How We Get Rid Of The Plague That Is StubHub

by Zack Zarrillo - Nov 18, 2013

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StubHub, Craigslist, and eBay, among other services, are all used to sell concert tickets for (typically) a much greater price than face value. Scalping has always existed, but the extent to which scalpers are charging fans to see their favorite bands only seems to grow. PropertyOfZack saw a large outburst of outrage from fans this past week as Brand New’s discography shows sold out in record time and had tickets being sold on StubHub for well over $200. Jesse Cannon, author of Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business and the man behind Cannon Found Soundation, has written a special Contributor Blog article for us with his view on why StubHub is a plague and how we, as a community of music lovers, need to do away with it. Read it, and let us know your thoughts below!

When tickets for Brand New’s “full album” shows went on sale this week, we saw what happens whenever a major show goes on sale: tickets sell out way too fast, and die-hard fans are left with the option to pay a dozen times the ticket price ($400 on a $35 ticket) for a ticket on StubHub, or hope they can find a generous soul who is selling tickets on Craigslist for a reasonable price. Almost as bad, manipulative assholes head to Craigslist, or wherever else, scalping the tickets for unreasonable prices. But what makes StubHub so appalling is it has built a profitable business model off a disgusting practice that profits off true music fans not being able to get tickets that low-life scalpers push to the front of ticket lines and snatch from true fans in in order to sell to them for exorbitant rates. Brand New won’t be the first or the thousandth act this occurs with, and this revolting pain in all of our lives will continue to happen unless music fans do something about it.

For the uninitiated, StubHub would lead you to believe that it is a noble organization that takes the dangers of buying fake tickets away from scalpers, (and to an extent, this is true) but the prices they demand are often far above the worst cases of scalping and unfairly employ “scalperbots” to edge true music fans out and cut the line. They’ve made a business of trying to paint a nice image out of a profession named after a Native American practice that meant death in the most horrible way possible. Which makes sense, since this is often what it feels like when you think of paying a dozen times a ticket’s face value to see your favorite band, just because some scalpers took the last few hundred tickets only to profit from your love of music. Fortunately, the public sees through this and with revolts led by high-profiles musicians, including LCD SoundsystemThe solution they found to beat StubHub left the service all the more humiliated and showed a way to beat their vile business model. In the circles I travel in, StubHub is thought of as the scum of the Earth, except to douchebags like Paris Hilton and other 1 Percent scum who see the site as a butler who brings them an easy way to cut the line in front of truer music fans.

When you’re a diehard fan of a musician, that doesn’t always mean you have $400 to give to eBay’s shareholders (who own StubHub) to see the concert you want. They’ve made a business model that preys on desperate fans, or, even worse, caters to rich assholes that get access instead of the fans who tried to get tickets but were squeezed out by scalperbots who got there first. To make matters worse, the musicians playing these shows receive no compensation and, if anything, are hurt by this practice, since fans then have less money to spend on music, merch, et cetera.

Below are some of my ideas on how we get rid of this plague and get to a more egalitarian ticketing system where fans are no longer robbed to see the groups they love. In the best-case scenario, fans can instead can help fund the bands they love. This is not a concrete plan, but instead are some early ideas that should be built upon and developed. I want to start a conversation where we all work together and solve a problem that makes our lives as music lovers worse.

Technique 1. We the fans need to lobby musicians to stop doing tours where tickets can be bought and scalped. Ticketmaster are scared out of their minds about the power that Direct-To-Fan ticketing has given musicians, over the disgusting monopoly Ticketmaster/Live Nation hold. If musicians unite at the behest of their fans, Ticketmaster will have to change and work against the scalperbots that snatch up tickets. There are countless actions Ticketmaster and their like can do to immediately render ticket scalping extinct. If they began to take returns on sold out shows and enable a waiting list, they can easily have late buyers pay an extra fee to compensate the administration of returns (imagine if they split that with the bands?), profit from those who came late and rarefy ticket scalping.

Musicians need to understand music fans only have so much money to spend each month, and if they are spending $400 to see a concert, that leaves little money for vinyl, hoodies, leg warmers or whatever else a musician can profit from. To make matters worse, scalpers often can’t sell tickets leaving a quarter empty venue for bands to play in and less people to sell merch to, give a great show and have spread the word about their music.

StubHub and independent scalpers alike should be seen for what they are—another company eating musician’s profits. We need to replace this with a system that rewards musicians. With every scalped ticket that is one less ticket a musician can sell for more exclusive access and make more of a profit. Since we all know our favorite musicians need funding to keep going, this is all the more reason the plague of StubHub needs to be stopped.

Technique 2. We need an Airbnb for ticket sales. If you’re unfamiliar with the Airbnb format, they enable a safe harbor for people looking to sublet apartments. This format can easily be applied to ticket sales. Each user is able to give feedback on their experience with each person they sell a ticket to to make sure you are getting good prices and good experiences. A deposit can also be held in escrow to ensure a safe transaction. Did the buyer/seller meet you on time? Sell for a reasonable price? This can all be reported in a profile. This will enable minimal problems and the service could take a small fee (and maybe even give some of it to the musicians who they make money from).

Technique 3. We need political action. Ticket scalping needs to be regulated. While there have been plenty of laws introduced for it in the past, there needs to be a definitive law introduced. For that to happen politicians need to see a wave of momentum. There needs to petitions and there needs to be voter sign up drives at shows, so that politicians will be scared to vote against it, since StubHub gives a lot of money to politicians in order to lobby them to take their side. At the very least, giving your email to a political action committee, signing petitions that are actively gaining names and registered voters will ensure congress will act against scalping.

In a time where musicians need all the money we can get and the Internet has enabled our voices to be heard like never before, we can finally stop one of the worst parts of enjoying music and turn it into a great thing that helps fund musicians. Let’s figure out how we do this.

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