Focus on the practices of ticket brokers during the Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus ticketing issue of 2007 and the lessons for the Broadway Theatre market

Ticket buyers who are desperate to get tickets to a sold-out Broadway show at the last minute, or people who don't mind paying two to five times face value for good seats may appreciate ticket brokers, but most of the normal ticket-buying public does not think they are nice at all. Broadway fans often complain about how ticket brokers snap up the best seats before anybody else has a chance and how the brokers' "services" are good for the rich at the expense of everyone else, but these complaints usually fall on deaf ears in the industry, that is often puts profits fist and fans second.

Hannah Montana Concert Ticket Debacle of 2007

Sometimes, though, ticket brokers take a lot of heat for their practices, especially when families and kids are involved. Such as in 2007, when the parents of many disappointed children raised a ruckus in the press after they couldn't get tickets to the Miley Cyrus / Hannah Montana "Best of Both Worlds" concert tour because the brokers had purchased them in bulk and were reselling them for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Even parents who were online at Ticketmaster with credit card in hand as soon as the tickets were released were coming up empty handed as the brokers were hammering Ticketmaster en masse buying up all the tickets.

Suddenly tickets that were originally priced between around $30 - $70 were selling for 10 times that on ticket broker websites, leaving only the richest mommies and daddies able to get their kiddies the coveted Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus "Best of Both Worlds" concert tickets. The press took the story and ran, with headlines like CNN's "Brokers snatch joy from Hannah Montana fans", and from Fox News: "GRRR! 'Hannah Montana' Brokers Breaking Little Girls' Hearts". These are certainly not sentiments that lend ticket brokers the sort of legitimacy that they are seeking nowadays in an effort to jettison the despised image of the shady ticket scalper.

Blame It On The Fan Club

Following the wave of bad publicity, the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) issued a statement of defense, attempting to lay much of the blame on the MileyWorld fan club, which allowed fan club members to get first shot at buying Miley Cyrus / Hannah Montana "Best of Both Worlds" concert tickets through a concert ticket presale. Naturally the NATB neglected to mention that many ticket brokers, apparently inspired by a sudden inexplicable love for tween pop, just so happened to become members of MileyWorld right before the concert presale and were therefore able to buy from this reserved pool of tickets themselves.

Unexpectedly, though, the fan club came under fire from some of its own members during the fallout of the Hannah Montana ticket shortage. One irate mother instigated a class action lawsuit against MileyWorld, claiming that people were led to believe that by purchasing fan club membership, they would be absolutely assured the ability to at least get a crack at "Best of Both Worlds" concert tickets. A Miley Cyrus spokesperson called the lawsuit frivolous and said that "MileyWorld does not guarantee every member a concert ticket," but went on to say that the members did have "far greater access to concert tickets than the general public."

Aftermath and Application to Broadway Ticket Buying

The 2007 Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus situation did prompt some action on the part of the Attorney General offices in some states, but ultimately not much has come of it. Ticket brokers continue to get away with their gouging for other hot ticket events, including big Broadway shows. Brokers and their defenders argue that what the ticket brokers do is fine since they are selling the tickets at their true market value. The problem with this reasoning is that oftentimes the ticket brokers will buy up all or nearly all of an entire section of the theater for a particular performance of a Broadway show, effectively cornering the market on it. If ticket brokers own all the stock, then they are unfairly controlling the market. In the stock market this is seen as a hostile takeover.

Miley Cyrus and her people, however, determined that they weren't going to allow this situation to happen again and risk further damage to her reputation and hurt feelings among her fans. For her 2009 tour, Cyrus decided to go with all paperless ticketing for the entire tour. Instead of using tickets at the venue, concert attendees will produce the credit card that the "tickets" were purchased with and a valid photo ID, and all members of a group have to be present and enter the venue together. Furthermore, there is a limit of four tickets per household. Cyrus even got Ticketmaster to agree to not allow brokers to sell her concert tickets on TicketsNow, Ticketmaster's own "secondary market" seller. If more popular artists follow Miley Cyrus's lead, it could result in a terrible blow to the ticket brokering industry. But those ticket brokers certainly won't be getting any sympathy from the kids who were unceremoniously shut out of their beloved Hannah Montana concert in 2007.