NYC TKTS Booth Turns 50

On June 25, the TKTS booth in Times Square turned 50. I have written about some precursors to the discount ticketing booth The whole history is pretty fascinating, especially if you view it in the continuum of online ticket resellers.

The AP ran a story about the history of the booth. The recent $18 million renovation in 2008 resulted in the slick, glass enclosed booth with the amphitheater like seating area. However, the original booth was an abandoned trailer donated by NYC Parks Department placed with the goal of stabilizing the seedy neighborhood. I remember that original booth…and the seedy neighborhood.

Mayers and Schiff were given just $5,000 for the capital budget, and they rented scaffolding to go around the booth. They wove a translucent plastic fabric with the iconic logo among the bars and clamped spotlights on the frame.


They thought it would stay up for a year or two, at best. Instead, it won design awards and lasted decades. Their influence can be seen in the abbreviated, vowel-less apps and company titles of today — Flickr to Unbxd and DNCE.

I get a kick out of the idea that this cobbled together structure won design awards.

If you have been to Times Square recently you know it is the riotous center of activity with costumed characters available for paid selfies and people urging you to buy tickets to specific shows. The atmosphere can tend to be a little off-putting. However, the TKTS staff are not permitted to advocate for a specific show, but instead can make recommendations of multiple shows based on the genre of show you might like to see. Or you can ask other folks in line for recommendations since it can take up to 45 minutes to get through the line.

Fix The Tix Coalition Makes Bold Demands To End Exploitative Ticketing Practices

A little over a month ago, I wrote about the newly formed Fix the Tix coalition which is urging the US Congress to pass legislation to protect ticket buyers from exploitative ticket pricing/manipulation, ticketing scams, and use of bots to purchase high demand tickets.

Last week they released the details of what they are pushing Congress to enact. It is pretty much everything ticket buyers and venue operators have been praying for.

In addition to restrictions on just plain gouging, the plan calls for the end of speculative ticket selling by requiring sellers to legally have physical or virtual ownership of tickets.

● require that resellers and ticket resale platforms legally obtain each ticket and have each ticket in possession, virtually or physically, prior to placing it on sale.
● require that the ticket resale platform has written proof that a reseller possesses a ticket to sell.

Similarly, they ask that attempts to make a ticketing site masquerade as official outlet of a venue be made illegal.

● make illegal the use of deceptive URLs, search engine optimization, or advertising that improves the visibility of secondary sites over primary sales platforms and makes fans believe they are buying tickets from the venue or artist.
● require secondary ticketing resellers and platforms to clearly and conspicuously disclose:
○ a notice that it is not the primary ticket issuer and venue;
○ that a ticket may still be available from the primary ticket seller and link back to the primary ticket seller;
○ the original face value and fees of each ticket; and
○ a certification that the event ticket offered for sale is in the possession of the reseller or secondary ticketing platform.

Note, I haven’t listed everything they are asking to occur in each of these situations. Check out the full document for more info.

As you might imagine, they are also insisting on full transparency for fees up front during the purchasing experience.

In terms of privacy and safety, they are asking the secondary market sellers be required to provide venues with the contact info of ticket purchasers so they can be reached in case of emergency or rescheduling. But they also insist that secondary market buyer information be protected and not used for sales and marketing without purchaser permission.

As mentioned, Fix the Tix also want to prevent tickets from being snatched up by bots and to ensure secondary ticket sales are made at or near face value on a one on one basis rather than by corporations to individuals:

● ensure that artists, working with venues, determine how to get tickets into the hands of actual fans.
● prohibit companies that operate both primary and secondary ticketing platforms from forcing tickets sold for more than face value to only be resold on their platforms.
● encourage ticketing platforms to operate exclusive, no-fee, fan-to-fan exchanges of tickets as long as they are not exchanged on those exclusive platforms for more than the face value (or the original total cost) of the ticket.
● prohibit companies that are primary sellers and secondary resellers from offering secondary resales on the same web page or display where the primary seller also offers tickets for primary sale.

Boy, This Seems To Be The Month For Ticket Pricing Conversations

You may have seen that the AMC movie chain decided to implement tiered pricing for their theaters with higher prices for preferred seating and lower pricing for less desirable front row seating and wheelchair spaces.

“The mega-exhibitor, which has already introduced sightline seating in select markets, is betting movie-goers will pay more for a better view of their favorite Hollywood titles, as do patrons of music and sporting events.”

They are testing this pricing out in select markets so I popped over to the site Lincoln Square 13 in NYC to see what the chart looked like. Below are the recliner and regular seating arrangements for the new Magic Mike movies. The tan seats are the premium priced seats, the blue are the discounted seats and the white are regular price.

I should note that the recliner seating chart is for the 7:45 showing and the regular seating chart is for the 9:15 showing. I looked at the 6:15 screening chart for the regular seating and there are only a handful of seats sold. It may be that time is not really convenient, but it seems like a lot of folks in NYC are willing to pay extra for recliner seating plus a premium on a Monday night. And I assume AMC realizes 7:45 is probably more convenient and makes sure the screening with the recliners is available so they can make a little extra money.

That said, another Hollywood Reporter article on the same subject noted that Paramount worked with theaters, including AMC to lower the ticket price for the movie 80 for Brady, just days before AMC unveiled this new premium seating plan.

” For years, some distribution executives have argued in favor of variable pricing, whereby tickets are lowered depending upon a movie’s target audience. In this case, Paramount presented evidence showing that older demos are more sensitive about ticket prices.

But no sooner had 80 for Brady opened over the Feb. 4-6 weekend to a pleasing $12.7 million then did AMC reveal Feb. 7 that it is implementing a hefty $1 and $2 price increase for many seats…The news quickly put the 80 for Brady initiative on the back burner since AMC’s plan goes in the opposite direction by introducing higher costs.

This has created a bit of a philosophical tension between the two approaches-varying price based on target audience vs. vary prices based on seating location. Paramount says it won’t have final numbers for another week or so, but preliminary data shows that admissions were higher for 80 For Brady than its other release, Knock at the Cabin. The latter ended up making more revenue than the former the first weekend of February, but by Monday Brady exceeded it in revenue.

There has been some criticism from some like actor Elijah Wood who says that these pricing schemes will exclude lower income families from an activity that has been relatively democratic.  Others are concerned that complicated pricing will provide an incentive to stay home and stream.

Hollywood studio executives, however, are concerned about the moviegoers who aren’t as eager to pay more, or who already have doubts about resuming their moviegoing habits. Notes one distribution source, “my biggest worry is that all of this pricing becomes too complicated.”

What Profits A Man To Gain Riches, But Lose His Ardent Fans

I was not keeping close tabs on the topics President Biden was expected to cover in the State of the Union so it was a coincidence that yesterday’s post was about exorbitant add on fees on the same day he was addressing that issue.

It is probably less of a coincidence that another article from TicketNews came across my feed today reporting what I alluded to in the last lines of yesterday’s post. A Bruce Springsteen fanzine decided to call it quits after 43 years due to Springsteen’s decision to engage in dynamic pricing and slow release of inventory practices.

But for Springsteen, who built much of his reputation on the appearance of being a man of the people rather than interested in exploiting his fans for as high a value as he can capture, the reputational damage has been significant. The Backstreets closure is merely the latest, and highest profile, chapter of it.

“There’s no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years,” reads one part of Phillips’ message to readers. “Six months after the onsales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.”

Part of the issue is that some of Springsteen’s public statements seem to dismiss the concerns of his fans. The fact that ticket prices have dropped from $4000 in the initial roll out to $450-$1000+ with $61 seats available for some shows, does seem to indicate demand pricing theoretically works.

However, the article suggests that the damage is done and younger artists need to be cognizant of the current environment.

What will be interesting is whether or not younger artists – many of whom don’t have decades of good will from their fans to squander – will see what dynamic ticket pricing and openly fleecing your biggest fans can do to their future interest in your work and think twice about embracing the Ticketmaster/Live Nation model of “slow ticketing” going forward.