Definitely NOT Dynamic: Ticketmaster ‘Assaulted’ by Scalpers On Springsteen Sale

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This couldn’t have happened to a more high-profile artist, at a worse time, or in a worse place.

And now, New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell is promising action and the reintroduction of the BOSS Act, which calls for secondary market oversight and restrictions on companies like Ticketmaster.

The meltdown started Friday, when fans attempting to purchase tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour on Ticketmaster were frozen out – except, marked-up tickets were readily available on StubHub and other markup sites (and maybe even Ticketmaster’s own secondary marketplace, TicketsNow.)

Which means that the actual, market-driven prices of these tickets were way higher than list, and in the absence of dynamic pricing, scalpers seized the opportunity.  So here we go again: Ticketmaster quickly blamed an ‘assault’ from scalpers, who pounced on early supply and played the spread.  “Early indications suggest that much of this traffic came from highly suspicious sources, implying that scalpers were using sophisticated computer programs to assault our systems and secure tickets with the sole intention of selling them in the resale market,” Ticketmaster stated.

The resembles a situation in 2009, when fans trying to buy Springsteen tickets on ticketmaster.com were automatically shuttled to TicketsNow, despite the presence of regularly-priced seats.  That led to a blowup involving thousands of pissed off fans, irate statements from Springsteen, and proposals for new (ie, BOSS) legislation.  In both scenarios, there was a huge disparity between the price fans thought they should pay, and what they would actually play.

The perception-reality gap is perfect for a politician like Pascrell.  “Whether today’s problems are due to honest mistakes or dishonest market manipulation, regular folks who wanted a little entertainment were not able to get what they wanted at a fair price,” Pascrell stated while announcing the re-introduction of the anti-scalping, ticketbuyer-friendly BOSS Act.

But despite the horrible rap that scalpers get, they’re merely arbitragers seeking to capitalize on market inefficiencies.  After all, situations like this don’t happen when tickets are overpriced.  But maybe that’s a deceptively simple suggestion, especially given the prickly world of concert ticket sales, complex artist-fan relations, and endless backroom demands.  Because as rational as something like dynamic, demand-driven pricing sounds, this isn’t the airline industry.