The "eBay Box Office" just came one step closer to being born.
According to the Post yesterday and the Times today, Governor Spitzer has won over the one consituency getting in the way of his plan to overhaul the current ticket scalping laws: the League of American Theatres and Producers.
The Gov claims the free market should rule here, and that it makes no sense to try to price-control scalping "the secondary market" (i.e. scalping) without regulating the "primary." Obviously, regulating the primary makret (i.e. the box office) is not at issue here.
So the producers have finally come around. Why? Says Shubert man, Gerald Schoenfeld: "In the case of Broadway theater, the illegal secondary market deprives creative personnel and other risk-takers from their rightful share of the ticket price." By the way, those "other risk-takers"? Formerly known as--producers.
Basically this is a surrender. LATP knows that in the age of the internet nothing is going to stop the scalpers. And so, if you can't beat 'em... well over to you, Gerry:
[I]n the statement, Mr. Schoenfeld said that the effect of the current law “has been to penalize primary ticket sellers (who are not currently allowed to resell via auction sites, etc.) while rewarding the secondary marketplace, much of which is unregulated.” That problem could be turned into a solution, he said, “by allowing authorized auction sites for ticket resale” that would provide additional consumer protections, like refunds for cancellations.
Or to put it another way,
“They essentially want to set up their own auction sites,” said Russ Haven, the legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which opposes lifting the caps. He said that consumers “will see higher ticket prices, with no other benefits.”
The distinction the producers cling to is the difference between selling properly obtained tickets and illegally obtained tickets. But what's an "illegally obtained" ticket, you ask? Well, they mention some scalpers bribing box office workers to siphon off the top. But other than that, it seems like a fine line in this day and age.
Anyway, lots more economics embedded within. But note this: such a major shift in lobbying agendas must signal a very changing industry indeed. And one that forecasts no cheaper tickets on Broadway any time soon.
UPDATE 3/21: Gordon Cox at Variety weighs in, too. And tells it like it is:
But the League's new stance is part of an ongoing shift in Rialto ticketing. Premium-price seating, originally controversial when it was first introduced by "Th Producers" in 2001, has become the norm.
Those high prices, which hit $480 for "The Producers," have allowed producers to muscle in on the broker biz, scoring for them and the show's creators a cut of the market-driven value of tickets to a hot show at an in-demand time of year.