Should You Worry About Ticket Scalpers As An Event Organizer?

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Any ticketed event, no matter how large, will eventually run out of space if there’s enough interest. It’s inevitable – and to be frank, there are far worse problems to have in your field than a sold out event. At the same time, a sold-out show potentially opens you up to a completely different issue: ticket scalping.

Desperate to gain access to an event on short notice, people will often turn to scalpers for admission. These men and women would traditionally purchase tickets in bulk, selling them at a profit – some less reputable ones might even forge their own tickets or steal them from hapless guests. Although at one point the practice was illegal, there currently exists no federal laws against the resale of tickets.

That means that ticket scalpers are free to ply their trade, morally questionable though it may be. And if you think the birth of online ticket merchants deep-sixed the scalping industry, you’d be wrong. If anything, it’s brought about an unprecedented boom – and the line between scalpers and legitimate resellers grows more blurred with each passing day.

“The lines are blurring between a professional scalper and someone who sells their tickets,” explains SeatGeek Director of Growth and Communications Will Flaherty. “Back in the day, brokers would have to fax each other updated inventories. Now, that information is available to sellers online.”

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How worried should you be about all this, though? Why should you, as an event organizer, care whether or not someone is reselling your tickets? And more importantly, what can you do about resellers if you have it in mind to tackle the problem?

Reselling: Why Should You Care?

The biggest reason scalping’s bad for business from an event management perspective is that it represents a barrier for your attendees. A professional scalper who’s charging an exorbitant sum for tickets to a music show, for example, is effectively setting up a wall that prevents all but the wealthiest of fans from attending. And if they don’t sell those tickets?

That’s a whole crop of fans who won’t show up and the event; fans who won’t buy merchandise or drive revenue for both your venue and your brand. That, in turn, translates to lost profits on your part. But there’s also something else that’s cause for concern: scalping ultimately leads to a negative event experience for an attendee, especially if the scalper turns out to be a fraud.

What happens, for instance, if a fan of an artist purchases a ticket to a concert from a scalper, only to have the ticket denied at the door as fraudulent? Moving forward, that fan’s going to associate their negative experience with the artist’s shows– whether they want to or not. While they likely won’t stop buying merchandise and the like, it might be a while before they consider attending a concert again.

Finally, it represents a potential liability issue. Managing ticket sales yourself, you can to some extent manage attendee demographic for your event – for example, only allowing people over the age of 18 at an event where liquor will be served. When scalpers enter the equation, you lose that element of control. That opens a whole new group of issues. 

What Can You Do?

On your own, not a whole lot. You could limit the quantity of tickets in each individual purchase. You could include terms and conditions with each purchase that prevent reselling. You could spend a mint on tickets that are difficult to counterfeit and only send them out to guests close to the event.

But ultimately, scalpers are going to find a way around all of these measures.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try, mind you. Take a look at Adele’s recent efforts to curb scalping, which saw her partnering with SongKick, a ticket sales firm whose specialty is the prevention of scalping – with their help, Adele prevented 53,000 sales to known or suspected scalpers. Not bad, right?

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Unless you want to create your own marketplace and police each sale yourself, partnering with a company such as SongKick is your best bet as an event organizer, as well. Your expertise, after all, lies in planning and logistics. You never signed up to prevent reselling or fraud.

Now, with that said, there’s one more question that bears asking…do you really need to do anything?

Why Reselling Doesn’t Really Matter That Much 

Scalping has been a part of music festivals, concerts, and other entertainment events for almost as long as event management has been a profession. Scalpers are almost a part of the landscape, and no matter what measures you take against them, a few are bound to slip through the cracks.

Ultimately, this means that you’d be best served focusing on your event, and not sweating the scalpers. Sure, they’re turning a profit on your event, but that isn’t going to stop people from enjoying it.  And while a few people might be barred from attending, the number is negligible when compared to the guests that will be there.

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