Usually we hear that the Internet has created overabundance — an overload of information, communications, choices, all within easy grasp of a single mouse click. So it came as a bit of a surprise when I read yesterday’s New York Times article about event tickets, and how the Internet is making it harder — not easier — on fans:
Fans complain that the once simple process of getting tickets has been transformed into a complex and expensive digital chore.
The article goes on to mention Craigslist, eBay, and TicketsNow as places where fans can go to purchase tickets. The perception is that tickets go very quickly on first sale (usually through Ticketmaster) and that the only real alternative is through the secondary market, where tickets for high demand events can be expensive.
And it’s possible that the Internet has increased the ability to purchase — and abuse — the process of buying tickets when they first go on sale. But compared to the old way, the Internet is a much better buying experience and increases opportunities for fans. I remember having to wait in line at the local Waxie Maxie record store for my tickets. Sometimes the system was slow and wouldn’t respond well (or was it the pimply-faced teen that didn’t give a darn behind the counter?). The sale would end before I even got to the counter. Overall, it was a painful experience. And while it may have been singular (as in only one option), it was certainly not simple to drive somewhere, wait in line, and only use cash (I’m dating myself).
So why this Times article, at this time? Concerts are way more important today. Artists and producers are focusing more on concerts for revenue, as CD sales diminish and digital downloads fail to fully make up for the dwindling revenue. Concert tickets used to be somewhat of a loss leader to get you in the door to buy merchandise and other concessions. Today, the ticket is the ticket for an artist’s and producer’s paycheck.
Yet, the way that tickets are initially sold is complex and not transparent at all. Not all tickets are sold to the public of course. Many go to the performer, some go to corporate sponsors, others are held for the local hospitality industry (hotels, package deals, etc.).
When people get upset about high prices on Criagslist, or any other site where you can get second-hand tickets, they are really upset over the supply/demand imbalance that was created in the primary market — how tickets were distributed, the limited seating capacity of the venue, and how tickets were initially priced (the face value).
Blame the parties involved in the initial sale of tickets, even blame the economics of it all (though you can’t get away from supply and demand) — but don’t blame the Internet!!