Ticket Scalping: A Quick, But Controversial Way to Make Cash

Hard copies of concert tickets. Photo by Samantha Wong

Ticket scalping is a fast, easy way to make extra money if you don’t get caught.

Ticket scalping is the practice of buying event tickets from a licensed seller and reselling them. Although a large percentage of tickets are purchased directly by fans, the rest find their way to investors who sell the tickets in the secondary marketplace, where prices tend to skyrocket. Due to the high prices, there is a controversy over the morality of charging fans more for tickets than what the tickets originally cost. There are laws in 29 states that either prohibits, restricts, or regulates the resale of tickets. In California, it is illegal to sell tickets that were purchased exclusively for resale for more than face value on the event venues property according to California Penal Code 346.

The goal of scalping is to obtain the best seats and charge fans the highest prices. According to Rolling Stone, scalpers may obtain their tickets by using “bots”, automatic programs that quickly purchase tickets before a normal human being may. However, the only thing needed to beat the professionals is a little knowledge.

Ticketmaster, is the “the leader in ticketing large-scale sports and entertainment events,” according to Forbes.  The company sells tickets at face value and also provides a free fan-to-fan resale program, where fans who’ve purchased tickets through Ticketmaster can relist extra or unwanted tickets, according to Ticketmaster.  Resale tickets in this program appear next to original tickets that have not yet sold on the event’s page.

Other popular resale marketplaces are third-party websites such as StubHub, Vivid Seats, and SeatGeek, which are free to list tickets on, according to each company’s website. All resale programs charge a small fee (around 10 to 25 percent) once the listed tickets are sold.

Despite the opportunity to make a large profit, there’s a risk in selling tickets.

Sophomore film production student, Erin Williams, tried to sell tickets for a G-Eazy and Logic concert in 2016. As the day of the concert drew nearer, Williams was worried no one would purchase them.

“There’s a lot of pressure because if nobody buys it by the time the concert arrives, then you’re just wasting your money, you don’t get it back,” Williams said.

“Ticket scalping comes down to two things: supply and demand,” Williams said. According to Bryce Conway, founding editor of 10xTravel.com, there are five indicators when determining which events may bring in more dough. These include audiences with a disposable income, no time to plan, artist popularity, favorable event venue or date, or favorable tickets.

How does one get these tickets, though?

“Get online and be ready to click the button [for tickets] when you need to,” freshman public relations and advertising student Tamlyn Doll said. Doll has resold her extra tickets twice and only lists them for face value so that she can make her money back. She frequently attends concerts and strives to obtain the closest seats to the stage.

“Presale is always good, but if you have extra cash, waiting for the platinum tickets to be released could be a good idea,” Doll said.

A ticket to see Norwegian DJ, Kygo. Photo by Samantha Wong

Platinum tickets are tickets that Ticketmaster sets aside and sells them at the secondary market price, according to Ticketmaster’s website. These prices fluctuate based on the seat location and demand.

According to Ticketmaster’s blog, Ticketmaster Insider, presales are held to give priority access to fans who are a part of a fan club, carry a certain credit card, or subscribe to a specific service like Spotify or Tidal. Presales give fans a better chance at obtaining a ticket to the event than general sale, even though it does not always guarantee that the fan will be able to purchase tickets, let alone the seats they want. “They release the seats in different sections at a time, so buying first doesn’t guarantee the best or closest seats,” Doll said.

Even if people aren’t into figuring out the different types of tickets and sales, they can still cash in on the trend.

“I sold tickets [to the Del Mar fair once] because I [bought] them at Costco and it came with 4 tickets, drink vouchers, food vouchers, and ride tickets. I had two extra tickets, so at the gate, I sold them for $5-10,” said freshman broadcast journalism and documentary student, Cianna Platt. Like Doll, Platt was only looking to make her money back on her extra tickets. Costco offers discounts on tickets to the movies, fairs, and amusement parks, making it easy to purchase a multipack of tickets and selling them at an amount between the regular and discounted price.

Samantha Wong

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