Don’t Sell Your Soul for Tickets

ticket scalpers, illegal ticket sales, Kingston, OntarioHow much is too much? It’s a topic we’ve touched on in the past, and back when Leonard Cohen came to the K-Rock Centre, pairs of tickets to his show were being sold on eBay for as much as $1,400. While I wasn’t specifically watching to see if Elton John tickets would surpass that record amount, I noticed that two tickets for Sir Elton’s performance were still up for grabs on eBay a few hours before the show. The asking price, including delivery to your door, was a cool $650, which is about three times the going rate at the box office.  Kingston, let’s agree to do something about these scalpers and the K-Rock Centre’s ridiculous ticketing system.

First and foremost, we need to put serious pressure on those responsible for the ticketing system at the K-Rock Centre.  Stories involving local taxpayers lining up for the initial release of tickets, only to find them sold out within minutes of becoming available are common and unacceptable.  In light of this, there is no reason why the box office and online ticketing system have to open simultaneously.  If you take the time to camp out all night long, or get in line before the box office opens, you should be given an opportunity to buy tickets, albeit a limited number.  While some hardworking individuals may be unable to get in line at the KRC, purchasing tickets online should remain as an option.  This can be properly managed by accommodating those who waited in line first, and then opening the online ticket portal a few hours later.

Now that we’ve taken care of the local folks who waited in line to see their favorite act, we need to deal with the scalper scumbags who buy blocks of tickets for resale via eBay, Craigslist and the like.  The solution here is for us all to agree to stop going to these online auction and marketplace sites to purchase event tickets.  If a scalper isn’t able to make a profit off of their initial investment, and they are left with an excessive number of unsold tickets, they’ll soon realize that Kingston isn’t open to their sort of business.  Further, you can take it one step further by flagging posts and auctions where the selling price is over and above the legitimate, face value of the tickets.  Bottom line, don’t pay more than the original face value for tickets to events in Kingston.

While Leonard Cohen, Elton John and other big name acts who come to the K-Rock Centre don’t necessarily need a dime from their ticket sales, that doesn’t mean that scalpers should be able to profit off of their hard work. This is especially true when you take the superstars out of the equation, and insert a name such as The Gertrudes, Kyra and Tully, or Dan Mangan.  Regarding the latter, I became physically ill when I saw that someone was trying to scalp tickets on Craigslist to Dan Mangan’s performance at the Grad Club last April.  After quickly reporting the issue, the post was removed, and hopefully the scalper’s account was permanently deleted.

If we seriously want to crack down on scalping, then we have to work together and spread the word that Kingston does not take kindly to scalpers.  The reward for all Kingstonians will be a fair ticketing system at the K-Rock Centre and other local venues.  Imagine concert tickets that are immune to inflated prices and immediate sell outs.  Imagine an equal opportunity for us all to enjoy performances such as Elton’s at the KRC.

Thanks to Mike Whit for today’s accompanying photo, and resurrection9 for the footage of Elton lighting up the KRC.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

11 thoughts on “Don’t Sell Your Soul for Tickets

  • It's nice to imagine that the K-Rock Centre can distribute tickets "fairly" (although fairness is slippery to define – it's in the eye of the beholder). But when it comes to big acts booked through big entertainment agencies, local venues like the K-Rock Centre don't have control over the hows and whys of ticket selling. It is likely the artist and/or the tour operator that sets the terms, and if you want the act to appear at your venue, you have to abide by their rules. Although I tried online to order tickets for the Elton John concert and was unsuccessful, I'm not upset, as I realize that when such a big-name act appears in a relatively small venue, very few people are going to be able to go. I wasn't lucky this time – maybe next time. As for ticket re-selling, it just goes with the territory – it's been going on since I went to my first rock concert in 1982, and will go on into the future. When supply is limited and demand is high, prices will rise.

    • No. You should be upset. Further, the " it goes with the territory" mentality is not the right way to tackle this issue, unless you're planning on never seeing a show at the KRC. Think about it, had scalpers refrained from purchasing tickets ahead of you, your chances of getting what you wanted, at a fair price, would have been much better. When supply high, ticket prices remain fair.

      • We have a fundamental disagreement about this. You believe that I "should" be upset, but the fact remains that I am not. I've attended many concerts and events at the K-Rock Centre (The Hip-twice, Neil Young, kd lang, Great Big Sea, etc. etc.), and the only time I have been unable to buy tickets is for Elton John. Given that he typically plays venues ten times the size, I was not surprised. And I also disagree with your belief that there is such a thing as a "fair" ticket price – you and I would likely disagree on what constitutes a fair price, and, most importantly, how it would be determined. And I reiterate that I doubt that the K-Rock Centre could institute a temporary embargo on online sales even if they wanted to, as it is under the control of the artist and tour promoter.

        • Fair enough. You're not upset, and by the sounds of it you've already seen some great shows at the K-Rock Centre. I agree with you in that under the current construct of the ticketing system, the concept of a fair ticket price doesn't exist. But I'm optimistic that things could change if enough people squawked. For me, a fair price is the one that's listed/advertised, and begrudgingly it includes whatever fees the K-Rock Centre, etc.. tack on. Could the K-Rock Centre institute a temporary embargo, probably not. Would the artist or tour promoter? Maybe…although I'm sure there would be a lot of finger pointing and vague claims that such matters are out of their control.

  • The image of people camping out overnight and having their tickets bought up from under them by somebody sitting at home is obscene to say the least. At reasonable limit on in-person purchases and a two-hour (heck, even one-hour!) embargo on online sales would go a long way to making things fair and not affecting the promoter's bottom line one bit.

    There's also no reason why some cop couldn't periodically troll the sales and hammer the scalpers as they pop up. It IS illegal, after all.

  • For me it falls under not going to change so why bother fighting it. Scalping tickets is illegal in Ontario but when I go to a Jays game you'll see guys selling tickets every time. It is what it is.

    People can also buy tickets over the phone. I wonder if that was a better chance for the big shows since most people forget about it. Think they increase phone operators when these big shows come up.

    One point forgotten is the pre-sales the acts allow to their 'fan clubs'. That's how I avoided all of these lineups and headaches for The Hip and Great Big Sea. Sign up online and get tickets BEFORE they're available to the public. So some of the best seats might be gone even for those people who camped out all night. That's completely out of the hands of any arena.

    • Another great point regarding special arrangements and pre-sales. I don't really see a problem with fans having first crack at tickets. Again though, as I said above, I do not think that the "it is what it is" mentality is the right way to address this problem.

      • Thanks very much for raising this topic. It got me thinking about the complex issues surrounding ticket scalping, and doing some online reading about it. For anyone who's interested, visit Slate and search under "ticket scalping" – there are a few fascinating articles, including one by Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman.

        My personal view is that that ticket scalping or re-selling should not be illegal, but I understand your position that as the law stands, it is illegal and the law should be enforced like any other law.

        However, given current law enforcement funding and manpower, it ranks as a very low priority. And as a taxpayer, I would say that my preference is to see scarce police resources directed at more serious problems, from impaired driving to child exploitation.

        But even if the police were to devote resources to catching scalpers, there would be significant difficulties. Tickets offered for sale on the internet may involve sellers from other jurisdictions within Canada, or even other countries, and the need to coordinate across jurisdictions that may have differing laws and resources would be a serious challenge.

        I'm not up on the relevant law, but believe that online reselling is legal in most US states – I've bought tickets myself on StubHub to see baseball games at Yankee Stadium (about twice the face value) and at Miller Park (about 20% above face value).

        Despite StubHub's popularity, there are some notable opponents of ticket scalping in the US. I remember hearing about a controversy involving Ticketmaster in the US and a "bait and switch" scheme to force fans to buy tickets through its online ticket reseller – I believe it involved a recent Bruce Springsteen tour.

  • It's a sick mind that blames scalpers for making a buck. If there is an issue with distribution of tickets, deal with it, but don't blame people smart enough to 'game' the system. Is what they are doing illegal? Talk to those who dole out the tickets, and address the problem on that level, view it as starving the scalpers if vindictiveness is what motivates you to push for change.

  • I don't see how ticket scalping is any different than someone selling the hottest christmas toy (that is sold out in all the stores) through kijiji/ebay/whatever. It's seeing a supply shortage and taking advantage of people's willingness to pay over the odds to have said item. If people are willing to part with the money because they feel they need it enough, then that is their choice. I am not positive as to why it is illegal, although I suspect it's almost certainly to do with the selling of counterfeit tickets more than with inflated prices.

    What is proposed here, they delay of online ticket sales, is extremely reasonable and easy to implement. As far as I am concerned, the sale of tickets to any event should first be made available to the most hardcore of fans possible, which is usually those who are willing to wait in line for hours to get the tickets. The current system cheats these fans, and that is a problem.

    At the end of the day though, it's a pretty minor problem.

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