From the front lines: The Battle between Broadway & Brokers rages on.

The primary and secondary markets have been warring for years.  In fact, back in 1930, when The Broadway League was formed, one of its mission statements (as you can read about here) was to . . .

. . . protect the public from the exorbitant charges made by ticket brokers for desirable locations.

This battle has been raging since then.

The fighting has gotten more intense over the years, thanks to the interwebs. See, before the Google, Brokers could only exist in back alleys and in The Yellow Pages (where I found mine when I wanted 5th-row seats to The Phantom of the Opera in 1989).

But now, a hundred brokers can sit in your pocket, just a few clicks away on a multitude of apps.

So the fight rages on.

But I’ve been to the front lines, have seen the carnage, and have an update.  Ready?

We’re losing.

Case in point . . .

Do you see the image used in this blog?  It’s a billboard.  For a broker.  Right here in the heart of Times Square.

It has to run, oh, I don’t know, probably $75,000 a week.

Broadway SHOWs aren’t buying billboards that size.  But ticket brokers are.

And if you look at the business models, it makes sense why they can out-advertise us . . . their profit margins are higher.  They can operate out of a basement in Toledo or Tallahassee.  We gotta be in a theater in NYC, with a hundred people on site just to make the show go up night after night.

And SeatGeek isn’t the only broker advertising in town.  You’ve got brokers in storefronts, with peddlers in Times Square, and on Taxi Tops and just about everywhere else.

We can’t keep up.

Anecdotally, I’ve had more and more friends who don’t live in NYC say to me, “Thanks for the recommendation to see Once On This Island (hehe).  So should I just go to StubHub for the tickets?”


We’re losing the war.

But, just like there was hope for Jon Snow in this past week’s episode of Game of Thrones, I did spot a dragon flying in towards this battle over the last few weeks . . . breathing the only fire that we have to help combat the problem we’ve been fighting since 1930.

That fire . . . is restricting the trade of tickets.

Three . . . three high profile Broadway events have now entered into Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system, which puts up a decent-sized hurdle for brokers to jump over in order to gain access to the inventory they so desperately need to feed their bottom line.  Harry Potter, Hamilton, and Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming Broadway run will all use the service in an attempt to put more every man fans in their seats.

Will it help?  Sure.  But it’s not going to end this conflict.  Awhile ago, I blogged about taking a lesson from the airline industry and requiring photo ID to board our theaters.  That’d stop it.

But that would also restrict gift-giving, etc. and isn’t a sure-fire solution either.

So the battle will continue . . . unless . . . both sides realize that they are amazingly successful industries unto themselves . . . and that they both need each other.

Brokers have buyers that’ll pay above-full-price for tickets to a show.

Producers have shows that want full price buyers.

Perhaps, as the battle is now reaching a billboardian climax . . . and with the biggest White Walker of them all called, looming in the distance . . . perhaps it’s time to sit down with the brokers and negotiate a truce, where both sides win.

I’ll keep you updated with raven-like blogs as the fight continues.

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  • DW says:

    Interesting concept.

    Working together.

    Who would of thunk?

    Another great column Ken – keep them coming!

  • Carvanpool says:

    Seat Geek is a partner with the Shubert Organization.

    You have your bad guys backwards.

  • Dee says:

    I really like what you said: -So the battle will continue . . . unless . . . both sides realize that they are amazingly successful industries unto themselves . . . and that they both need each other.- they should read this blog.

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