Louis C.K. addresses ticket scalpers: ‘It’s a tremendous risk’ (Exclusive)

By | July 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm | 49 comments | feature slider, News | Tags:

When Louis C.K. announced on June 25 in a detailed e-mail and website post that he’d be selling tickets to his upcoming national tour exclusively through LouisCK.com for $45, he answered an important question before anyone even had a chance to ask it: What happens if someone buys the inexpensive ticket and tries to sell it at an inflated price? Here was his preemptive words:

You’ll see that if you try to sell the ticket anywhere for anything above the original price, we have the right to cancel your ticket (and refund your money). This is something I intend to enforce. There are some other rules you may find annoying but they are meant to prevent someone who has no intention of seeing the show from buying the ticket and just flipping it for twice the price from a thousand miles away.

The next night, C.K. appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to explain it a little further. “It won’t work 100 percent of the time, but if you buy a ticket for more than 45 bucks, it might die before you get to the show,” he told Kimmel. “It’s a risk. When you get to the venue they might say, ‘That’s no good.’” He also added that he’s got people working for him monitoring ticket purchases online to help enforce these rules.

However, five days later, it seems there are a lot of people willing to take the risk C.K. mentions. As of this writing, ticket broker sites SeatGeek, StubHub, CoastToCoastTickets and BigInTheGame have multiple Louis C.K. tickets for sale, with the most expensive ticket listed at $518. I asked Louis to respond to the scalping. And here’s his statement to Laughspin:

Here’s where we are with the scalpers as of now…
I’m doing 67 shows on this tour and we’ve sold 135,600  tickets to those shows after one week on sale.
In addition to the tour, I’m doing two shows in one city that are on sale through traditional ticketing.*
So as a comparison…
There are 1100 tickets available on stubhub alone for those two  traditionally ticketed shows out of 4,400 available ( Almost exactly 25%). ** and these shows aren’t sold out yet.
There are less than 500 tickets available on all scalper sites (including stubhub) out of the entire 135,600  tickets that have already been sold, from the tour sold exclusively on my site, louisck.com (substantially less than 1%)
So it’s working.  So far.
Also, we are learning that, of these few tickets being scalped for my tour, some are the same tickets across a bunch of different sites. They are sharing tickets.
Our goal is to get even these 500 or less tickets back into the hands of fans at their original price.  How we are doing that is our business that I won’t share right now.  But so far our plan is working and we have learned a lot.  The main message I’d like to convey to ticket-buyers out there is that buying a scalper ticket to one of my shows is a tremendous risk (well, a risk equal to how much you paid for it)
Contact with these scalpers has been enlightening.  They tend to respond with indignance and a defensive posture “Hey man!  Scalping is NOT a crime!”  We’re not treating it as a crime or even a wrong-doing.  We are just competing with them, on behalf of my fans, to enforce the terms and conditions of our ticket sales and to keep the prices down.  It’s worth the effort, it’s working and it’s even been kind of fun.
Jesus christ, these shows better be fucking good.
*(these shows were booked before the tour was launched.  I am, by the way, looking forward to those shows as much as any on my tour and am happy as always to do business with all involved.  My tour is simply a separate and very different venture)
**I’ve found that almost any concert being sold through the usual channels has this same ratio, about 1/4 of the tickets end up with scalpers.  So less than 1% for us is pretty good.

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

  • http://cs.uiowa.edu/~nmleytem MetalNick

    Louie is my hero.

  • christopatten

    I think it would physically hurt to respect Louie more then I do. The man is just so damn dedicated to giving his fans the best comedy experience possible for the best price. A truely dynamic businessman and respectable dude. Oh did I mention he’s essentially a comedy god. Forgive the fluff piece I just can’t believe how awesome this guy is.

  • Aaron Hurley

    Who would have predicted that the best working comedian in the world would also be the one to finally make substantial inroads into dramatically fixing both online media distribution and ticket sales to the benefit of performers and audiences alike?

    Louis CK continues to change the game.

  • Vaun Norman

    Although living in the UK and not being able to benefit from Louis’ scheme, I must applaud his attempt at bypassing this grey / black market in ticket sales. I took advantage of the brilliantly priced “beacon theatre” show and it proves, despite his best efforts to the contrary, Louis CK is a nice fellow.

  • thehipp

     It’s either “Here were his preemptive words” or “Here was his preemptive word.”

    • Trainadm

       Thanks Grammar cop

  • http://twitter.com/WhatJohnThinks John M.

    Good for Louis CK. I suggest he find the time in his busy schedule to arrange to purchase one of the sets of tickets being sold by a scalper so he can personally meet and publicly shame the guy and have the whole thing filmed.

    • http://twitter.com/therantguy therantguy

      I am not pro-scalper but last time I checked we considered ourselves capitalists. How is purchasing a ticket for $45 and trying to sell it for $100 any different than buying a share of Apple and wanting to sell it for more money? Or a collectible?

      Scalping exists because there is an inefficiency in the market. People are willing to pay more for the seats than the initial seller is offering. The solution, whether you like it or not, is raising prices so that supply = demand…poof…no more scalping.

      • Guest

        What value does a scalper who buys up a bunch of tickets as soon as they go on sale and then resells at a much higher price provide to anyone but themselves? Why would any sane artist think this is a good thing, when their goal is to get more people to see them?  Good for Louie on trying this.  It’s his damn show after all.

        • shodan

          it is highly unlikely that scalper would end up with unsold tickets so this argument is void

      • warns

        Scalping exists only because people are greedy and care little to nothing about the artists they are exploiting to make a buck rather than get a real job.  It’s a hustle.

        • shodan

          artist can set whatever price they want

      • J1S

        In many cases when you buy something, you agree to the terms and conditions that the seller puts on the sale. If the terms and conditions say you cannot resell the tickets for more than face value, then you can choose to not accept those conditions, and thus not buy the tickets.

      • http://twitter.com/gxrobillard G. Xavier Robillard

        We do have laws in this country, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a capitalist, against predatory pricing. You’re talking about something of which there is a finite demand. This is the same reason scalpers cannot buy out entire transcontinental plane flights and sell them to the highest bidder.

        You’re oversimplifying the fact that scalpers have access to technology, aside from Stubhub, but also algorithms that let them buy out entire concerts online within seconds, a competitive advantage that the regular concert attendee does not have. 

      • FreeMarketMy@$$

        If there is an “inefficiency in the market”, it is due to scalpers creating it. When they buy up huge blocks of tickets in the first minute of sales, they are responsible for the lack of supply. They should not be profiting (obscenely, at that!) from meeting an artificial need.

  • Guest

    It’s a good thought. The problem is that I went to the site immediately after he posted the seats available and they were already scooped up. How about sending the link to those that purchased his comedy special privately?

    • Chaz Larson

      I bought the Beacon special and got an email from him on 6/25 discussing the upcoming tour.

  • FreeMarketForever

    Scalpers perform the same function as commodity traders. They are simply speculating on the future price of a commodity (in this case show tickets). Our society loves those guys. We should not be punishing success simply because they make money from temporarily holding a piece of paper that someone else will eventually want. Besides, their ridiculous profits will eventually trickle down to the rest of us.

    • firesuite

      Yes, of course, the trickle-down effect. So wonderful for all of us. Especially when it gets us into the show we couldn’t afford to attend due to, I don’t know- FUCKING SCALPERS. 

      Missed opportunities to real experiences are a small price to pay for a chance to suckle at the teat of the greedy’s leftovers. Thanks for the reassurance.

    • http://twitter.com/CaptainAssclown Captain Assclown

      Scalper are not comparable to commodity traders in the least. The commodity market was created to help farmers and others lock in future prices so they wouldn’t be devastated by a drought or flood that wiped out their crops, for instance. That was the entire point, to HELP those selling the commodity. A scalper provides NO such service. Oh, and stick your “trickle down” theory up your ass.

    • postcardsfromV

      If a talented do-gooder reclaiming power for his fans is equivalent to “punishing success,” then I don’t want any part of what you define as “success.” I’d also hate to see what you consider price-gouging, exorbitant mark-ups, or lack of business ethics.

    • TrollPolice

       Successful Troll is Successful

    • warns

       No. these people are stealing experiences out of the hands of people who can afford the prices set by the artist and the venue, but not the prices set by the greedy scalpers.  So say your favorite band in the whole entire world is playing in your neighbors living room, tickets are only 15 dollars, sweet! Someone with a faster internet connection than you buys every last one.  Now they’re 1500.  You can’t go, the only one to blame is the scalper.  Still think it’s the same as commodities trading?

  • KK

    What if someone listed your tickets on StubHub (instead of theirs), effectively canceling the tickets you purchased legally from Louis CK’s website?  Ever thought of that?

    • KS

      Well, they have to get hold of your ticket-codes.
      And if you can retrieve someone else’s ticket-codes it’s probably easier to just use their hacked e-mail to steal their credit card information.

    • Matt

       1) How would they do that exactly? They don’t have ticket numbers or information for your tickets, unless you gave it to them.
      2) I’m completely sure that StubHub has some way of preventing people from selling tickets that don’t belong to them. This could theoretically be a problem for every event on StubHub, and yet it isn’t.

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  • netik

    This is so easy to solve. Print the buyer’s name on the Ticket. You’re checking ID anyway at the door, so match it up like a boarding pass and be done with it. No more scalpers at that point.

    • indianstreamrepublic

      Bruce Springsteen did this when he played a 10,000 capacity venue (which is small for him) in Copenhagen a few years ago. A limit of 2 tickets per person, and the buyers name was printed on the ticket. If you bought two tickets, the person with the second ticket had to be accompanied by the person who bought the ticket.

      The one major problem I see with this, is that while it stops scalping, it also stops people from being able to legitimately sell their ticket due to a change of plans or getting sick etc.

      • Bob

        Then the system needs a “buy-back” button. Sell your tickets back to Louis at full price, and yours are invalidated. Easy

    • Chaz Larson

      The print-at-home Louis CK tix have the purchaser’s name on them.

  • Amanda

    Man, you blow me away with your talent and with your commitment to things like this. It’s seems like a lot of work to undertake something like this and it’s awesome that you are willing to do it. Good for you. Totally stand up guy. No pun intended. 

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  • Skottieg

    One would think that (most) true Louie fans would know to purchase tickets directly. I guess there’s always the chance that someone wants a sold-out section or seat.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/joshuabardwell Joshua Bardwell

    I am an organizer of an event that sometimes has a problem with scalping. I would love to hear any speculation as to how he’s accomplishing this. The problem I can’t figure out how to solve is, when you see a ticket on a scalping site, how do you know which ticket number to cancel, since the ticket number is never part of the ad (and, in fact, a specific ticket may not have even been bought, since the scalpers often put up ads for tickets that they intend to, but have not yet acquired).

    • No Scalpers Allowed

       If he chooses to reveal how he does it, it would be silly to do so before the show.

      Do you really expect us to believe that you are absolutely not a scalper?  Prove it to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Oh wait, you can’t prove it.

  • louisckisthemaninmyopinion

    Ticket scalpers can all go suck a bag of dicks.

    • Jizzanthapuss

      Ok, but I have a lot questions…

      Are they in a plastic bag and all mushed together like chicken parts?

      Or is it like a paper bag, and they’re sticking out like baguettes?

      And how? Suck each dick individually and throw the used ones in a bowl like edamame shells…

      Like that? :D

  • salva door

    I love Louis CK’s comedy, but I thought the $5 beacon theater stunt placed a burden on other comedians who don’t have the same following as Louis to do the same thing (else face criticism).
    Also, it worked for him partly because people were so into the initial novelty of having a $5 DRM free download. The reddit effect was definitely a factor, were so many people wanted this to become a standard distribution model that WAY more people bought this special than would have otherwise.

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  • Jon

    I’ve seen Louie on tour several times and he’s always had new material that has me in a spasmodic,  laughter-coughing fit for mostly the entire show.  Last year, ticket sales started at 85 bucks here in New Hampshire, and I couldn’t afford it.  Good for Louie as I appreciate his attention to detail that things were getting out of hand with Ticket Master.  Bought my two tix for Boston in January, and cannot wait to introduce my girlfriend to live stand-up with the most honest and best living comedian at the moment.  

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  • shodan

    Wow, I much rather buy a ticket at an inflated price than not have any ticket, this is such stupid bullshit just so he can make more money

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