TicketMaster and States are Stealing Your Property Rights

Given that the principles of Life, Liberty and Property – what “the Pursuit of Happiness” refers to – are the bedrock on which American culture and society were built you would think that politicians would at least be respectful of The Big Three! Unfortunately you would be wrong!

Attacks on these, most notably property rights, are not infrequent at all. In fact, it seems there are more and more of them every day. Amazingly, they all find supporters in legislatures – state and federal – to champion the erosion of respect for property rights.

The most recent instance of such actions on the part of legislators is taking place in TennesseeFlorida and several other states around the country. At issue is the question of who owns the tickets we all have purchased to concerts, plays, sporting events and the like.

Recent Zogby polling found 84% of Tennesseans and 76% of Floridians believe that a person who buys a ticket owns that ticket. As such, he has the right to use, sell, give away or donate what is his. Pretty basic stuff. Enter ticket sales mogul TicketMaster. They disagree.

The crisis TicketMaster doesn’t want to let go to waste is scalping. They are horrified someone might buy a $25 ticket from them and re-sell it for $250. This is such a huge problem around the country that TicketMaster and local venues have proposed legislation in several states which they say will fix the problem. Except that it doesn’t. In addition, it grants TicketMaster a competitive advantage over other businesses by legislatively granting them a market share and segment they did not earn and do not deserve.

In Tennessee it is the badly named “Fairness in Ticketing Act,” HB 1000. In Florida it’s HB 1353. Both of these bills propose fixing scalping by making TicketMaster – usually the original seller of the ticket – ALSO the only entity able to resell a ticket. This destroys business developed and competitively earned in the marketplace by companies like EBay and StubHub and hands it, without any effort on its part, to TicketMaster.

This isn’t preventing scalping. This is government picking and choosing winners in the market. If I may be so bold, given the definition of scalping that most people use – selling a ticket for more than face value – I have to ask what the problem with that really is? Isn’t “Buy low. Sell high!” something of an American maxim?

The real problem – the one which actually violates the rights of ticket sellers, venues and performers alike – and, as such should be addressed by government under the Declaration’s statement that “to secure these rights government was instituted among men” is counterfeit tickets. This is not addressed at all by any legislation sponsored by TicketMaster.

Neither is the notion of TicketMaster as the biggest scalper of all! Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams revealed that of 14,000 tickets for a recent Justin Bieber concert, only 1,000 were made available to the general public. 13,000 were held back by TicketMaster to distribute to suppliers, vendors, credit card companies, etc. If 10 tickets were given to a company that does $10,000 in business with TicketMaster, those $25 tickets just became worth $1,000 each. So much for opposing scalping.

Nor does the bill address other issues the public might have such as TicketMaster allowing some resellers to cut in line electronically. Ever wonder how a 15,000 seat concert could sell out in 8 minutes leaving fans who waited all night outside the window without a ticket? TicketMaster lets some folks cut in line over the Internet and buy hundreds of tickets at a time for resale. But as long as TicketMaster gets to sell them and resell them and control the market, what do they care? They make money on every sale.

Whether you live in Tennessee, Florida or another of the states in which this is an issue or may become one in the days ahead, stand up for your rights. Because you will be the big loser if TicketMaster is the only vendor allowed to resell tickets.

As I wrote at Blue Collar Muse, “We’ve all enjoyed a concert due to a friend’s generosity. Or seen the big game from our employers’ or clients’ skyboxes. Maybe illness or a scheduling conflict means we got tickets to the hottest play in town. Who hasn’t bid on silent auction tickets hoping to score a great deal?”

None of that happens if legislators, acting on behalf of TicketMaster, steal your property rights. Tell them to stop!

Ken Marrero

The Blue Collar Muse

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  • GarandFan

    Hate to bust their legislative bubble, but it still will not prevent scalping.

    • Conservachef

      I don’t think they’re trying to prevent scalping, just scalping by anyone other than the big names like Ticketmaster.

      • Blue Collar Muse

        They are missing the entire point, actually. Scalping – if defined as Buy Low Sell High – isn’t an issue that should be illegal.

        In fact, TicketMaster actively encourages such things by selling large blocks of tickets to online customers which are resold at higher rates. TicketMaster knows who they are and allows them to do it. They aren’t against scalping.

        The real issue is counterfeit tickets which actually defraud everyone in the chain.

      • Commander_Chico

        You have to question how a bill like this would get anywhere, since it so manifestly benefits a special interest which is practically a monopoly. And people deny there is an oligarchy!!

        The best free-market solution would be to implement a market for tickets that allowed online bids instantaneously. We have the technology.

        • Conservachef

          Of course, Chico, it all hangs on how many politicians you have in your pocket (and who they are).

          I’m reminded of the Tom Clancy book “Debt of Honor,” where in the book the Japanese government is a big-time lapdog of the industrialists. One American character even comments on how obsequious the pols are to their wealthy “patrons.”

    • Blue Collar Muse

      EXACTLY GarandFan … exactly.

      But then, the purpose was never to stop scalping. It was to eliminate and restrict competition for TicketMaster.

  • Conservachef

    So what do you do when you get sick and want to sell your ticket? Sell it back to TM (for a fee)? You buy the ticket for, say, $25 (plus a “convenience charge”), then sell it back for $25 – $2.50 (return fee), and they re-sell it for another $25 plus charges?

    Now that sounds like a pretty sweet racket…

    I just checked Ticketmaster, and for the “Beale St. Music Festival” (Memphis in May) there is an $85 ticket with $9.15 in convenience charges. I imagine they are drooling like Pavlov’s dogs thinking about the extra charges they can tack on for “buybacks.”

    • Blue Collar Muse

      ConservaChef – you hit the nail on the head. There is – floating around – the idea that TicketMaster would be the only recognized re-seller of tickets. That won’t happen, of course, as much as TicketMaster would love it.

      But the restrictions in the law would mean there would be a huge hurdle to getting into the ticket resale market in Tennessee. Chief among them is the requirement that any reseller anywhere have a physical office in Tennessee.

      It’s the oldest trick in the regulatory bag … find a lawmaker who will file a bill that gives you an advantage and your competition – present and future – a disadvantage.

      No need to bother with that pesky earning your marketshare when you can have it handed to you by statute.

  • While I agree that this type of legislation is a complete crock, shouldn’t this be handled under contract law? Your rights to the ticket are whatever are specified in your agreement with TicketMaster when you buy the ticket. If you don’t like it, don’t buy the ticket. For contrast, consider airplane tickets which are also non-transferable – this is hardly a concept unique to TicketMaster. In my view there should be no legislation about this at all, except general contract law.

    • Blue Collar Muse

      AOG – You are absolutely correct. This should be left alone as a Market situation to sort itself out.

      However, TicketMaster is unwilling to do this. They are actively lobbying state legislatures around the country asking for a legislatively created monopoly which bypasses their need to compete and earn business.

      The truth would seem to be that TicketMaster wanted permission to be the only ticket seller first and then they would enact restrictive provisions on the tickets. Failing that they tried to default to generic language to accomplish the same thing.

      We stopped them here in Tennessee. But the same issue is popping up around the country.

  • Vagabond661

    The biggest crime is when a concert is announced and scalpers buy up all the tickets. Then they turn around and sell the tickets for often 600% markup. Try telling your daughter you can’t get tickets to Taylor Swift because you don’t have $1600 bucks to buy two tickets.

  • warnertoddhuston

    And welcome Ken as the newest Wizbang blogger!