Hard to Find Tickets to Popular Events Has Become More Difficult

March 17, 2010

We’ve all been there before. A popular concert or sporting event is coming to town and the advertisements promoting the event can be seen in newspapers, on television, on highway billboards — you may even get emails on it. The displays are just about everywhere. It gets you really excited because the one act or game you’ve wanted to see live is finally making a stop in our market. You mark your calendar noting the date and time tickets go on sale so you can be among the first to make a purchase. But what ends up happening? Tickets get sold out in a matter of minutes leaving you frustrated and wondering how they all can be gone so quickly.

The answer isn’t that tens of thousands of people all clicked on their computers at the same time, or all went to a specific ticket window simultaneously. The reason tickets are oftentimes unattainable is that the online ticket sales are being “hacked” with sophisticated software that overrides the mechanisms that distribute tickets. Those who have access to this equipment can buy up tickets in bulk and then resell them for astronomical prices, thus leaving the public and the real fans out in the cold.

The legislature’s General Law Committee, of which I serve as ranking senator, has been looking into this matter to try and bring some transparency to the sales of event tickets on both the primary and secondary markets. In fact, last week the committee passed a bill that addresses the selling and reselling of event tickets.

The bill makes it a class D felony for anyone who sells or uses software that circumvents either a security measure or mechanism that ensures an equitable ticket purchasing process by a ticket seller’s internet web site. By banning this computer program that essentially buys up all the tickets, it gives more access to the general public to buy tickets directly from the promoter or the official ticket agency. The hope is that more tickets for popular events will be available when you attempt to make a purchase.

There is also a growing concern with regards to the reselling of tickets by people who may own subscription packages or season tickets to a state venue. To limit the resale of tickets, promoters are placing restrictions on season ticket holders by requiring, as a condition of purchase, that the tickets cannot be resold. In addition, some promoters have begun to limit the resale of tickets by issuing paperless tickets, which are oftentimes not transferrable.

In testimony before the General Law Committee, one trade association engaged in promoting internet commerce, the NetChoice Coalition, stated that through paperless tickets “buyers can no longer receive tickets in the mail or authorized electronic versions printed from a website or through email. Instead, fans must present the credit card used to purchase the tickets along with government issued identification” when going to the event. They also mentioned that in her recent tour, paperless tickets to see Miley Cyrus were not transferable, meaning that they could not be resold or, even worse, given to family members or friends.

This legislation seeks to curb these practices as well as to provide transparency. Not able to get tickets to the event? The bill actually requires the state’s larger venues to report whether or not you actually had a shot at getting tickets by disclosing how many were available to the public.

An example brought before the committee by Donald Vaccaro, CEO of TicketNetwork, broke down the distribution of tickets to a Keith Urban concert last fall. Of the 14,904 seats available at the Sommett Center in Nashville, only 4491 were made available to the general public. Some tickets understandably go to sponsors and the artist, other seats may be reduced due to the setup of the stage. But when you are talking about over two-thirds of tickets going to places other than the general public, it doesn’t seem fair. This measure will give people a clear sense about how much of a chance they really had in getting seats to the big show.

This issue is indeed complicated and does involve many competing interests, but there is a consensus that consumers need to be protected when it comes to buying tickets. For more information about this issue please contact me at [email protected].