Email reveals how ticket brokers can get tickets before fans

Last October, a little over a week before Eric  Church’s upcoming Double Down Tour stop at Staples Center in Los Angeles went on sale to the public, secondary ticketing firm DTI and similar ticket brokers received an email to notify them of a chance to buy  Eric Church tickets for resale. He was asking for minimum orders of 60 seats at $137 each. This was the same price that would be offered to fans.

Eric Church Los Angeles tickets

Jason Lai, Vice President of partnerships at DTI Management,  sent out the following in an in the email.

Exclusively for active DTI members, I have a small window to help you acquire Eric Church.

Lai cautioned that due to the fact that it is Eric Church, there were no guarantees of the request being fulfilled. However, Lai knew that Eric Church would have a hard time canceling the tickets for his Los Angeles shows. This is because they were part of Staples Center’s Premier section. The  Premier section is a collection of 2,500 seats along the upper perimeter of the lower bowl. It is first offered for purchase by Staples owner AEG to individuals who have already paid as much as $18,000 per seat for tickets to the four sports teams that play at the arena. The Staples Center’Premier seat program’ is similar to season-ticket platforms offered at nearly every other arena and amphitheater in the United States.

Fielding Logan, who heads touring for Q Prime South released the following statement:

Given that Eric Church works so hard to make sure that great seats go to real fans at face value, it’s disconcerting and incredibly frustrating to hear that venues may directly distribute large numbers of tickets to huge resellers. We’ve always said resellers like DTI have more experience, expertise and resources than real fans, and this is just another example of that.

He later added that he was “disappointed but not surprised” by DTI’s early access to tickets.

Other artists

Eric Church isn’t the only one to have his concert tickets offered to member brokers of DTI.  DTI has also received face-value tickets before public sales to shows by artists like Pink, Ariana Grande, and Elton John and others after Premier seat owners had not bought them.

The ticket sale process

Before the tickets, were offered to DTI, the investors who funded the Staples Center deal passed on the opportunity to purchase the tickets.  If DTI’s brokers also passed, then the seats would then go on sale to the public.

AEG executives state that the promoter sets the ticket prices in the Premier section. Premium seating programs like its own are an industry standard. However, DTI’s deal with Staples offers a new window into how professional resellers are getting access to tickets before the public, often without the artist’s knowledge.

About DTI

DTI is a technology company created by CEO Curtis Cheng.  The company works with brokers to pool money and take large positions in inventory for both concerts and sports teams.

Cheng confirmed that DTI holds around 200 Premier seats at a value of $2 million. This is part of a five-year deal he negotiated in 2016 with Staples Center’s premium-seating department.  However, he believes other brokers have bigger holdings than he does. While the Premier seats cover sports, concerts are treated like an add-on option. Seat holders are granted a first right of refusal to buy tickets.

After LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, Curtis Cheng gained interest in the Premier section. He saw the potential to make money on Lakers tickets. Cheng said he struck a deal with Staples Center after Kobe Bryant retired in 2016.  Cheng made an early bet that James would sign with the Lakers.

The risk involved for ticket brokers

While Cheng doesn’t recall how many tickets on Eric Church’s Double Down Tour were purchased and resold by DTI, he says he didn’t think there was a big windfall for his brokers. Seats in the same sections for which DTI brokers paid $137 per ticket are selling for half that price on Staples Center’s site.

It’s only getting tougher to make money reselling.  DTI and several other firms disrupting the ticket broker business are facing an increasingly competitive market. It requires brokers to spend millions to buy up ticketing rights from teams. Sports executives like these agreements because they guarantee money upfront and push risk onto brokers. The brokers usually only profit if the team reaches the playoffs.

It is also easy to rack up losses. Curtis Cheng states that he probably won’t renew his Staples Center ticket deal when it expires in 2020. Instead, he plans to shift his company into technology that looks at resale opportunities in all sectors. In 2016, Cheng raised $75 million from CVC Growth Fund to build a scalable resale and listing platform. He hopes that it will diversify DTI beyond sports ticketing, which is overheating.

He made the following statement in regards to it:

You’re better off making a bet on a team in Vegas. The odds are stronger and there’s a lot less to lose.

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