Ticketmaster US is 'working with scalpers to cash in on resale tickets'

Sergio Cunningham
September 21, 2018

Box office masters Ticketmaster have been recruiting and utilizing a network of professional scalpers to cheat their own customer base, according to a searing new investigation by CBC News/Toronto Star.

There are dozens of ticket manager services available, but what makes Ticketmaster's TradeDesk different is that it appears to be built by Ticketmaster engineers, although it's unclear if it's compatible with primary ticket purchasing.

Alarming reports out of Canada allege Ticketmaster has been funding and running its own scalping racket, essentially "double-dipping" into the sector and collecting fees in the process.

Reporters from the Star and CBC, posing as small-time scalpers from Canada, listened as sales staff pitched a proprietary Ticketmaster software program created to help bulk buyers resell thousands of tickets.

Scalpers using bots to scoop up huge numbers of tickets to resell at much-inflated prices have become a curse for the concert-going public.

The investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Toronto Star claims the ticket selling retailer has a secret program that helps scalpers buy tickets and resell them at a higher price.

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"If we identify breaches of these limits ... we reserve the right to cancel any such orders", read Ticketmaster's general terms and conditions.

The news outlets report that Ticketmaster does not mention TradeDesk or the reseller program on their website or in corporate reports.

The report alleges Ticketmaster is using its invite-only resell platform, TradeDesk, to enable scalpers to buy tickets in bulk (from the main Ticketmaster website), then sell them on at a marked up price.

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The company runs a rewards program for scalpers, the CBC reported. For example, the CBC writes, "As scalpers hit milestones such as $500,000 or $1 million in annual sales, Ticketmaster will knock a percentage point off its fees".

When contacted for an interview by CBC, Ticketmaster declined, and instead issued a statement saying: "As long as there is an imbalance between supply and demand in live event tickets, there will inevitably be a secondary market". In a statement, the company's Catherine Martin didn't answer specific questions and instead defended the basic concept of ticket resales. They found that the company works with scalpers who sell hundreds of thousands of tickets every year - in direct violation of its own terms of use. "Use of automated means to purchase tickets is strictly prohibited". Live Nation agreed to pay ticketing company Songkick $110 million and to buy some of its assets, including an anti-scalping algorithm.

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