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Primary-Market Auctions for Event Tickets: Eliminating the Rents of 'Bob the Broker'?

Listed author(s):
  • Aditya Bhave
  • Eric Budish
Registered author(s):

    Economists have long been puzzled by event-ticket underpricing: underpricing both reduces revenue and encourages socially wasteful rent-seeking by ticket brokers. This paper studies the introduction of auctions into this market by Ticketmaster. We first show theoretically that Ticketmaster’s auction design, a novel variant of position auctions, has attractive efficiency, revenue and no-arbitrage properties. Then, by combining primary-market auction data from Ticketmaster with secondary-market resale value data from eBay, we show that the auctions “worked” in practice: on average, they eliminated the arbitrage profits associated with underpriced tickets. We conclude by discussing why, nevertheless, the auctions have failed to take off. “It is nevertheless true that gangs of hardened ticket speculators exist and carry on their atrocious trade with perfect shamelessness.” —New York Times Editorial (1876).

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23770.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2017
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23770
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    1. Alvin E. Roth, 2009. "What Have We Learned from Market Design?," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 79-112.
    2. Rosen, Sherwin & Rosenfield, Andrew M, 1997. "Ticket Pricing," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 351-376, October.
    3. Benjamin Edelman & Michael Ostrovsky & Michael Schwarz, 2007. "Internet Advertising and the Generalized Second-Price Auction: Selling Billions of Dollars Worth of Keywords," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 242-259, March.
    4. Patrick Bajari & Ali Hortaçsu, 2004. "Economic Insights from Internet Auctions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 457-486, June.
    5. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 2012. "Regulated Prices, Rent Seeking, and Consumer Surplus," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(1), pages 160-186.
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    7. Varian, Hal R., 2007. "Position auctions," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1163-1178, December.
    8. Budish, Eric B. & Takeyama, Lisa N., 2001. "Buy prices in online auctions: irrationality on the internet?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 325-333, September.
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    10. Alvin E. Roth, 2007. "Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 37-58, Summer.
    11. Eric Budish & Peter Cramton & John Shim, 2015. "Editor's Choice The High-Frequency Trading Arms Race: Frequent Batch Auctions as a Market Design Response," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1547-1621.
    12. Paul Klemperer & Jeremy Bulow, 1999. "The Generalized War of Attrition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 175-189, March.
    13. Milgrom,Paul, 2004. "Putting Auction Theory to Work," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521536721, March.
    14. Simon Board & Andrzej Skrzypacz, 2016. "Revenue Management with Forward-Looking Buyers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1046-1087.
    15. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
    16. Pascal COURTY, 2000. "An economic guide to ticket pricing in the entertainment industry," Discussion Papers (REL - Recherches Economiques de Louvain) 2000024, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    17. Pascal Courty, 2003. "Some Economics of Ticket Resale," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(2), pages 85-97, Spring.
    18. Liran Einav & Theresa Kuchler & Jonathan Levin & Neel Sundaresan, 2015. "Assessing Sale Strategies in Online Markets Using Matched Listings," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 215-247, May.
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