Ticketmaster managed to piss off everybody this morning with the pre-sale for The Tragically Hip tour. Tickets were on scalper sites before the sale even started, including StubHub.
I logged on right at 10am, and was told there were no tickets available. I decided to keep trying. After about 20 minutes & a dozen tries with "no tickets available", I was about to give up. I decided to try one more time, and I got centre floor, 9th row. Something is clearly wrong with the system. Why weren't these seats available the first 12 times I tried?
So it got me thinking: there's a breakdown in the market for tickets. From an economics standpoint, the existence of scalpers suggests that bands are underpricing their shows. If someone is willing to pay $500 for a $90 ticket, why shouldn't the band get that extra $410 instead of some scalper? The scalpers are making a profit but contributing nothing, and from all appearances are cheating the system to do so.
So, here's my solution: instead of regular ticket sales, hold a type of auction. For example: divide the venue into 3 sections - good, better, best. There could be a minimum price for each section. Have a sign in page where you say how many tickets you want, and the maximum you'd be willing to pay for tickets in each section. The sign in page would be available for a week. At the end of the week, the system would review all requests, and allocate tickets according to the bids. If a band wanted to ensure that a certain number of tickets were available at a certain price to ensure people could afford to go, those could be set aside and allocated by lottery. The entire bid & allocation process could be open & transparent, so people could see how many tickets there are, what the bids were, and how tickets were allocated. This could be done in real time (which might lead to gaming the system) or could be available after allocation for accountability.
This system would eliminate most of the issues with the current "mad dash" system, and ensure that more money goes to the artists instead of the scalpers.