The Battle Against Ticket Brokers Inflating Prices Has Been Waged For Over A Century

I re-discovered an interesting story I had nearly forgotten about.

You may be grateful when you go around with posters for your event and businesses agree to display them for free. At one time in NYC, Broadway theaters would give merchants tickets in exchange for displaying posters. That practice contributed to a precursor of the famous TKTS booth in Times Square where one can purchase discounted tickets.

Apparently in 1894 tobacconist Joseph Leblang started taking tickets he got, as well as those he collected from other shopkeepers, and sold them at a steeply discounted rate.  While the shows may have initially been upset by him re-selling tickets he got for free, he was selling so much that the theaters began to send their surplus to him.

Today it’s known as The Broadway League, but in 1905 it was called the Producing Managers’ Association and Leblang’s relationship with them rotated between adoration and contempt. Most Broadway producers were personal friends of Leblang, but loathed his business model, which they charged lessened the value of their product. They made a number of attempts to run Leblang out of the business, but as Leblang went on to save a number of Broadway shows from closure he became an integral part of the Broadway show landscape.

Interestingly, both Leblang and the Producing Managers’ Association disliked ticket brokers because they contributed to ticket speculation which alienated audiences. It just goes to show how long the effort to stop ticket brokers from reselling tickets at sky high prices has been going on. Leblang was just beginning to see success with a plan to limit their impact when he died.

As Ken Davenport wrote in The Producer’s Perspective,

Joe took something that was handed to him, and turned it into a business. At the same time, he revolutionized an industry.

The irony is that a zillion other shop owners were given those free tickets. They all could have done the same thing. They all could have made that money . . . and more importantly . . . made that significant impact.

Opportunities are out there. You just have to keep your eyes open, and then act on them.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University. Among the things I am proud to claim are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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7 thoughts on “The Battle Against Ticket Brokers Inflating Prices Has Been Waged For Over A Century

  1. Great story! Have you ever seen the article in a times magazine from 1964 “The Icemen Meltheth”? Highly recommended! Deals with brokers, the black market and the role of box office workers in this …

    • Yep, I found it. I don’t know whether to be astounded by the just how many people associated with the productions were corrupt or the news that people paid as much as $100 for a $9.50 ticket.

      Both in regard to $9.50 for a ticket and the fact that they were only being scalped for about 10 times the face value.

  2. Sorry, must have forgotten to click on notification … I would have sent you the PDF from The Times 😉 Sometimes one gets the impression that time stands still ..

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