Dirkonomics: The Evolution of How Tickets Are Sold

Hey, man. You still driving in to Houston in the morning to get those Aerosmith tickets? – Randall Pink Floyd, Dazed and Confused.

What can really be said? Another week, another gem from Dirk Chatelain that just has to include a swipe at the Huskers. In what was an otherwise tightly crafted look into the dying breed known as the ticket scalper, Dirk takes Joey from Kansas City’s assessment that Husker ticket sales are slumping because in 2015 Joey from Kansas City is having trouble selling tickets while standing on a bridge outside Memorial Stadium.

Dirk, low demand is when a top ten team resorts to selling tickets for half price via a discount site over a month before their season opener.

USC GOLDSTAR79,809 people turned out for USC’s season opener against Arkansas State. LA Memorial Coliseum has a capacity of 93,607.

Before we dive in to today’s little history lesson, let’s take a closer look at how Joey from Kansas City spent his game day that “made” him $800 in a few short hours. To get to and from Memorial Stadium he had to incur the time and expense of driving three hours each way. Factoring that overhead, his hourly rate could still potentially be in the $75 range but then you also have to consider that he probably didn’t work much during the week. As Dirk noted, Joey from Kansas City has been scalping Husker tickets since the 80s so he probably isn’t one for holding down a regular job.

Here’s the deal: In 2015, if your best option for purchasing a ticket to an event is by conducting business with a borderline low level criminal hanging around outside of said event, you either can’t plan your way out of a paper bag or actually attending the event isn’t really all that high on your list of your day’s priorities. There are no other reasons why you should be buying a ticket from a scalper on the street.

The Evolution of How Tickets Are Sold

July 1996: The History of Rock is offered as a class at UNL for the first time over the summer. My roommate and I threw our GPAs to the wind and signed up. Much to our delight, extra credit could be earned by attending concerts so we decided to go see KISS blow the roof off Kemper Arena down in Kansas City. Our search for tickets started and ended by browsing the classified ads in the Lincoln Journal Star. Lucky for us, a pair of tickets was up for sale. Turns out a dude won tickets AND a seat on The Blaze (on 106.3 back then) party bus and no longer needed his tickets. He told us all about it as he kept us trapped in his basement apartment that was filled with snakes.

Dirk Logic: Newspaper advertising revenue has fallen off a cliff in the 21st century. Therefore, people must have stopped exchanging goods and services.
Newspaper Advertising Revenue

October 1996: KISS (to the surprise of no one who knows that money is Gene Simmons’ favorite thing in the world) adds more dates to their reunion tour including a stop in Omaha. I stand in a line for Ticketmaster for two hours that stretched from the front door of the Homer’s Music at 14th & O all the way down the block and around the corner past the Walgreen’s at 13th street. Back in 1996, there were nearly as many record stores in downtown Lincoln as there were bagel shops, keep in mind there was one block in downtown that had FOUR bagel shops.

Dirk Logic: The once mighty Homer’s franchise is down to a single location found in Omaha’s Old Market. Therefore, people must have stopped purchasing music.

April 13, 2005: The day after Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. I take the girl I’m seeing to our first Dodger game together and introduce her to the shady underworld of parking lot ticket sales. After some cunning haggling that could hang in the Burrabazar and playing the army of scalpers off each other (and missing the top of the first) I score a pair of seats behind home plate for only $40 each, which at the time was probably 90% of my net worth.

Dirk Logic: An entire army of scalpers? Dodger tickets must be the hottest ticket in town! (For the record, the 2005 Dodgers had their second worst season in their history as the LA Dodgers.)

March 30, 2013: After getting my childhood kicked in the nuts by subjecting myself to watching GI Joe: Retaliation, I realize I still have two hours worth of free parking to burn so I hike a block from the theater over to Staples Center to see if I can score a ticket to the Elite Eight game between Wichita State and Ohio State that tipped off right as the movie ended. Within a minute of trying, I exchange the $18 (a fair price to watch Ohio State lose in any sport) that was in my pocket for a nosebleed seat with a face value of $90. Immediately after the close of my sale, a frantic Ohio State fan ran up and said she’d pay $50 for anything that would get her in the door. I felt so bad at her lack of haggling skills, that I used some of the money I “saved” to buy her a beer since her seat ended up being next to mine.

Dirk Logic: March Madness has clearly lost its luster and should be canceled.

August 2014: Sir Paul McCartney is playing his first concert at Dodger Stadium since the Beatles played their second-to-last concert there back in 1964. Somehow or another, I got an email for an “exclusive pre-sale.” I bought a pair of tickets plus an extra pair to flip on Stub Hub. Within 24 hours they were gone and I had finagled going to see Sir Paul for free.

Dirk Logic: If it ain’t The Boss who cares?

December 13, 2014: Our tickets to the Dodgers’ Opening Day game against the San Diego Padres on 4/6/15 sell for $299.99, netting $269.99 after StubHub’s cut. With our season tickets running $16 each (face value $43) that means we notched a 743.72% mark up and some lucky duck got Opening Day tickets for Christmas.

Dirk Logic: Dodger Opening Day tickets are more valuable than shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Apple COMBINED.

June 2015: The girl from 2005 who has now been my wife for five years and I are walking into Dodger Stadium when one of the few remaining scalpers asks us if we need tickets. After telling him we’re good, he replies “Man, whatever happened to couples needing tickets? You people just plan to much these days.

Dirk Logic: Wait a minute… if the army of ticket scalpers at Dodger Stadium has all but disbanded, how can tickets really be in-demand? This makes no sense.  (The Dodgers have led MLB in attendance since the 2013 season, averaging over 46,000 people per game.)

September 5, 2015: Last Sunday morning while getting a latte at my local coffee shop, I asked the barista, who I’ve seen at least three times a week for the last decade, if he’d like to use our Dodger tickets sometime before the season ends. In the amount of time that it took for him to concoct my beverage, we sorted out a date that worked and I texted him a pair of tickets.

Dirk Logic: What is this voodoo magic?



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