Paul McCartney’s coming to town, but don’t feel too bad if you were locked out of affordable tickets: for most of us, it was a blink-and-you-missed-it moment.
It seems like something that happens more and more these days, the rise of online ticket brokers and new technology horning in to deprive desperate fans of badly wanted tickets.
So what’s the deal? Is the system rigged? Can fans get a break?
Pascal Courty is an economics professor at the University of Victoria who studies ticket sales.
He says part of what’s making it hard for fans is the way the new online systems work with good old supply and demand.
That’s because when a hot band only plays one or two shows, the market price – that is, what people are actually willing to pay for tickets, is often way above what would be considered a reasonable face value.
“Paul McCartney just doesn’t want to spend the whole month in Vancouver to make sure everyone can access his show. At the same time it would be very unpopular to charge $500, $600 or $1,000 which is the price you see in resale markets.”
Courty says that means when tickets are released at a “reasonable” price, they’re snapped up by resellers who see the easy profit.
“They’ll try to do everything they can do buy the tickets at the (lower) price and resell them to the market price, to the price these tickets could fetch.”
So while it might be legal, is it fair to have tickets resold in B.C.?
Courty says banning it would probably be a bad idea.
“For most concerts reselling is a good thing. You know, people change their mind and they want to sell them because we all buy tickets in advance and we are all happy to give them to a friend, or even to resell them if we don’t know anyone who can go.”
But when it comes to commercial resellers, some of them owned by the big industry players themselves…
“That’s where things get a bit grey area.”
On top of old fashioned scalpers and big brokers, Courty says some artists have even been known to get in on the deal, selling a few tickets at face value before marking up the rest through brokers.
How to win?
Courty says it’s not impossible to get good seats at a fair price, you just have to work at it.
Tip number one? “It’s always good to wait in line.”
But he says fans can also use the internet to their advantage by connecting directly with artists through fan websites and mailing lists which often have presales or concert deals.
“Search and be aware of how the artist is going to bypass the brokers… but again, the brokers are trying to do the same thing.”