How not to sell tickets

Let's say you are a band and you want to keep scalpers from buying all of your tickets and reselling them at ridiculous prices.

By now we know what works: you sell tickets with assigned names on them, and check at the door that the name on the person's ID (or, alternatively, credit card) matches the name on the ticket. You can also offer a "+1 option" for bringing someone along, but they must be accompanied by the person who bought the tickets in the first place. No ID, no entrance.

By contrast, here's what doesn't work:

Screenshot from the band's website: Please don't buy from scalpers or scammers. We have launched a scalper-free ticket exchange.

How do I know that it doesn't work? For starters, because all of the regular $40 tickets are sold out:

Screenshot from the ticket seller's website: ticket at $49.52 sold out

And because the only available tickets are those sold by scalpers at 10 times their value:

Screenshot from another ticket website: tickets starting at $500

You know what I would do if I were a scalper? I would buy as many tickets as I could, and then I would also sign up for the exchange with as many fake addresses as possible. It doesn't matter that I can't use the exchanged tickets afterwards - as long as the supply is reduced, the value of the tickets I bought first will only go up. Since every overpriced ticket offsets the cost of the other 9 I got early, it all works out for me at the end.

By now it is well known that ticket companies don't get rid of scalpers because they don't want to. The method I mentioned in the first paragraph is proven to work, but why would ticket companies get rid of scalpers when they can reach deals with them and get a second cut on the same ticket?

Which brings me to my final point. I think there are three types of bands:

  • those that care about their fans and successfully prevent scalpers from getting all the tickets,
  • those that care about their fans but don't know what to do (and/or do it wrong), and
  • those that don't care about scalpers because they get paid anyway (or get paid even more)

If you are a member of the first type of band I applaud you for standing up to your fans. And if you know someone who is in the second situation, feel free to forward them this post.

I could share some rough words with those who belong to the third group. But honestly, why bother? It's not like there's a shortage of good musicians. I'll go watch those instead.

April 2022 edit: John Oliver has a funny segment on this topic. You can watch it on YouTube