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Buying Hot Tickets Online

Buying Hot Tickets Online

New York Times, July 3, 2003

Hot Tickets, Hawked Legitimately Online


FOR decades, ticket scalpers have been as much a part of concerts or sporting events as overpriced food and merchandise. With the rise of the Internet, scalping went online, as ticket holders seeking buyers turned to bulletin boards, newsgroups or eBay.

For sellers, going online is more convenient than standing outside a stadium or concert hall to do business, but for buyers, there are sometimes questions about the reliability of the source and legality of the transactions.

That has begun to change, with the acceptance of a new, more legitimate term for scalping - "selling on the secondary market'' - and the emergence of virtual marketplaces that provide safe forums for reselling tickets, at or even above their face value. Using technologies designed to guard against the sale of counterfeit, stolen or fraudulent tickets, these services threaten to dent the scalpers' franchise.

There is no shortage of secondary ticket options online. Depending on your choice of event and how much you are willing to pay, you can probably find what you want. The sites all operate on the same simple principle - demand drives supply - but there are some variations, including delivery options and fees.

Ticketmaster and, the top players in online ticketing, are both better known as primary ticket outlets, but each has formed relationships with professional sports organizations to give season-ticket holders a way to resell tickets that would otherwise go unused. At eBay, event ticket auctions are a distinct marketing category. Other sites, including StubHub, offer a secondary market for tickets to all kinds of events. There are also broker sites like TicketCity, which aggregates the ticket inventories of brokers around the world.

Call it organized scalping or a consumer service; either way, online ticket sales are big business. Total sales of movie and event tickets online are expected to reach $3.1 billion in 2003, according to Jupiter Research, the Internet consulting firm. And while an estimate of the secondary market is hard to come by, the activities of several online ticketing companies suggest that it is a fast-growing area.

The most recent entrant, Premier Ticket Window, is a secondary marketplace started last month by and accessible through a prominent link on the company's home page.

"This is our answer for consumers who come to our Web site, and for whatever reason can't find a ticket to either the performance or venue they're looking for," said Carl Thomas, the executive vice president for sales and marketing at Premier Ticket Window offers access to events at venues that do not have arrangements with For example, a visitor to the site who searches for a team not listed with is directed to the Premier Ticket Window.

The inventory for Premier Ticket Window is provided by RazorGator, a service that handles the entire process behind the scenes.

Another option for ticket-seekers are secondary ticket exchanges set up by sports teams, which both Ticketmaster and operate. In these systems, a would-be seller of a ticket posts it for sale at a virtual exchange window. When a transaction is completed, the original ticket's bar code is invalidated and a ticket with a new bar code is created. The buyer can have the ticket mailed, pick it up at the box office or print it at home. The bar code is scanned when the holder enters the event to verify that the new ticket is genuine.

Double Play Ticket Window, created for season-ticket holders of the San Francisco Giants and operated by, is one such secondary market ticket exchange. Only season-ticket holders can post tickets for resale, and they can set the price at or above the face value of a primary ticket, according to Russ Stanley, the vice president for ticket services and client relations for the Giants. "It's occurring anyway in the parking lot, but this is a safe way to secure tickets," he said.

Ticketmaster's version of the secondary market forum, TeamExchange, is used by 17 professional and collegiate teams. Madison Square Garden was among the first arenas to use TeamExchange, for tickets to the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty. Sean Moriarity, Ticketmaster's executive vice president for technology, said that TeamExchange had a rules engine built into its operation to insure that all sales comply with state and local laws. "It looks at the venue location, what the team-specific rules may or may not be and where the buyers or sellers are located," Mr. Moriarity said. "We want to make sure the transaction is good on all fronts." TeamExchange also offers a print-at-home option. Ticket auctions at eBay use a similar rules engine.

Ticketmaster is also experimenting with online ticket auctions. Last month it auctioned tickets for the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight title fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Mr. Moriarity said that Ticketmaster planned to offer auctions regularly service by year's end.

StubHub offers tickets for sports, concerts, theater and arts events, and provides a forum for individuals to sell unwanted tickets. Users can buy and sell tickets for Broadway shows, entertainers' appearances in Las Vegas and the 2003 Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. There are even tickets available for popular minor league baseball teams like the Brooklyn Cyclones.

For sports events, StubHub offers various ways to buy secondary tickets online: through the Web sites of teams that work with it, through StubHub's own site, or through links to one of the company's media partners.

"Whether we work with a team or not, we allow and we have tickets for any event, any team in the country," said Eric Baker, the president StubHub. A pull-down menu on the site displays events in regions and cities in the United States and Canada. StubHub places few restrictions on sellers; tickets can be posted for auction, sold at a fixed price, or discounted each day leading up to an event.

StubHub also works with artists and entertainers to set aside front-row tickets to be auctioned for charity as part of packages that might also include backstage passes and autographed memorabilia. Such auctions have been held for performances by Ellen DeGeneres and for coming appearances by Christina Aguilera and others.

So before you find yourself standing outside an arena scanning the crowd and asking, "Got two for tonight?," keep in mind the online options.

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