Ticketmaster Goes Digital to Fight Scalpers

The middleman's days may be numbered by a new paperless ticketing system that is being introduced by Ticketmaster, according to reports.

I have yet to go to any concert or sporting event that didn't have scalpers soliciting sales outside, and they are not alone -- brokers buy lots of tickets and sell them on eBay at inflated prices. That frustrated me when I attempted to purchase U.S. Open tennis tickets earlier this month.

Although I am not a fan of Ticketmaster, paperless ticketing is a good idea. The paperless system requires that tickets be purchased online by customers, and customers prove their purchase by showing gate attendants their credit card and identification when they arrive at an event.

Ticketmaster was mindful to set up an electronic exchange where customers can resell their tickets. Naturally, it charges a "convenience fee" for transactions, but it helps keep prices down by eliminating the need for secondary ticket exchanges including eBay subsidiary StubHub.

My U.S. Open tickets were purchased through StubHub, and I felt like I was ripped off by paying an additional mark up. The AP reports that Ticketmaster's exchange transaction fees amounted to $1.95, or 15 percent per ticket, during a pilot at Penn State University.

Fees were raised to $7.89 during the Nittany Lions' home opener, and revenue was shared with the university. There's a reason why the company has earned the not so endearing nickname of "Ticketbastard."

Ticketmaster has a near-monopoly over ticket sales, but competitors including TicketSherpa.com have sprung up, and musicians who have taken a stand on behalf of fans have helped to keep its fees in check.

Nine Inch Nails, which has been critical of TicketMaster in the past, is supportive of its paperless system. On its Web site, the band said that the system was "an effort to keep tickets in the hands of the fans and out of the hands of brokers/scalpers." (The ticketseller implemented the first step two years ago, allowing customers to buy, download, and print their tickets.)

I welcome paperless ticketing, partly because I do not see why it is necessary to print out tickets anymore during the digital age, but also due to the fact that scalpers really annoy me. I think that we'd all be better off if they took up selling beer in stadium parking lots instead.

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