Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Elvis Costello are just a few of the acts that have graced the stages of local theaters within the last year.
But for so many guests, purchasing tickets to see live performances is not an easy experience.
Entertainment venues such as the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse and State Theatre of Ithaca bear the brunt of resolving the notorious challenges caused by third-party ticket resellers – issues that include inflated ticket prices, duplicate tickets and inaccurate seating.
Central Current delved into the looming crisis by putting out a call for individual experiences. We heard back from staff at local entertainment venues, who said deceptive actions significantly affect entertainment venues’ reputations and long-term business relations with consumers.
“This has been an issue for at least 10 years,” State Theatre of Ithaca Executive Director Doug Levine said.
Oftentimes, buyers believe they are purchasing tickets from the specific venue where the event will be held, when they are actually on a third party ticket seller’s site posing as a venue site, Landmark Theatre Executive Director Mike Intaglietta said.
“Sometimes, on occasion – it’s not every show – we do have some people that are unable to obtain the tickets that they purchased third-party,” Landmark Theatre Director of Ticketing Rebecca Gumpper said. “Whether that’s a customer, they didn’t know what to do, or it’s the seller, didn’t sell them the right thing.”
More often than not, third-party resellers use marketing tactics like buying sponsored ads to increase visibility in online search cues, Intaglietta said.
“I wish there was a way that it could be a little bit more visible when people were purchasing from a third-party seller,” he said.
At most venues, when guests present a third-party site ticket, the venue is unable to provide a proper resolution, like a refund or other adjustments, because they do not have direct access to the customer’s information, Intaglietta said.
It also becomes frustrating for people who paid an amount exceeding the face value of the venue’s price, Intaglietta said. In some cases, buyers find themselves paying resellers up to triple the cost of the venue’s actual ticket price.
“They’ll think that tickets at the Landmark for a given event are $300 to $400, when in fact, we might have that ticket on sale for $75 or $100,” Intaglietta said.
Search for solutions
“We consciously chose a ticketing company that is not as prominent as Ticketmaster, and they’re aware of the secondary ticket market,” Levine of the State Theatre said. “We’re still working on ways to combat it.”
He said among the many advantages of the partnership is that it allows the venue to maintain lower ticket fees for guests.
As part of their plan to prohibit secondary ticket resellers, the State Theatre of Ithaca bans entities that attempt to purchase multiple tickets. Still, some “purchasers” are online bots that automatically create new profile identities and start the process all over again, Levine said.
At the Landmark, fraudulent ticket selling on third-party sites decreased due to security measures implemented by Ticketmaster, the global entertainment marketplace. Yet, even with these restrictions in place, occasional violations from online resellers persist, Intaglietta said.
Venue leaders have advocated for changes to the law among government officials.
“Often what legislators would tell me, it’s not illegal what they’re doing, and yeah, people can buy tickets and resell them, but I think there should be a limit to how many they can do,” Levine said. “And the price gouging is insane.”
New York passed a bill last year requiring ticket sellers to disclose fees and other service charges to buyers.
And although many online secondary resellers provide disclosures explaining their business affairs and non-affiliations with venues, they are sometimes not evident to the consumer, Intaglietta said.
Educating the consumer
At both venues, staff said price gouging affects all kinds of guests across the board, but staff at the State Theatre of Ithaca have noticed that sometimes older guests get duped by the third-party sellers.
“It seems like the older population, like the baby boomer population, who are not as tech savvy and more willing to overspend on tickets. They seem to me, at least, to be the ones who get duped the most frequently,” Levine said.
But often it’s a matter of a first-time buyer not knowing the pitfalls of the current market.
Some show-goers may be purchasing a ticket from the venue for the first time, and occasional ticket-buyers may not have the foresight to know which specific clues to look out for to indicate they are, in fact, browsing on a reseller site, Intaglietta said.
“Mainly for us, we want to educate the people,” Gumpper from Landmark Theatre said. “If you want to buy tickets third-party, that’s fine and that’s up to you, but just know where you’re purchasing from, and that they could be – oftentimes are – more expensive than what we would sell them for at the box office.”
On the State Theatre of Ithaca’s website, the venue has included text for its site-goers informing them to not purchase from secondary ticket sellers.
“Unfortunately, if you’re not buying directly from us, people can charge whatever they want to charge,” Levine said.
For patrons with special needs, seating arrangements at venues with third-party sellers involved can be unclear and deceptive.
Venue leaders urged those individuals who require special seating prioritization to buy direct. Otherwise, they may experience a disconnect in communication between third-party resellers and the venue.
“When it comes to people with disabilities, it can be a little bit trickier because oftentimes, we see secondhand purchases are balcony seats, and maybe that wasn’t clear to the customer that they were balcony seats and they required stairs,” Gumpper said, “We do our best to accommodate that situation. We want everyone to leave here with a good experience.”
Third-party sellers usually buy tickets from a particular venue’s online marketplace to transfer to the customer, which sometimes results in lack of seating availability, selection or even double-booking seats for guests.
Venue leaders emphasized the best way to ensure you get the seat you want is to buy from the venue itself, visiting the venue’s website to start the process.
Price gouging, even at smaller shows
Last year, when Hamilton premiered at the Landmark Theatre, third-party resellers were charging nearly as much as an entire season’s worth of tickets just for one show.
“They could have come to see four shows for that amount – and people paid it thinking that was the accurate price,” Intaglietta said.
“In the case of Hamilton, the production does a check on individual IP addresses to prevent people from purchasing more than the limit, but generally that’s not feasible for shows at the Landmark,” Intaglietta said.
Even with competitive prices and popular shows in town, the Landmark Theatre and State Theatre of Ithaca ticket prices rarely exceed $200, officials from the venues said.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a Broadway ticket that’s been more than $160-$170,” Intaglietta said.
Average ticket prices at the State Theatre of Ithaca are between $35-$75.
“If you’re going online and seeing a ticket for over $100, it’s very likely you’re not buying it directly from us,” Levine said.
Yet at the State Theatre, guests have paid third-party sellers up to $2,000 for front-row tickets to see a performance.
In an email outlining a case study of resale market price, Agaru Masters, Landmark Theatre director of marketing, highlighted a brand new venue in downtown Syracuse, The Song and Dance, which neighbors the Landmark. The venue will be presenting its first-ever event, a musical act, The Rocket Summer.
On Ticketweb, the face value price is $26.44 ($20 + $6.44 in fees) for one ticket. That contrasts with ticket prices on Expedia, where ticket resellers raised the prices up to 60 to 80 percent. Some individual tickets were listed for $61.74 ($49 for the ticket + $12.74 in service fees).
“There’s no difference between any two tickets. There is no risk to the reseller here. They will just take the money from the customer and buy the tickets from the authorized seller,” Masters said.
6 things to know when purchasing tickets to a show
Landmark Theatre and State Theatre of Ithaca staff outlined guidance for guests as an effort to work toward mitigating future problems with ticket sales. They advise:
- Order directly from the venue websites where the show or event will be presented.
- Email or call the box office to inquire about ticket pricing, seating, special accommodations, etc.
- Shop around and do research on venues (including location and contact information).
- Be cautious of zone seating and tickets without an identifiable seat location.
- Be aware of the possibility of higher prices if you choose to purchase from secondary sites.
- Be hypervigilant of language stating the site is a third-party reseller site.
READ MORE ARTS & CULTURE COVERAGE
- Syracuse Poster Project calls on poets to inspire 2024 postersThe poems can be about a number of historical figures, including Eric Carle, Alf Jacques and Gustav Stickley, among others.
- Literacy festival sparks Syracuse children’s interest in reading (photo of the week)Light a Candle for Literacy held its annual parade and book festival at Brighton Academy Middle School.
- How a Syracuse-area man helped create one of the most popular birding appsDrew Weber, who works at Cornell and lives in the Syracuse area, helped create the Merlin bird app.
- Onondaga County public art gets $500K infusionThe program is similar to the City as Canvas program approved in Syracuse last March.