Remember when scalping tickets was illegal? Maybe, like me, you thought it still was? As it turns out, these slimy ticket brokers aren’t really working any loopholes; they’re totally legal. But it looks like there might be a small chance that the tide is beginning to turn against them.
Sure, greedy assholes have been selling overpriced tickets at least since the dawn of Beatlemania, but I don’t remember the proliferation of the ticket brokers happening until the internet took over the world. I know I never considered buying a ticket through a broker until U2’s Elevation tour in 2001. Back then, a $50 face value ticket ran me about $150, and I swore I’d never pay that much for a concert ticket again. Even though I was buying from a “legit” business, it still felt seedy. But as it turns out, back in the days when I’d wait in line for hours outside the mall and then gallop to Boston Store when the doors opened, sweating feverishly as the clerk pulled tickets as fast as the little Ticketmaster (or Ticketron!) printer could print, there were relatively strict laws against re-selling tickets for more than face. Scalpers were jittery, shady characters who stared at the ground and walked around the venues the day of the show, suddenly getting uncomfortably close and mumbling numbers at you. They were criminals, and they knew it; they weren't part of an institution. But right under our noses, the scalping lobby bulldozed its way into the pockets of state legislators, and restrictions on scalping that had been in place for years have now been softened and, in some cases, suspended altogether.
The New York Times posted this limp-wristed but at least somewhat informative article Friday about the relaxation of scalping laws. The good news? Not only is the Justice Department at least acting like it’s investigating the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, but The Wall Street Journal reports that Ticketmaster received demands Friday from Justice to fork over info on its scalper subsidiaries. The inquiry stems at least in part from the recent debacle over Bruce Springsteen tickets, when TM started routing customers to its resale subsidiary, TicketsNow, without telling them, sometimes before the primary market had even sold out of tickets. I’m not saying I believe that the government is actually going to do anything useful here, but at least it’s shaking a stick at the bastards who are screwing fans out of tickets and hundreds of dollars. And who knows? Maybe something will come of it. I won’t even go so far as to say that scalping should be illegal in a capitalist society. I feel totally comfortable selfishly ignoring that quandary and rooting against Ticketbastard and its ilk because it’s in my own best interests to do so.