Friday, October 19, 2012

Fair market value soon the norm, theft soon the abnormality

A few thoughts on ticket prices for events, sporting and otherwise. My familiarity is with sporting event pricing, but I assume most of this translates to other types of events pretty well.

Overall, I am optimistic that we are getting more rational and moral as a society regarding ticket pricing. Secondary markets are more acceptable including the important feature of tolerance for above face value pricing--scalping as the greedy call it. Notice the greedy here are those who expect to only and always pay at most face value for a ticket. Nevermind the inconsistency of failing to pay face value for tickets they do not want, but expecting the ones they do want to come without a premium.

Largely the good trends are direct and indirect products of technology. Directly because the Internet allows us to transact and make a market in tickets at very low cost. These markets are getting deeper, more transparent, and faster while at the same time offering enhanced service like views from the seats a buyer is considering purchasing. It is also becoming more of a commodity, which is also a good thing unless your paycheck has Stubhub at the top of it. The network effects will help the biggest and best market makers retain market share, but the steep fees are not long for this world. Watching the creative destruction in this market has been interesting over the past 15 years. The rise of local dealers who played a great role physically connecting buyer and seller has been supplanted by electronic exchanges including bar codes that make physically delivery unnecessary in many cases. We've gone from street speculator to the bourse to the NASDAQ in a decade.

Indirectly technology affects the trends by allowing the seller to be anonymous. It is tough to look into the eyes of a father standing with his son asking the price and rightfully tell him the market price is a 100% premium above face value. This is becoming a sellers' market in many cases but still with many benefits to the buyers. Efficiency cuts both ways. Technology also favors a different type of seller that may be more appealing to buyers; hence, above face-value pricing may be more acceptable. Soon the "jerks" won't be in the middle buying up tickets and selling them [when they can] at a premium. You know, the jerks who stand in the rain waiting for me without any promise that I'll come just in case I want to attend the event. But middlemen (more likely the needs for some kind of middleman) do not always go away; often they just adapt.

The feeling among those for whom it is important may be, "When I purchase online, I know I'm buying from the original season ticket holder who just happens to be unable to attend the game. I no longer must contend with the [dreaded] scalpers." But that feeling is probably wrong. The middlemen are there and probably always will be, thankfully, hopefully.

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