Do we need stricter regulations for resale of tickets for major events like Taylor Swift?

Some fans and experts say it’s time to make it mandatory for tickets for major events to be “non transferable” meaning they have to be returned to Ticketmaster and resold at a similar price instead of resold for exorbitant amounts

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Some Taylor Swift fans who were left empty-handed after trying to secure seats to the pop star’s Vancouver concerts in 2024 are questioning the ticket-sale process.

At staggered intervals Wednesday, presale tickets to see Swift’s Eras Tour performances on Dec. 6, 7 and 8 of next year became available on the website of U.S. ticket giant, Ticketmaster.

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Vancouver’s Sabrina Lee, who has seen the musician nine times in concert, was among the many faithful unable to access the presale.

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“I miss the days when it was everyone refreshing the site right at the on-sale time, all you had to be was fast,” said the 34-year-old Swiftie who delights in being born in 1989, the same year as her music idol.

Now, Lee said, you have to be lucky — to be one of the verified fans who get an access code to the presale after signing up through a Ticketmaster account.

Sabrina Lee, 34, is a major Taylor Swift fan.
Sabrina Lee, 34, is a major Taylor Swift fan who is upset she didn’t get tickets. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

“Before Taylor’s Reputation tour, you had to earn boost points by watching her videos or buying merch, that could get you a code rather than being randomly selected.”

Burnaby’s Hannah Boulanger registered for the presale using 25 different email accounts, including those belonging to various friends and family. Still, not one of them was granted an access code.

“I am so sad,” said the 24-year-old. “I wish there was a way to limit who can get the tickets by how close their billing address is to the concert. You should have to be within 1,000 kilometres or something like that.”

“I’ve seen people from Australia getting tickets to Swift’s Vancouver concert.”

Some Metro Vancouver fans are now resorting to the secondary ticket market, which, on Friday, had resale ticket prices listed on sites such as StubHub at over $26,000.

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In summer 2021, the B.C. government passed legislation that banned primary and secondary ticket sellers from selling tickets that they don’t own, and prohibited bots from mass-ticket buying. The Ticket Sales Act was intended to “level the playing field for fans,” the government said at the time. 

But some observers don’t believe the legislation has made much difference.

“They went after the wrong players,” said ticket broker Kingsley Bailey, general manager of Vancouver Ticket Services.

Bailey said he has been flooded with calls and emails in the past few days from Swifties hoping to get their hands on tickets to the B.C. Place shows, marking the highest interest he’s even seen for concert tickets since the Rolling Stones in 1989.

Ticketmaster is partly to blame, he said. 

“By only releasing a limited amount of presale tickets — and not disclosing how many tickets there will be overall for the shows — promoters have created a false sense of urgency that’s pushing fans to splurge on resale tickets and fall victim to scalpers.”

Instead of cracking down on bots, Bailey said the province should require primary ticket sellers like Ticketmaster to disclose how many tickets will be sold at a given time.

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Bailey cited a U.S. study, conducted in 2018 by the New York Attorney General, which found that only 46 per cent of tickets for live events are reserved for the public.

“This false sense of demand allows for Ticketmaster to benefit,” Bailey said. “We need to correct the marketplace to be more accountable to fans.”

With Swift’s Vancouver leg of the tour expected to be the largest event at B.C. Place to date, Bailey expects there will be more than 200,000 ticket holders who will be able to see the show.

“I would not be worried if I was a fan. There is going to be American Express and Avion tickets, contests by sponsors, and many other ways fans can try and get tickets to see Taylor.”

Roberta Froese, who was successful in snagging two tickets to Swift, said it would have been easier if Ticketmaster sales were made non-transferable by organizers.

“Or else, fans who aren’t lucky enough to get presale codes for the original sale are priced out,” said the 28-year-old of Vancouver.

Froese originally hoped to take her daughter to one of Swift’s Seattle shows in July.

We kept an eye out after tickets went on sale for six months but none of the ones on StubHub dropped below $900,” said the mother.

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Only a small portion of show organizers have opted to make tickets to their live events non-transferable, according to the Ticketmaster website.

The organizers of U.S. musician Noah Khan’s show in Vancouver in spring 2024, for instance, have limited the resale and refund of concert tickets to individuals within Ticketmaster’s own marketplace.

While the non-transferable ticket option is thought to prevent third-party price gouging, there are no limits upon individual sellers who set resale prices for tickets.

The province said in a statement there are changes to the Ticket Sales Act being contemplated at the moment.

The Ticket Sales Act works to increase transparency of ticket sales and prevent bots from purchasing them solely for resale at inflated prices, as well as provide refund protections, the statement said.

“The act was not intended to interfere in the market by regulating ticket prices. Inflated prices can occur when demand for attendance far outstrips the availability of seats, as they have with the upcoming Taylor Swift performances,” the statement said.

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The province added that the presale for Swift’s concerts used a “highly sophisticated” process involving “multiple authentication layers” to prevent the use of bots.

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