Reselling concert tickets for a steep profit — the practice commonly known as scalping — is a serious problem that deprives music fans of the chance to enjoy live performances at fair prices. Four music industry organizations and 172 musicians and bands issued a joint statement Sept. 11 opposing the widespread practice — the second action of its kind following a statement issued last month. Some people call for strictly regulating the reselling of concert tickets, but that alone won’t solve the entire problem. All concerned parties should put together their ideas and find an optimal solution.

The joint statement pointed out that people buying up tickets and reselling them at exorbitant prices make it difficult for many fans to obtain tickets. The resale of concert tickets “should not be left as it is” since the activity also serves as a hotbed of criminal acts, such as selling counterfeit tickets, it said.

In one case, more than 100 tickets — each priced at more than ¥300,000 — were sold on a website designed to facilitate ticket transactions between individuals, according to the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conferences. In another case, 2,000 out of 6,000 tickets for a concert were offered at the same website. Takeo Nakanishi, head of the organization, lamented that these resale activities trample on the intentions of those musicians who deliberately offer inexpensive tickets so that young fans can come and enjoy their performances.

Scalping has even developed into criminal cases. In mid-September, police in Sapporo arrested a woman in her 20s from Kagawa Prefecture for allegedly violating the law on trading in secondhand goods when she resold five tickets for a concert by the popular boy band Arashi. The police suspect she similarly resold a total of about 300 concert tickets starting in late 2014 for roughly ¥10 million in proceeds.

Scalping is also reportedly rampant for other events, including sports. The common problem is that tickets become unavailable for people who really want to attend an event because others buy them up to turn around and sell them for profit, taking advantage of the lack of supply that their actions created.

Legal measures to control scalping are clearly inadequate. Prefectural governments have by-laws that prohibit scalpers from reselling tickets in the vicinity of event venues, but they do not cover selling tickets over the internet. The music industry is calling for expanding the scope of the by-laws to crack down on online activities by professional scalpers.

It should be out of the question for anyone to buy up tickets in an organized manner and resell them for financial gain. Relevant parties need to work out a mechanism that can crack down on such practices. However, an outright ban on reselling normally purchased tickets would be going too far. There will be people who were unable to buy tickets when they were put on sale and have a legitimate need to buy them secondhand. There will also be people who bought tickets but then can’t attend and want to get their money back.

Tickets for popular events are normally sold on a first come, first served basis. Lotteries are sometimes used when demand is expected to significantly outweigh supply. Avid fans who miss out may be willing to pay more than face value for tickets, and if others are ready to offer them, a resale market will inevitably be formed. If a wholesale ban on reselling tickets is introduced, a black market will naturally follow and professional scalpers will play a major role.

Some hold the view that the policy of concert organizers not allowing tickets to be canceled after they’re bought is responsible for encouraging such transactions between individuals. Some economists propose that ticket prices for concerts by popular musicians should be set higher to begin with, following basic market principles. They say that since tickets getting scalped for exorbitant prices is an indication of demand exceeding supply, demand should be lowered by putting higher prices on tickets. But that would deprive people with less money of the opportunity to attend. One idea is to auction some tickets. Another proposal calls for establishing a ticket resale market officially recognized by concert organizers.

Some steps have been taken by concert organizers, such as introduction of a face authentication system to see that people who come to events are the same who bought the tickets — although there is criticism that such a step may discourage people from buying tickets because they can’t even give them away should they decide not to attend. A company that runs a website for secondhand tickets has reportedly begun watching the site around the clock and stops malicious transactions or prohibits resellers from using the site when problematic behavior is spotted.

Although various ideas have been put forward and some action has been taken, there is no obvious panacea. Concert organizers, musicians, fans and others involved should thoroughly discuss the issue so that a system reasonable for all parties will be worked out.

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