What I talked about at the Ticket Summit.

Many of my producing brethren asked me why I spoke at the Ticket Summit this week, which is a conference of secondary market sellers or brokers.

One even said, “Aren’t they the other side?”

And that response is exactly why I spoke at the Ticket Summit.

There is some Hatfield and McCoy-like bad blood between primary market sellers and secondary market sellers that stretches way back.  Like way back.  Like to the very beginnings of The Broadway League.  In fact, as Charlotte St. Martin reminded us in this blog, one of the original reasons for the formation of the league was . . .

To eliminate theatre ticket speculation and to protect the public from the exorbitant charges made by ticket brokers for desirable locations.

Sounds like something that was written in response to the Hamilton tickets costing $10k, right?

Well, that mission statement was written in 1930!  Almost 100 years ago!  If you read one of my favorite theatre books, The Abominable Showman (The David Merrick biography), you’ll read story after story of Mr. Merrick doing battle with the brokers.

So it’s no wonder that both sides are a little on edge when it comes to their relationship.

But sometimes, I find when people are soooo far apart, they have more in common than they think.

The first thing that Broadway Producers need to understand is that the secondary market isn’t going away.  It’s been around for these 100 years, so rather than get rid of it, perhaps we should talk to the “other side” more about how we can work together at our common goal . . . selling more tickets.

The first thing that Broadway Brokers need to understand is that sly tactics that confuse customers (e.g. buying domain names or sub-domain names of the shows or venues, with the hope of making a “Googler’ think they are buying from the “official source”) may benefit you in the short-term, but it hurts us all in the long-term.  It’s ok to come out from the shadows, and be proud of the service you provide . . . not pretend you’re something you’re not.

The fact is Broadway is NOT a billion dollar a year industry, despite what published reports say.

It’s actually much MORE than that, because all that “vig” or the amount over face-value that people are paying for tickets in the secondary market isn’t counted in the official totals.  Last year, the Broadway League reported a seasonal gross of $1,373,253,275.  That number is at LEAST $1.5 billion when you add in broker “overages” (especially in the season of Hamilton).

The time has come to figure out (and yes that means some regulation) how we can work together to establish guidelines that can help both primary and secondary sellers . . . and more importantly, the ticket buyers, who are the ones who really matter.

And yes, it’s possible.  Other industries are doing it.  In fact, the Yankees just signed an exclusive deal with StubHub.  Click here to read the NY Times article all about it.

My favorite part of the article is that the opening line reads, “After years of feuding . . . ”

Sound familiar?


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  • Frank says:

    I’d be more interested in what you said more so then why you said it.

    Broadway has a distribution problem. One theater worth of seats (on average 1,300 or so) a night leads to a higher demand that is impossible to fill. Meanwhile, shows that are less popular get the shaft because people assume that ticket prices for one hot show are the same for another show. Not true at all. The theater is not the film industry where one ticket price gets you into any number of shows. Broadway is much more fluid a situation.

    How can we fix the disparity? Thoughts?

  • Carvanpool says:

    Producers have always had illicit relations with the secondary market, let’s not be naive. And they’ve lined their pockets at the expense of other stake holders in their shows.

    Just put on shows folks want to see, the tickets will take care of themselves. Greed will kill this business before anything else does.

  • Rich Mc says:

    I confess to not fully understanding how this secondary market works. My basic understanding is that brokers buy blocks of tickets in advance of what they believe to be highly successful b-Way shows. Then, as these shows sell out at list prices, the brokers step in and sell to (mostly) tourists having not purchased in advance, i.e., lucrative on-the-spot buyers for otherwise sold-out shows. Brokers then pocket the delta between what they paid for the tickets and their marked up selling price as profit.

    If I am correct in the above (and someone otherwise correct me) the broker can be thought of as a speculator. If the show is a hit, the broker can realize substantial profits. However, if the show bombs, the broker is left with a boatload of tickets which he must then try to sell, almost certainly at a loss. If this assessment is accurate, what’s not to like? The Free Market at work – winners & losers. The key of course is that the public understands it is buying above list price, and there should be regulated full disclosure of this.

    I think the most that can be said against this practice is that the number of tickets allowed to be sold in blocks to given single buyers should be reduced, to allow the general theater-going public greater access to list price (or theater reduced priced) tickets.

    • Carvanpool says:

      Worst case scenario, brokers loaded up with tickets, sell below cost, killing your regular price sales. Doesn’t usually happen that way anymore, unless the producers are feeding them loads of tickets.

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