The evolution of online ticket resale

This is a perspective on how online ticket resale has evolved from the late nineties to present.

Ground Breaking – v1.0

The emergence of online ticketing and its legitimization took place from 1998 to 2005. This period was a long haul forged by those of StubHub (founded in 2000), TicketNetwork (founded in 2002), Tickets Now (1999), and eBay, which facilitated a large portion of resale during the time. In addition to bringing ticket resale to the web for the masses, the practice gave rise to a good amount of critique and intense legal and ethical debate. This is not to overlook the contributions of regional players, but to focus on national players that built the foundation which proliferated the practice.

Proliferation – v2.0

From 2005 to around late 2008, online ticket resale saw large interest from both individual and corporate speculators. Consequently (and maybe the realization that the legal issues were worth the risk) we saw venture capital take an interest with substantial investment in Razor Gator and StubHub in 2005 and Tickets Now (2007), among others.

I think, and Google Trends might back me up, but these years saw the most intense discussions on the ticket scalping debate. Insiders will recall the rally cries around the Miley Cyrus scalping scandal, among others, leading to some high profile positioning on the matter which is covered by some articles in the Scholarly section. But the negative press seemed to quiet down to at least a light drumming as many seemed to accept is was an unstoppable market force. I think v3.0 sought to resolve some of the tensions created by scalping in creative ways.

Aggregation – v3.0

By 2009, several scholars, including myself had observed that there were a lot of ticket available on the secondary market at a broad selection of prices. The problem was there were so many places to look it was hard to know if you were getting the best deal. Though a few businesses sought to solve the information asymmetry problem, the most notable entrants were FanSnap (March ’09) and SeatGeek (Summer ’09). By aggregating tickets from ticket resellers around the web, these players made is easier for people to find the tickets they desired and to have price selection in one stop.

One of the problems I always thought was still left unsolved was the lack of push marketing. The number of times I forgot about a concert I wanted to see or did not notice a band was passing through town until it was too late. It irked me that Facebook and iTunes knew what I liked but no one ever pushed that data to my device.

Personalization / Push Marketing – v4.0

I observe the resale business is now in an era focused on push marketing and personalization. Services, apps, or widgets that use data to help one know when an artist is coming to town, when tickets are on sale, and offers notifications a week ahead of the show, etc… that’s the kind of stuff consumers want and 4.0 is well on its way to delivering. The icing on the cake is connecting people to available ticket inventory – seamlessly. The former is not complicated with the available data, but the latter is the holy grail. I am not sure if that will be solved any time soon.

Tools that I take notice of are BandsintownSongkick, and Timbre. I have been using Bandsintown for a while now, I really like its notifications and content. They are very relevant. Timbre is pretty cool as well as it gives you information about shows in the area where you are located at a given time and links you to both event information and available tickets using the SeakGeek API . This is particularly useful for last minute planners and travelers (of which I am both). Where this needs to go is from push marketing to tickets on my phone in a couple of clicks.

This writing is a work in progress (suggestions welcome).