Why isn’t it called scalping?

Ticketmaster was taken to task this past week for a supposed inadvertent re-direct to its subsidiary company TicketsNow, a secondary market ticket selling site, during the sale of tickets for upcoming Bruce Springsteen concerts in May at East Rutherford, N.J.

Springsteen fans were outraged, the Boss was outraged, Ticketmaster paid not a fine but a few hundred thousand dollars for what was termed investigative costs and a digital wall is to be enforced for one year between the two sites.

Basically, a slap on the wrist.

Let’s back up. What are we talking about here? First of all, let’s call it what it is. Secondary market ticket selling site? TicketsNow is a scalping site. Forget the ethics problem of such a site for a moment. Maybe I’m dim, but what are the legalities of such a site? Evidently, these services are technically not illegal in most states. But then why is it illegal to try and scalp a ticket – try to get payment above the face value of the ticket – outside a concert venue but it’s OK to sell tickets at inflated prices on the internet, taking orders before the actual tickets go on sale to the public. Doesn’t that boggle the mind?

Attention, Dick Blumenthal and all other state attorneys general: This should be illegal. How do these sites skirt or find loopholes in existing laws? Because those laws are obviously weak or in some cases non-existent.

Add to this Ticketmaster’s purchase of TicketsNow last year for $265 million. Now forget about the legality issue, isn’t this a huge conflict of interest? Ticketmaster not only wants to charge its exorbitant rates one time, it wants a piece of this questionable scalping market as well.

This is one of the many reasons I hate going to concerts at these huge, mega arenas. For the average music lover, it’s nearly impossible, without some inner connection, to land great seats even if you are willing to pay top price. But then to only have the alternative of paying as much as five times face value of the tickets to score good seats is ludicrous.

Of course now Ticketmaster wants to merge with Live Nation, further reducing options for concert goers. When will it end?

eBay, which owns StubHub!, the largest secondary market scalper, defended the existence of its services last year when it was under fire describing the secondary market as “a legitimate one which benefits consumers.”

Really? Now how does that benefit a music fan when he has to pay double or more for tickets that sold out in minutes partly because of demand but also because of these services gobbling up as many tickets as possible?

There is a class action lawsuit that was filed against Ticketmaster in Canada earlier this month. Let’s hope it’s part of a wave of the future.

This NY Times article, which focuses on sporting events, doesn’t defend scalping but also doesn’t see it at as the source of high ticket prices. It makes a case for the old supply-and-demand argument. Really? It basically says tickets are underpriced to begin with. Really? Tickets are underpriced? I’m sorry but those of us living in the real world and not on top of it don’t agree with that.

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