How do Stub Hub and other vendors get tickets to anything, even sold out events?

How do Stub Hub and other ticket vendors get tickets to anything, even sold out events, and sometimes even before tickets go on sale?

My favorite band – U2 – announces an upcoming concert at my local arena, and within minutes the performance is sold out by a surge of fans. All 50,000 tickets are gone almost instantly.

THEN Stub Hub (and other ticket vendors) announce on the radio and on their web sites that “We’ve got front row tickets to U2 (etc.) …”

WHAT? How did Stub Hub get enough front-row tickets to U2 to be able to advertise that on the air? You mean if THOUSANDS of fans called up and asked for front row tickets to U2 they would all get them? How is that possible? And how is it possible that Stub Hub even has these tickets at all, when 50,000 raging fans clogged the phone lines to Ticketmaster the second the concert was announced?

It’s this kind of scenario I just don’t get. Do concert venues and concert promotors set aside a few thousand tickets specifically for Stub Hub to sell at a premium? Or does Stub Hub simply have extra-fast phone dialers they keep on staff? Or does Stub Hub really not have any tickets at all, but rather if some schelp calls up they calculate what it would cost to buy those tickets from someone else, than does so only after the order is taken? Or is something else at play here?

Lots of the people calling in the first 10-15 minutes a show goes on sale are banks of operators from overseas. They are getting as many tickets as they can and those brokers sell to whoever pays. Stubhub either has the tickets on hand or they know where they can get them based on connections and past experience.

They don’t claim to have unlimited front row tickets, that would be physically impossible. But if you have enough money, they’ll get them for you. If someone wants them more than you, then you don’t have enough money. :slight_smile:

Does that mean that StubHub sells above face value?

I have done business with StubHub as a seller. They sell my MLB baseball tickets* on consignment, and take a 15% commission. I don’t know if it works the same way for concert tickets, or what their policy is about scalping.

*I bought a 13-game package but it turns out I can’t go to all the games. I am not making any money doing this.

From just about every page on their website:

That’s legalese for “got damn right tickets sell over face value.” Not every ticket will sell over face value, though. Clearly supply and demand will come into play.

Right, StubHub is total supply-and-demand based service. In the U2 example mentioned by the OP, tickets will go for way over face value. But they also sell tickets to half empty baseball stadiums, in which case you can often get tickets for under face value.

I think a lot of StubHub business, at least as it relates to MLB games, comes from season ticket holders selling all or some of their tickets. I have a StubHub-related experience I’d like to share:

Some years ago, Mrs. Homie and I took a weekend trip to St. Louis and decided to catch a Cardinals game. We found decent seats for a price we were willing to pay, bought them on StubHub, and proceeded to the game. Shortly after we took our seats, another couple sat next to us, did a double take, and said “Where are Fred & Ginger?!” Apparently Fred & Ginger were regular season-ticket holders and the couple (also season-ticket holders) were astonished to see someone else in F&G’s seats, which F&G had sold to us.

In the concert industry some tickets never go on sale to the public , they go right to scalpers under the table. That is very common in big cities like NYC. There is no need for scalpers to hire people to buy tickets in those cases.

Some bands know about this and don’t care , others try to stop it. Recently some artists have decided that they will go ahead and price some tickets at the scalping rate so that all the money goes to them.

I worked in this industry for a while (both at StubHub and for a private reseller [read: scalper]) and can probably help.

Folks here are right regarding both private scalpers and StubHub in general: popular events will sell above face while crappier concerts or shows will often go under, though some scalpers are stubborn enough to never lower below face because they feel this sends a message to buyers that they should procrastinate until tickets go down. It was a far more regular practice pre-StubHub, whose success has altered the industry significantly.

As for how resellers get tickets early: that’s a whole 'nother monkey. There are dozens of strategies, some already mentioned (buying under the table from the box office, for example, before the tickets go onsale to the general public). Often, a reseller will have an in with a guy at a team’s box office (or a theatre’s) and can have some held for payment for a small additional fee to the guy who works at the box office.

Other strategies:

  • Computer banks: A reseller will have, say, 20 computers running in his office. They are all running software that logs into Ticketmaster the nanosecond that tickets go on sale. They wait for the capcha screen (that’s what it’s called, yes? The verification screen, if not), enter a code to prove its a real person buying the tickets (debatable) and ask for as many “best available” tickets as possible. Turn around and sell ‘em. This is often done with friends’ credit cards to keep it from appearing like a scalper’s run. (Say, I ask the OP to open a Visa for me, which I pay off monthly, enhance his credit score, and give him a small cut of profits. That’s the general idea).

  • Physical line standing: More old school, but scalpers used to pay bums (literal bums) to stand in line for a day in front of a concert venue or a Jordan-era Bulls game. Say, $20. When the line starts moving, the scalper comes back, pays the guys $20, gives them cash to buy tickets, and supervises. He’s got 10 bums in line, shells out $200 for the privilege of getting, at four tickets a piece, 40 premium seats. Voila.

  • Broadway’s often different. Typically, the old school guys just make big, big bets. They buy 10 tickets per show for months, but buy them before the show is reviewed. If they do this for a show that becomes a hit, they can literally make hundreds of thousands of dollars (with a hefty, hefty upfront cost). If the show bombs, they take a loss of that much. Old brokers used to always tell me about the $400,000 they made on Avenue Q or the $200,000 they lost on some musical I’d never heard of (mainly because, you know, it ran for a month to 40 people a show).

That’s just the beginning, but if you’ve got specific questions, I’ll peek in.

I have some friends who are long-time season ticket holders to the Philadelphia Phillies games, and they really appreciate the ease with which they can sell their tickets for the games they cannot attend. It makes items like planning vacations a lot easier.

I used StubHub for the first time a few weeks ago to buy tickets for a Giants game in San Francisco.

If i had used the Giants’ website (Ticketmaster), the 2 seats we got would have been $26 each, plus a fee of $3.75 per ticket, plus a processing fee of about $4, for a total of about $63.

On StubHub, the tickets were $12 each, plus a service fee of $5, plus an eDelivery fee of $4.95, for a total of about $34.

Obviously, this sort of bargain is unlikely if you want to see a sold-out game at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, or a subway series at Yankee Stadium, but most baseball stadiums generally have plenty of empty seats for all except the most popular games. For baseball, a large proportion of the sellers seem to be folks like CookingWithGas, who buy season tickets or a package, and who can’t get to all the games and just want to recoup some of their money.

I believe ticketmaster sued a company that was writing software that was attempting to buy tickets from their site on an automated basis.

An interesting post from earlier this year on the NIN forum:

Trent Reznor: thoughts on ticket re-sellers / scalping