BOSS ACT and Brokers Seek Transparency in Ticket Sales

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Tickets for events like past Bruce Springsteen concerts can sell out faster than you can hit the refresh button enough times on your browser. But where do those tickets go? That’s what Representative Bill Pascrell has been fighting to know for years. Pascrell introduced the latest version of his BOSS ACT bill in May calling for, among other changes, greater transparency.

“People like Ticketmaster would pull back certain tickets and put them into the secondary market. And those prices then would go up, and then many times, those tickets were the majority of the tickets,” said Pascrell.

The bill calls for primary source companies like Ticketmaster to release information on how many tickets will ultimately be for sale and the face value of those tickets. It would also prohibit the software bots some brokers use to snatch up tickets almost instantaneously.

Here’s how sales process works now: Promoters work with the venue and a company like Ticketmaster for sales. Tickets are bought up by fans, brokers, bots and sometimes held aside by the ticketing companies themselves. From there, ticket prices on the secondary market — places like StubHub, Craigslist, brokerage companies and even Ticketmaster’s own TicketsNow resale site — become a game of supply and demand.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment would not provide an interview for this story.

“You need a wheelbarrow full of money to go to some of these concerts,” said Pascrell. “I am not going to support the brokers. I’m going to support the consumer.”

Lance Patania is the president and CEO of Prominent Tickets, a brokerage company out of Glen Rock. Like Pascrell, he’s vehemently against bots and the opaque nature of primary ticket sales — they both make his job harder.

“We have just as much access as anybody else,” said Patania. “We don’t know where tickets go or who gets what. We just know at the end of the day, a show goes on sale and X amount of tickets get released. I don’t know it, you don’t know it, nobody here knows it.”

But Patania disagrees with Pascrell on one point: he says brokers are also on the side of the consumer.

The logic seems counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t leaving tickets in the hand of the primary seller like Ticketmaster cut out the middle man and keep prices low? Sometimes. But Patania says, for brokers like him, ticket buys are like playing the stock market.

For example, he didn’t buy Springsteen tickets for this month’s concerts. Patania rightfully thought the market was over-saturated. But if he had, it would’ve been a loss.

“The secondary market will always be the true market. Ticketmaster can set their price at whatever price they want. Ultimately, the secondary market will set the price where it should be,” Patania said.

So if you were searching for last-minute tickets to Thursday’s show, a broker would have been the way to go.

“We can buy them at $45,” Patania explained reviewing tickets he would be able to procure from another seller. “And on our site, those will retail at $55…all in — we have no fees at check out. …¬†Now you go to the primary source, which is Ticketmaster, and you look at the same exact section…these things now go for $68 before service charge.”

After the facility charge and service fee, the ticket at face value comes to $85.70 — $30 more than Patania’s price. Representative Pascrell is taking aim at those fees too, calling for extra costs to be made apparent before you order.