

Ticket availability - myths and realities

First and foremost, transparency is key. Yet, the allocation and distribution of tickets in the primary market have traditionally been a closely-held secret.

It has been reported that a large percentage of tickets never actually go on sale to the general public, but are instead reserved for pre-sales, VIPs and industry insiders.

For example, last year, the CBC reported that the Toronto Maple Leafs released only 96 tickets to the public for general sale of their first home playoff game. The arena’s capacity is 18,201, so where did those other tickets go? Don’t fans have a right to know how many tickets are made available to them to purchase?

A 2016 study by the New York Attorney General’s office found that for many of the top shows in New York between 2012-2015, an average of 54% of the tickets were held back and allocated to presales, meaning ONLY 46% of the tickets were made available to the general public at the official onsale. For top shows, the average number of tickets available to fans fell to 25%. This is one of the reasons you see popular shows "sell out" so quickly.

To keep fans informed, transparency is key. Requiring that all ticket issuers disclose how many tickets were actually made available for sale provides fans insight into how many they’re fighting for.  Fans of live experiences should be able to know how many tickets are available for an event, what their seats will look like and how much they’re going to pay for them.

Ticket transferability

In today’s current climate, fans are increasingly facing restrictions on their ticket purchases. Technology, as well as the terms and conditions placed on the initial ticket sale, are being unfairly utilized to dictate how consumers can use, transfer, donate or resell their tickets.

For example, “nominative ticketing” (where the ticket can only be used by the person whose name is printed on it) and credit-card entry (where entry is granted only with the credit card used to purchase the original ticket) are inconvenient for fans who can no longer attend an event or have purchased tickets as gifts, or for a group that’s arriving at a venue at different times.

These restrictions are intended to give ticket issuers complete control – eliminating consumer choice and stifling competitors. Not to mention it is also hugely inconvenient if your plans change or one of your friends or family members is running late.

Fans should have the freedom to use, transfer, donate, or resell the tickets they have rightfully purchased in the same way they would other items. Competition in the ticket industry is good for fans and forces services to compete on price and fan experience. Would anyone accept terms and conditions on other purchases that so limited consumer choice? Imagine being restricted to only selling your house through the real estate agent you bought it from?

Fans first

Fans benefit from freedom and choice in the market. It’s time for the entire ticket market to put fans first, through a shared commitment to transparency, accessibility, consumer protection, and healthy competition.