Tickets for Beyoncé’s upcoming Renaissance tour, one of the most in-demand concerts in recent memory, won’t hit the market until next week. But that hasn’t stopped ticket scalpers from posting listings for as much as $3,000 a ticket — even if they don’t actually have them yet.
Such a practice isn’t new, nor is it in any way unique to Queen Bey. Tickets for Fall Out Boy’s “So Much For (Tour) Dust” Tour, for instance, don’t hit pre-sale until Thursday, but tickets were already listed on resale sites — such as StubHub, VividSeats, and SeatGeek along with smaller platforms — the day before for hundreds of dollars a ticket.
As of publication, some of the best seats for Beyoncé’s So-Fi Stadium show in Los Angeles in September are speculatively selling for $3,064 per ticket on VividSeats. The cheapest nosebleeds were listed at $570. For Bey’s Metlife show in July, some nosebleed seats were listed at over $600, with some lower bowl seats going for over $1,800 each.
It’s called “speculative ticketing,” and as the ever-frustrating ticketing marketplace has received more scrutiny from fans and regulators alike in recent months, it’s a topic that could draw more attention from lawmakers looking for solutions to make ticket-buying more transparent and fair.
Spec ticketing was among the less-covered talking points during last week’s Senate judiciary hearing analyzing competition issues in the live music business, but it still drew consideration for potential avenues government officials should explore for new legislation.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who organized last week’s hearing, asked Chicago-based concert promoter and industry expert witness Jerry Mickelson if action was needed on the practice. “Absolutely, something needs to be done,” Mickelson replied. “I don’t know whether it’s Congress or state by state, but something needs to be done. It’s deceptive and just not right.”
He wasn’t alone. Live Nation Entertainment — which itself faces numerous allegations that it functions as a monopoly that squashes competition in the concert world — listed speculative ticketing among the top issues that need to be addressed in the industry, alongside a federal mandate to show fees upfront and to enforce legislation to crack down on bots that purchase mass amounts of tickets.
“It’s very confusing for a fan. They look at the resale sites in advance and see a ticket already on sale before they’re released, and they’ll think it’s rigged against them,” Berchtold says, suggesting that speculative tickets serve the seller, not the buyer.
“Most of these other secondary sites, their strategy is to super-serve the scalper so they can get the tickets and they can sell those tickets. Ban spec tickets — they’re an anomaly in ticketing that doesn’t otherwise exist in society. I’d ban the sale of any tickets before the primary on-sale, even if you have a season ticket,” Berchtold continues. “I think it sends the wrong message to fans. I’d mandate more enforcement of the BOTS Act. And I’d mandate all-in pricing for tickets — it’s another point of confusion for fans.”
There isn’t a uniform nationwide policy on speculative ticketing, though some states already have legislation around it. Speculative ticketing is vague and comes in several forms. For some events, someone may have season tickets at a venue that could guarantee them access to a sporting event or concert, and they can sell tickets prior to an on-sale period knowing they’ll eventually own their ticket and can transfer it to another buyer. It isn’t often easy for a regular consumer to tell when a speculative seller has access to season tickets versus when they’re selling tickets they haven’t secured yet.
The major resale platforms have different specified policies regarding speculative ticketing. SeatGeek and VividSeats specify that only pre-approved sellers are allowed to list speculative tickets on their sites. SeatGeek states in its terms of service that “professional sellers” may be permitted to list speculative tickets for some events, but declined to comment further on the practice beyond their terms of service when contacted by Rolling Stone.
While tickets are already listed on StubHub for Beyoncé’s tour, the company declined to comment on those shows in particular — and whether those seats are speculative listings — but a rep for the company said in a statement that it doesn’t allow speculative ticketing on its platform and that sellers caught listing speculative tickets can face fines or removal from StubHub.
“Our goal at StubHub is to ensure that buyers on our platform get the tickets they purchase and, at worst, a comparable or better ticket or a refund if a seller cannot deliver that ticket,” a spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. “As policymakers around the country consider ways to enhance competition and guarantee consumer protections for fans, it’s critical to note that an industry-wide open and integrated ticketing system would allow all ticket marketplaces to better regulate this practice.”
VividSeats’ terms and conditions states that speculative ticketing isn’t permitted on its platform except for members of its “Zone Sales Program.” When asked about its Zone Sales program, VividSeats referred to it as a way for fans to “pre-order hard-to-find tickets.” Only “pre-approved sellers who have a track record of delivering value for fans” are allowed in the Zone Program, VividSeats said. Zone Tickets are labeled as such on the site, with the fine print specifying that the seller may not own the tickets upon sale. Fans are guaranteed to get a ticket in the zone they select, though the exact seat number won’t be given until delivery. (Fans get their money back if the ticket is outside their selected zone.)
“This program provides ticket availability, access, and convenience for fans by allowing them to purchase a ticket for an event within a specified zone, after which the seller will obtain and deliver a ticket in the selected zone,” a spokesperson for VividSeats said in a statement to Rolling Stone. ”It is an invaluable option for fans who want to be certain that they will have tickets to a high-demand event, and to be able to do so in an easy and convenient way.”
That policy may prove satisfactory for those with the income who don’t want to spend a day waiting in an online queue, but it’s a likely tougher pill to swallow for the cash-strapped fan who waited for hours and came up empty-handed.
From Rolling Stone US