One of my earliest memories is going to football (Highbury) on a Saturday afternoon and almost the minute you came out of the tube station dodgy looking blokes would approach my Dad and older brother and whisper something in their ears. I wondered whether they had a special secret about that day’s opposition, or perhaps knew that Jimmy Rimmer had agreed to let in a goal on purpose in the final minute and would we like to place a bet armed with such knowledge.
Turns out they were selling tickets, scalping, looking to cash in on tickets to the reserved seating areas at the ground and offering tickets at a premium to whomever didn’t mind paying over the odds and take the risk of getting caught. I never saw anyone get caught.
A few years later and I would have the same experience each time I attended a concert that was sold out, the ambitious would be flogging fistfuls of tickets a 1/4 mile from the venue and more would appear from the shadows as you got closer. Their demands for currency only beginning to flag once the support act had hit the stage and desperation not creeping in until the headliners had been just about ready to plug in their guitars.
I’ve never paid over the odds for a ticket to a concert or to a football match, I’ve purchased tickets only when I knew someone wasn’t getting rich at the expense of the original ticket seller. That practice is now much larger than a cottage industry with major festivals and tours selling out faster than ever and who knows what percentage of tickets ending up with brokers. A much more glamourous name than they merit. Over the last decade the practice has extended to merchandise, especially limited edition records or music related items. Chuck a label on something saying ‘limited edition number 387 of 1,000′ and you suddenly find a whole new audience of people purchasing solely for profit.
Capitalism or supply and demand I suppose will be the counter argument, but the person who ends up paying over the odds for the experience or the goods is almost always a genuine fan of the item or performance in question. Greed jumps in and totally transforms a market and it’s not a good thing.
Another such example happened this week and it lands on my desk because it concerns Strummerville (who did nothing wrong I must stress) and Shepard Fairey (who again did nothing wrong). The item in question is Fairey’s take on Kate Simon’s famous photo of Joe Strummer pictured above which went on sale yesterday with proceeds benefiting Strummerville. Nothing wrong with that at all of course, a genuine collector’s piece and an audience who want to own it whilst helping the foundation at the same time. The original price for the signed and numbered print was a fairly reasonable $65 (I think, I’m not an art collector) and a limited edition of 450 seemed a wise level to ensure no overstocks kicking around in a few months.
Naturally they all sold out on the same day they went on sale and you know what’s coming next I assume? Within six (6) hours some prints had made their way to ebay with the first auction having closed just before 1am (PST) with the piece selling for $199.00. The original buyer making a tidy profit of $134 in just a few hours and I’m pretty sure he won’t share his margin with Strummerville. Moreover they’re promising to ship it next week, selling something they haven’t even received yet.
As I write there are three more already on ebay auctions shipping from Islip NY, some chap in Alabama and again Islip NY (yes he bought two) respectively. The point of my complaint isn’t feeling I can stop it any more than I can slow down the mentality of greed on ebay. For those who missed the original chance to purchase something they see such auctions as some sort of late tax, as opposed to lining the pockets of touts. I suppose more than that I think it’s a pity that Stummerville didn’t manage to sell the initial 75% and then auction the rest over the coming months, raising more funds and kicking the middleman right in the nuts.
Or could perhaps ebay set up a rule that items that were recently sold on behalf of fundraising for a nonprofit organisation can not be added to public auction for at least 365 days? Of course they could set up such a rule but they won’t enforce it because that takes people to do so, who cost money, which impacts their profit. Greed…it ain’t going anywhere.
On the other hand if you want to flog some old vinyl or t-shirts and support Strummerville or your favourite charity you can do so on ebay, here’s how if you’re interested.
Back more soon, I promise it won’t be another ebay tale.