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Editorial | TICKET RESELLING

Scratching the scalp

October 5, 2011

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NEITHER THE US nor the Massachusetts Constitution grants citizens the right to buy last-minute Rihanna tickets at twice the list price. But you wouldn’t know it, judging by the ongoing, high-pitched battle taking place between ticket scalpers - er, the ticket reselling industry - and a growing number of performers and venues trying to ensure their tickets are sold to fans, and only fans, at reasonable prices.

The issue has come to a head because the Fan Freedom Project, a Washington-based group that lobbies on behalf of the lucrative secondary ticket market, is pushing state legislatures to pass laws banning paperless tickets, one method that helps control whether original ticket buyers are the ones who walk through their doors. The Legislature should ignore the scalping industry’s overtures and let the marketplace settle this debate.

The current law limiting ticket resales to $2 above face value is unenforceable and should be scrapped; police can’t realistically monitor such transactions, and there’s no strong public interest in doing so. But neither should the state pass laws preventing bands, teams, or entertainment venues from taking steps to thwart scalpers - steps that might include paperless tickets or requiring buyers to show up in person at the will-call window.

If these steps succeed, loyal fans will be able to obtain tickets at regular prices without having ticket resellers gobble them up the moment they go on sale. If other performers and venues don’t particularly care, it’s not worth expending law-enforcement efforts on tracking down scalpers.

Either way, it’s unlikely that state legislators will come up with a better compromise than the market will. Ultimately, it’s a decision best left up to bands, teams, venues and fans - not Beacon Hill.