Price check

Ever since seeing one of the Philharmonic’s concerts on an MSN.com event listing in June, the marketing director has been on an upward battle to keep what she has called “online scalpers” from overcharging for tickets. 

Along with the Philharmonic’s other concerts, single tickets for classical-pop band Pink Martini’s performances on March 23 and 24, 2012, will be available after Sept. 6. Prices range from $27 to $67, depending on the section and because the concert is considered a “special engagement.”

But on ticket search engine FanSnap.com, the ticket reseller site TicketNetwork.com’s cheapest price for the same March 23 concert is $86, including a $16 extra fee per ticket — nearly four times the seat’s $27 face value.

Times are much different than they were three years ago, Winters said, as customers are selling their own tickets on the Web, often for much more than the considerably cheaper face value. She said tickets every past concert could be found online for the last year and a half. The problem is that anyone wanting to attend a Philharmonic event may assume the tickets are unaffordable, when they may not be the case.

 “We’re trying to build a relationship with people,” she said. “We’re not just trying to pull every dollar out of somebody’s pocket because it’s something they want.”

Search “pink martini tickets okc” on Google; the Philharmonic website isn’t even among the first page of results — only resellers.

It’s simply too much to bear for Winters, who recently posted on the Philharmonic’s blog, Facebook page and own website advising patrons to watch out for ticket brokers charging high above face value for events that are not for individual sale yet. Only season tickets are available for purchase from the Civic Center Box Office, the Philharmonic’s website and Winters herself.

Another problem? The Civic Center’s website, okcciviccenter.com, now has an impostor site at a .org, where the ticket link takes a user to Ticket Liquidator, where Pink Martini tickets range from $86 to $205. In other words, the cheapest ticket is actually pricier than the Philharmonic’s most expensive one.

BROKERS’ SYSTEM
Companies that resell tickets are called ticket brokers. Unlike local scalpers, they follow commerce laws,  register with the Better Business Bureau and require online payment with a credit card.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based FanSnap uses a computer program to aggregate ticket results from 50 or so ticket reseller networks and brokers — operating much like a Google for tickets, generating revenue from cost-per-click and cost-per-action advertising, instead of receiving purchase fees.

FanSnap Director Christian Anderson said the company does not control how much a reseller charges for tickets because the website is designed to collect results. He said the company recently started adding venue links to show customers how much more or less they might be paying.

“The players (in the industry) have really done a lot of changing over the last few years, and we’ve also seen the rise of festivals and these small venues (like the Civic Center) starting to get key acts, so we’ve been adding those recently,” Anderson said.

So the problem isn’t FanSnap, where Winters found the concert listed, but the private vendors who show up when a user hits “search.”

A Philharmonic patron told Winters on Facebook of how the woman’s father almost gave up buying a ticket for last April’s Jane Monheit concert, after finding them at more than $100 per ticket on a ticket vendor website. Luckily, his daughter was in the room and told him to go to the Philharmonic’s website for tickets, where the most expensive one would have been $67, instead of giving up.

In doing so, there is no telling how many customers the Philharmonic has lost from their lack of online ticket knowledge, Winters said.

TicketNetwork said it isn’t legally responsible for how much its users charge for tickets, or even if they post before tickets go on sale, after a lawsuit by New Jersey’s attorney general claiming the website was responsible was dismissed, according to the Hartford Business Journal Online.

 “I don’t know what the structure is, but it sure seems like all roads lead to TicketNetwork when it comes to the onslaught of this reselling of Civic Center tickets,” Winters said.

For Winters and the OKC Philharmonic, it’s all speculation at this point, because the individual tickets haven’t gone on sale yet — and when they do, there’s no telling what the trend could be.

Additional reporting by Rod Lott.

Photos by Mark Hancock

Alex Ewald

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