Pirates of the ticket sea

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

As I’ve written about previously (and I will likely keep writing about in the future), affordability is something I concern myself with quite a bit. While usually my focus is on the essentials, like food, rent and so on, I wanted to take a look at another affordability issue that has gone completely out of control in recent years: ticket prices.

Whenever I hear that a musician or band or stand up comedian that I like is coming to Toronto, I’m immediately taken over by a quick rush of excitement. I’ll then frantically head over to their website, click on the event page for their show, only to find that tickets are sold out and likely were almost immediately sold out after the ticket sales went live. This is because, in Canada and other places around the world, we allow for ticket scalping and reselling.

While I’m sure everyone is aware of ticket scalpers and resellers to some degree, you might not be aware of just how bad it is. There are companies all across the world, whose sole purpose is to buy each and every ticket they can from famous musicians, bands and other live acts, so they can resell them to people at a massive profit.

They don’t offer you anything in addition to the ticket, they don’t provide any special service to justify you paying more, they just act as meaningless, money hungry middle men. While it might sound ridiculous that we even allow this to happen, when I started looking into this issue more, I found myself asking, “why don’t we do anything about this?” The fact is, we have done something. At least, kind of.

In Ontario, we have the Ticket Speculation Act, that is meant to punish people or corporations who resell tickets above their actual value. The issue with the Act is that it provides so many loopholes and work-arounds that it basically has no effect on resellers whatsoever.

For example, the Act allows ticket reseller websites to sell tickets way above the face value as long as they can authenticate that what they are selling is an actual ticket and that they offer a money back guarantee. It also doesn’t limit how much they can charge in  “service fees,” which I find to be an ironic name for these fees, since they literally offer no service whatsoever.

It seems pretty obvious to me that we need to crack down on online ticket scalping and reselling bots, full stop. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone looking for tickets, only to find that the cheapest seats are over $200, before taxes and “service fees”. While sometimes I’ve decided to bite the bullet and buy the tickets when it’s somebody I really want to see, it’s hard to justify these ludicrous prices most of the time. It gets even more tricky when you try to get a big group of friends together to see someone that you like more than your friends do and they don’t want to spend $100 for general admission.

I also don’t like the idea of rewarding the scalpers and resellers. Why should people who actually work for their money have to support companies that act basically like pirates? The extra money they charge doesn’t support the artist, it doesn’t get me a better experience, so why should I pay them?

While some smaller acts, like independent bands and artists for example, will often require pre-sale registration or put hard caps on how many tickets individuals can buy, this type of voluntary action isn’t going to cut it. While it’s nice that they do this, in order to get the bigger acts to comply we will have to force their hand.

The government needs to tighten the Ticket Speculation Act so that more people are able to go to the events that they want without having to pay a ransom for their ticket.

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