Live & Touring

Louis CK Shows Music Industry How Direct Ticketing Defeats Scalpers [100K Tickets / $4.5M / 2 Days]

Scalpers-591x394Guest post by Eliot Van Buskirk of

Our piece about what funnyman Louis CK is teaching the music industry has attracted a fair amount of attention on the web this week — and as such, it’s only fair to follow up with information about how his strategy of selling tickets directly to fans, for one flat price of $45 regardless of city or seat, is working. As it turns out, it’s working great.

Editors Note: Louis CK has announced that he sold 100,000 tickets direct to fans in 2 days for a gross of $4.5 million.

Not only are these tickets not subject to exorbitant “convenience” fees, but they’re being scalped (i.e. resold at a profit) at an incredibly low rate. This is almost certainly due to Louis’ anti-scalping policy, which includes offering the tickets at will call, cancelling tickets for sale above the original $45 price, and working with venues to make it all work:

"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…"

"Doing things this way means I”m making less than I would have made if I did a standard tour, using the usual very excellent but expensive ticketing service. In some cities I’ve had to play smaller venues and do more shows. But I like doing more shows, and about a year ago, I reached a place where I realized I am making enough money doing comedy, so the next thing that interested me is bringing your price down. Either way, I still make a whole lot more than my grandfather who taught math and raised chickens in Michigan."

Kudos, sir. According ticket search engine SeatGeek, only 122 Louis CK tickets are currently for sale on the over 60 ticket exchanges tracked by the service. That includes all of his 52 upcoming shows. That means that for each show, only about two tickets are potentially being scalped.

“These quantities are extremely low and far below what we typically see in regards to ticket supply for other comedians — even immediately following an on-sale,” SeatGeek director of communications Will Flaherty told via email. “Furthermore, the few tickets that are listed online for the upcoming tour are available only at extremely high prices — on average over $200.”

So hardly any of these tickets are being scalped, and even then, the prices are over 4X what Louis is charging. For musicians who want to help their fans avoid paying high fees and dealing with the problem of scalpers driving up prices and grabbing all the inventory, the Lessons of Louis appear to be quite sound.

Here’s some more detail from SeatGeek about what they found:

  • "There’s no question that Louis C.K. shows have fetched quite the premium on secondary markets in the past. The average price paid for a ticket to a Louis C.K. show within the past 3 years on secondary markets is $110.05 or almost 2x the cost of a $45 face value ticket to any show on Louis C.K.’s upcoming tour. There’s also generally a robust market for Louis CK tickets on online secondary markets, with on average about 150 tickets per show changing hands. For high demand shows in cities like Chicago, Boston and New York, anywhere from 500 to 600 tickets per Louis C.K. show are re-sold on secondary markets."
  • "Some shows in major markets have fetched even higher multiples on secondary markets than the above average. Tickets to Louis C.K’s show on November 4th, 2010 at Carnegie Hall sold on average for $190.78, while tickets to either one of his appearances in the New York Comedy Festival at New York’s Beacon Theater on November 10th, 2011 resold for an average of $175.72."
  • "In light of the restrictions that Louis C.K. has imposed on the resale of tickets to this new tour, we were curious whether or not the threat of ticket invalidation has put a damper on secondary market activity for recently announced tour. In brief, it appears that so far, these measures are keeping the volume of tickets listed on secondary markets low — though the few tickets that are listed on online secondary markets are posted at an average price of $203.66."
  • "As a secondary market aggregator that pulls from over 60 ticketing sites online, SeatGeek has a comprehensive view of ticket supply across the breadth of online markets, and across all 52 announced shows on Louis C.K.’s tour, there are only 122 tickets listed on major online secondary markets — an average of just slightly over 2 tickets listed per show. Many major secondary ticketing websites — including StubHub — are offering no listings at all and are not providing a means for individual sellers to list Louis C.K. tickets for sale. In brief, it appears that the restrictions on these tour tickets are, by and large, keeping tickets off secondary market sites."

Photo: Flickr/lukexmartin

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  1. I think this is great and Louis CK is a brilliant comedian. However, there are several things to keep in mind:
    1. Louis CK is already wildly popular and these tickets would have sold out in any case. He doesn’t need Ticketmaster to help with marketing.
    2. The flat fee of $45 per ticket is much less than one would normally pay to see Louis CK.
    3. Oftentimes, the band/comedian/promoter will set aside a certain amount of tickets to be resold in the secondary market well in excess of face value with $ going back to the band/comedian/promoter. This makes “scalpers” look bad when actually, it’s the band/comedian/promoter who is largely at fault.

  2. Poeple are dumber than I thought. It will be fun to watch him cancel other peoples tickets when brokers mask their locations by a row or two. Uh Oh guess yu did not hink of that one.

  3. Louis C.K. is a brilliant comedian and although the intent of a flat rate for tickets was to give more fans a chance to see him I think it will just end up giving him more fans. I already have my tickets for this December and the Dish Remote Access app on my phone is all set to bring me tonight’s season premier as soon as it airs. It will be fun to see what the entertainment industry does after Louis proved it is possible sell tickets for one rate with no scalpers. Either way I only hope I can get the day off of work from dish to go see him live. Wish me luck!

  4. I think Louis CK’s on the right path, but there are a few loopholes/problems to be filled, which is understandable with a new system.
    He should have had all tickets be will-call only from the beginning. Right now, they’re Print-at-homes that ‘may’ be invalidated and changed to will-call in the future. Why?
    1. What’s to stop someone from selling, at face value, the same ticket dozens of times (like any other print-out ticket). Nothing, of course.
    2. The system actually makes it very unattractive to buy, but it’s actually both good/bad for scalpers. The bad, of course, is the ability of the artist to take the tickets back and sell them to fans, thus cutting you out of the big score. The good – safety net when you can’t sell the ticket. For example, I have an extra ticket I want to get rid of. I can try to sell it – maybe I get caught, maybe I don’t. If I get caught, I get my $45 refunded. Good. That’s what I want anyway. That’s the worst-case scenario. Now, I’m not a scalper, so I’m not relying on this as a salary, but in the old system, if no one buys it, I’m out the money. Here, I can just advertise it over the face value and the artist will swoop in and take it off my hands. Great.
    But what’s really scary is what happens when you try to buy a ticket from someone other than the artist. So I have this extra ticket. I sell it for face value. And then the artist changes it to will-call only and invalidates all print-outs, which he can do, according to his website:
    We reserve the right to change the method of delivery to Will Call (pick-up at the box office) at any time after purchase. If we make this change the ticket(s) may be picked up within 2 hours of the show’s start time and a photo ID and the charge card used for the purchase will be required to claim the ticket.
    What this means is, you could buy a normal, unscalped ticket, perhaps from a family member or friend who can’t go, or given to you as a present, and at any time, that ticket will be useless and the original buyer will have to go to the window and get it. So, if I buy tickets as a present for my brother in California, I might have to fly there to give them to him? By having Print-at-home as an option, but a revocable one, it will lead to these kinds of problems.
    Also, at what point will he intervene with the antiscalping, invalidation measures? Because if he does it one second after the purchase is made, he will actually be rewarding the scalper and punishing the fool willing to buy it from him. Stubhub, despite earlier reports, is currently listing tickets for many of the shows. Not many tickets, but they’re there. If I buy it from their site, the scalper gets my money. Then Louis invalidates it, which gives THE SCALPER the money back…and what about me? I have to hope stubhub reimburses me my money. Why stubhub is allowing them on there is beyond me, since they’re the clear losers in this deal, almost guaranteed to hold the bag if/when Louis cancels the tickets.
    Which gets to the big question. How? How will he get the info? From stubhub, who will lose out, on the sale and the possibility reimbursement? From the buyer, who just spent all that money? Or from the scalper, who just received the money and can only gain from a post-resale cancellation? It’s murky at best how this will all play out.
    In the end, I think it’s a great plan. Not as great as simply making it will-call only, although it’s better, but only slightly, than the no advance purchase plan Dylan tried in SF a few years ago. NO scalped tickets, but only people able to wait in line that day could go, which translated to people staying home because they didn’t to risk not getting in or getting bad seats (I’m guessing). I like what Leonard Cohen is doing. I bought tickets for his tour in NY/Brooklyn. They’re at will-call. I need ID and the CC to pick them up. If I’m a scalper (I’m not) I’ll have to do it outside in the middle of December, not from a computer a thousand miles away (which is one of Louis’ big gripes).
    What if there were a penalty for scalping? Like, only half the ticket price reimbursed? And not just on that ticket, but every ticket on that credit card or name. 1. Scalper A, Joe Douchebag, buys the maximum number for each show.
    2. Louis catches him (perhaps pretending to be a buyer, perhaps contacting stubhub directly and asking for the details…)
    3. Louis cancels ALL of Joe’s tickets, for every show, 50 cents for every dollar lost.
    Result –
    Scalper is really hurt, not just getting back to even but actually losing a considerable amount of money
    The fans suddenly have tickets available to buy (and oftentimes, really good ones since scalpers always seem to have the best seats)
    Louis makes even more money.
    Can you imagine who sweet that’d be?
    End of rant.


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