Ticket Master of the Universe

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This post is part anecdote, part rant, and part business idea.

My obsessive nature got the best of me, and I've decided to go to the other side of the country in the last week of December to see The Book of Mormon (any highly-dedicated New Yorkers want to put together a little Slopefest during that last week of the year?) 

I know the show is popular, but I set out to try to buy tickets in the normal way. Good seats are $175 each….



But, it turns out, the show is sold out through freakin' May of next year!




I therefore began to explore the secondary market. Think of the theatre as the IPO, and think of StubHub, TicketsNow, and all the other places as the exchanges. Let's just say that the prices vary wildly from site to site, but they are all triple-digit percentage markups above the face price.


I actually didn't look that hard to shock you, because there are plenty of tickets going for $1,100 or more, and that is not including the 20% premium the web site tacks on top of the selling price as a service fee. So you could spend $2,500 on a pair of tickets to see this thing (I didn't, but I tried to shop around a bit).

Now, look, I rarely buy tickets, so maybe I'm just being naive, but it seems to me a far more market-efficient way of doing this, which is good for both the theatres and the patrons, would be for all live events to have some kind of auction-based pricing system. I am highly confident that if the supply of tickets were opened up to regular bidding in a free market, that:

(a) the theatres would make a whole hell of a lot more money – – somewhere between 50% and 100% more;

(b) the patrons would pay a lot less;

(c) the only losers would be the middlemen – – that is, the scalpers and these pimp web sites that support them.

So in a system like this, maybe premium seats wouldn't cost $175, but they also wouldn't cost $1,000. Maybe they'd be $375. All the good guys win.

Is the world really this stupid? Or is my atrophied little brain just missing something completely? I'm willing to assume it's me. Maybe.