Some Ticketing Reform Bills Being Manipulated To Benefit Secondary/Speculative Market

A nod to Erick Deshaun Dorris for the link to a Guardian article about how ticket resellers are leveraging the hatred being directed at Ticketmaster to manipulate legislation to their benefit.  The article mentions that a lot of legislatures only have a superficial understanding of the ticketing industry, mostly informed by complaints generated by big name artists like Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift.

The article quotes Kevin Erickson, Director of the Future of Music Coalition who discusses how the language of many proposed bills will actually benefit some of the larger secondary market players rather than consumers:

“Companies like StubHub, Vivid Seat, SeatGeek have been rather successful in appropriating legitimate public frustration with Ticketmaster to advance an unrelated policy agenda that’s mostly about maximising their access to inventory, to continue to be able to get as many tickets as possible and sell them at inflated prices,” he says. Erickson explains that BOSS SWIFT would eliminate legitimately helpful fan-to-fan resale sites and require “transparency of hold”, meaning that artists and venues have to disclose how many tickets will ultimately be available ahead of sale. “That sounds reasonable until you understand that that’s incredibly helpful to the brokers making their purchasing decisions,” he says. “It doesn’t benefit the individual family who just wants to buy a ticket to be able to attend the event.”

Erickson says BOSS SWIFT is unlikely to pass and fortunately a more artist and fan friendly bill, Fans First Act which mandates the full cost with fees be advertised and prevents speculative purchases, has more support and potential for passage. The article also cites efforts by individual states to provide protections through consumer protection laws. It mentions legislation in Maryland which is scheduled for a vote in the next week or so which requires price transparency, outlaws speculative ticketing, and limits price mark ups on the secondary market.

The article quotes MD State Senator Dawn Gile who says they spoke with a wide variety of venues and performing groups during the process of drafting this law. She cites experiences that many venues have faced, including my own and those of my colleagues, with regard to speculative ticketing and resale on smaller events:

“…even a local production of The Nutcracker was affected by secondary markups, while another venue found speculative tickets being sold for mezzanine and balcony seats “when the theatre doesn’t even have a mezzanine, nor a balcony”, says Gile. “The issue is pervasive. It’s been eclipsed by the topic of these really popular shows, but it’s not just Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé that are affected, it’s our smaller venues here.”


Additionally, says Gile, these companies are “suggesting that somehow if we move forward with this legislation, we’re not going to have any shows come to Maryland ever – that we’re effectively killing the live entertainment industry here.” The argument is disproved, she says, by the fact that several states already cap the secondary market – including the razzle-dazzle centre of Las Vegas – “but obviously the live entertainment industry continues to exist”. Her bill, she says, “just removes the incentive from brokers from being able to try to profit off the consumer”.

What I appreciated most was a final quote from Kevin Erickson about shifting how arts and cultural activities are framed:

“There is an opportunity here to accomplish a shift in how we think of music and the arts and live events as not just about something that has economic value, but to talk about the intrinsic value of live music as a vehicle by which communities form, a vehicle for historically marginalised voices to be heard, a way that communities define themselves. Policymakers at all levels have a responsibility to centre the voices of music communities who are imperilled by the rise of extractive business models.”

You only have to look at the photos coming out of each date on the Eras tour, in which thousands of teenage girls are having their first live music experiences, to see the vast potential for community activation: here are the roots of future lives spent in music…

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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