The do-nothing Congress is, well, doing something. Not about critical Zika virus eradication funding, but there is a bipartisan effort to do something about what Americans pay for concert and sporting event tickets. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Smartly, Congress is moving forward with legislation that could improve the chances for the average person to be able to buy a ticket to a popular entertainment event — at as close to face value as possible, not the jacked-up prices set by greedy resellers who have been exploiting the public’s fun budget. Case in point: $1,000 for a seat to the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”
Instant concert sellouts by artists such as Adele at AmericanAirlines Arena and Beyoncé at Marlins Park, have long been perceived as a testament to an artist’s popularity. But there is a sinister side to these quick sellouts.
There are a legion of ticket sellers coast to coast using lightning-fast computerized software, called bots, that snap up thousands of tickets the minute they become available. That unfair online advantage pushes out regular fans who are purchasing their tickets without super computerized help. The results: Third-party brokers resell these tickets on sites such as StubHub and TicketsNow at an average 49 percent above face value. American have been accepting this highway robbery of their entertainment dollars for years.
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Rightly, Congress, which lately seldom unites, agrees Americans are being fleeced and is making progress to curb the abuse.
This week, ticket sellers and re-sellers testified at a Senate hearing backing congressional efforts to crack down of the use of bots.
The House on Monday passed the BOTS Act, which would allow the Federal Trade Commission to go after those who use the software. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote on similar legislation soon.
“Scalpers have long been driving up ticket prices and harming consumers, but their methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated,” said Sen. Jerry Moran at Tuesday’s congressional hearing. The Kansas Republican is sponsoring the legislation designed to stop automated bots from stockpiling tickets.
Witnesses testifying included the producer of the musical “Hamilton,” who called the bots “computerized cheaters.” He said ticket scalpers made an estimated $15.5 million off just 100 performances of his Broadway smash, selling some seats for as much as $15,000. Brokers made $240,000-a-week reselling the ticket seats. The show’s producer didn’t see a cent of that stunning mark-up. Not only are consumers being victimized, but artists, too. Artists, including Adele, who have stood up for their fans should be praised.
When she released tickets to her U.S. tour last December, 750,000 seats sold out in just minutes. Bots were the big buyers. Frustrated fans lost out and appealed to her. So Adele, along with other artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks, has tried to take on online ticket scalpers — with limited success.
Congress is right to step in to make it harder on these bots used to swipe entertainment tickets from the public’s reach, in effect turning attending a cultural event into something only the well-heeled can afford.
What these sites do is also rob artists of the fruits of their talent to line scalpers’ own pockets. They are cheating everyone who appreciates that talent and is willing to pay a fair price to enjoy it.