It seems that whenever you have a popular event, notably concerts in smaller venues and certain plays, the venue sells out their tickets quickly, and then ticket speculators leap in and sell the tickets at high margins. Ticket speculating (aka scalping) is legal in some areas and illegal in others. I don't think it should be illegal, but I wonder why the venues and performers tolerate so much of the revenue going to the speculators.
Or am I wrong, and this is not happening? Is it the case that often the speculators miscalculate and lose money so they only make a modest income? It doesn't seem that way to me. Now, there are many ticket brokers with large web presences (including some who sponsor my joke site) and tickets are commonly auctioned on eBay.
So why don't the venues or ticket companies create their own auction sites to auction tickets, with some fair system like a dutch auction, and keep all the money from high-demand events for themselves? Is it simply because this seems elitist and they feel it will annoy fans?
Currently, fans are annoyed because speculators scoop up tickets to high-demand events as soon as sales open, and such events sell out quickly, before actual fans can get them. That seems far worse to me. An auction system would actually allow lesser tickets to sell for less money and generate the same revenue for the event.
This seems so obvious, why isn't it taking place? Is it simply inertia, or a fear of requiring computer access in order to get tickets? While just about anybody can get computer access these days, dutch auctions can be done by phone if you trust the 3rd party managing the auction. Call in once, set your maximum bid for the various ticket classes you will accept, then find out the resulting price later. People at computers would have a small advantage, but not that much. The venue could set a floor/reserve price if they don't want to cheapen the value of their product.
Or is this a business opportunity for some company (or for Ticketmaster?)David's essay, noted in the comments below, is interesting but does not account for the success of the scalpers. Many accept the scalper's as a capitalistic "fix" for the non-market-priced tickets, allowing those with more money than time to get seats without having to wait in line or be lucky when ticket sales begin. But few would state it's a good idea that the profit goes to the scalpers.
One solution might be "official" scalping. In official scalping, buyers of tickets (be then fans or speculators) could tell the official box office that they are open to resale of their ticket, and possibly an ask price. The box office would run the bidding, and take a piece of it.
How much a piece is hard to say. Too much and it makes sense for sellers to head elsewhere to sell, though if they can make doing so illegal (as it is in many places) they can obviously exact a higher price. They have an inherent leg-up as the obvious place to go buy. And of course they can also sell any unsold tickets in this higher priced aftermarket.
But the margin for them remains much poorer than they get if they sold the tickets at auction to begin with, or at least some of them.