Sports and Concert Tickets Are Now Cheaper—And More Expensive

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The expansion of online ticket marketplaces has meant that many tickets are now sold well below face value. It’s also resulted in tickets to some especially in-demand events becoming more expensive than ever.

The secondary ticket market, which includes small local brokers as well as giant sellers like StubHub and TicketsNow, is a huge business, estimated to be anywhere from $2 billion to $20 billion annually. Virtually anyone can now quickly and easily buy and sell tickets—with the help of StubHub, for instance, which takes 10% to 15% from each customer in each and every transaction.

A Chicago Tribune story tells how the revolution in ticket selling is hurting many old-time ticket brokers, while, in theory at least, helping the average Joe trying to snag seats for his daughter’s favorite band’s show. Has that happened? Yes and no.

Sources cited by the Tribune claim that 40% of tickets sold on the open market currently go for less than face value. Turn on the TV and look at all the empty seats at your local baseball team’s stadium, and you can see why that’s the case. Last winter, tickets to a pitiful Nets-Cavaliers matchup were going for a mere 11¢. That’s supply and demand (lots of the former, very little of the latter) in action.

(MORE: Wanna Witness Yankee History? You’ll Have to Pay Up)

Meanwhile:

Sucharita Mulpuru, a principal analyst for the Boston-based Forrester Research, said high-demand tickets, such as for a major concert or playoff game, account for the bulk of secondary-market transactions and may be commanding even more inflated prices now.

What hasn’t happened, at least not yet, is a broader movement in which everyday ticket holders and ticket seekers leapfrog fee-collecting middlemen of any sort. But that would appear to be the next step in the evolution of ticket selling:

“I think over time there are going to be fewer and fewer of these brokers,” Mulpuru said. “Many of them are still very powerful. (But) I think that over time the next generation of season ticket holders are tech savvy, they have more tools available, they don’t need a broker. It’ll change. It’ll just take a while.”

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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