Getting a head in music: are ticket scalpers behind unaffordable concerts?

Have you missed out on tickets to your favourite artist, only to find them being sold for triple or quadruple their original price elsewhere? Likely, the only thing mingling with your disappointment is a vehement curse against the ticket scalpers who – you think – have cheated you out of your rightful place at Beyonce’s feet. But are ticket scalpers to blame for your plight?

It’s true that ticket scalping is rife in Australia – top-billed artists visiting our island home have their guaranteed sell-out shows targeted, with marked-up resale tickets hawked within hours of going on sale. $150 tickets to Harry Styles’ 2018 Aussie arena tour, released yesterday, are already popping up for well over $1000, while Ed Sheeran fans were facing $3500 resales a few weeks ago.

But some ticket scalpers have spoken out against the outrage directed at them. The most persuasive argument offered by scalpers is one of economics. Tickets are a commodity – if there’s too much demand and not enough supply, then they’re subject to the same price inflation as anything else. Where are all the tickets going?

Fewer than seven percent of tickets to Justin Bieber’s 2013 Nashville show went on sale to the general public. Promoters sell huge numbers of available tickets in pre-sale packages, meaning that those front-row seats you thought you barely missed out on might never have been truly within your grasp. They’re distributed through fan clubs, network contacts, and newsletters.

Have you bought tickets from a scalper or re-sold a ticket yourself? You may be contributing to the problem, or you could just be a savvy entrepreneur in a music market suffering from greater systemic issues.