Does Secondary Ticketing
Deserve A Seat At The Table?

The question of whether secondary ticketing deserves a seat at the table was answered when StubHub’s Jeff Lester’s seat at the panel was actually empty. 

Photo: Jason Squires
at Pollstar Live! 2014. 

Lester, who faced a flight delay and was able to call in to participate panel, quipped that he opted not to come “so people can’t throw things at me.”

“I think it’s funny, a lot of the discussion is about pricing and the onsale process,” he said. “We look at it as if we’re disrupting some inefficiencies in the marketplace and providing a service that we think consumers want. We’ve tried to partner with almost every facet of the music industry and, frankly, people won’t even talk with us. … It takes both sides being engaging with each other to talk about situations where the artist, the fan, StubHub – everybody wins.”

Though the debate continues to rage on in some parts of the industry, it appears much of the animosity toward secondary ticketing is softening.

ScoreBig’s David Marcus started things off noting the question of secondary deserving a seat at the table is no longer valid.

“Secondary is basically a leg of the table at this point,” he said. “It’s a reality.” And, for AEG, that statement rings true.

“We have a global relationship with StubHub where we integrate and use them as our secondary partner,” AEG Worldwide’s Bryan Perez said. “For us the analysis wasn’t really whether we should integrate the secondary market. It was, ‘Should we be doing it by ourselves or should we be doing it with a partner?’”

The company recognized secondary ticketing was a “vibrant, active part of the market” and wants to be able to provide “the same level of customer service and experience to everyone that has paid for a ticket.”

Other people see things differently.

Ticketmaster’s Kip Levin explained his company’s main concern is that “if somebody’s buying a resale ticket, 100 percent of the time that’s going to be a legitimate ticket. The only way we were able to really solve that was to integrate and build TM+ the way we did.”

And when it came down to it, he said Ticketmaster decided it was more important to focus on offering people numerous options, a la Amazon, to help sell primary tickets.

All panelists acknowledged the market suffers from a pricing problem that often leaves people in the industry out in the cold when it comes to capturing the true value of a ticket.

“We all implicitly acknowledge our pricing is somewhat inefficient,” Perez said. “One of the biggest issues that I find is this notion that we have to price to blow it out. That’s the exception, not the rule, anymore as 31 percent of our tickets sell at the presale and the onsale now. Two-thirds of tickets are not sold at the onsale across a huge spectrum of events.”

He advocated embracing an official partner on the secondary market to offer up a platinum market of sorts but Levin wondered whether doing so is simply training people to go elsewhere for tickets, and effectively hurting your business. Lester noted StubHub’s goal isn’t to take business away from its partners if fans are driven to its site first.

“We don’t want people to buy a ticket to a show from us when there’s a ticket available of similar value in a similar section on the primary. We’re doing things like sending people back to the primary when there are tickets available,” he said.

Of course, the battle with bots also distracts ticketing companies and leaves fans fuming.

Panelists acknowledged the ticket process may need to be changed to make it fair and equitable for everyone involved, using strategies like waiting room concepts, preregistration for tickets, request systems and auctions. Fans will have to be taught to use the systems as well.

“You’ve got to change consumer behaviors,” Perez said. “It’s going to take time. We’re changing 30 years of behavior.”