Standing at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today said cyber scalpers are using bots to scoop up thousands of popular concert tickets, to resell on other websites at outrageous prices. Schumer said the recent incident involving cyber scalpers using online computer programs, called “bots,” to purchase thousands of tickets for the historic Paul McCartney concert, left many McCartney fans in Buffalo and Upstate New York ticket-less. Schumer therefore announced he is introducing legislation to crack down on the use of bots, which would help fix the broken system of ticket purchasing. 

“Hackers and other bad actors are taking advantage of fans and we need to put a stop to it. These bots have gotten completely out of control and are now threatening the entire live music industry as well as the ability of fans to purchase tickets at a fair price. That is why I am introducing legislation that would crack down on online hackers and scalpers that use bots to purchase thousands of tickets in a matter of seconds, and then sell them at overly inflated and ridiculous prices to consumers. By eliminating bots and slapping hackers with a hefty fine, we can better ensure those who want to attend shows like Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones in the future will not have to pay outrageous, unfair prices,” said Schumer. “I hope that my colleagues in Congress will hear the ‘Things We Said Today’ and pass this legislation, because we need to ‘Get Back’ to serving the concertgoers who deserve equal access to these tickets.”

Schumer explained that “bots” are sophisticated computer programs often used by nefarious scalpers and brokers that plague the online sale of concert tickets. According to a 2013 New York Times report, while bots were once merely a nuisance to the live music industry, they have now become arguably its most reviled foe, as they are able to snatch up popular tickets within a matter of seconds, leaving fans with no choice but to buy tickets through derivative sites at much higher prices. Schumer said this practice leaves frustrated fans ticket-less and drives a resultant secondary ticket sale market, where tickets are sold at astronomical prices that most fans cannot afford. Schumer noted that First Niagara Center and others have taken steps to ensure that bots have as little opportunity as possible to buy up tickets, including putting buyers in a “waiting room” and requiring human identification throughout the buying process. However, sophisticated hackers continue to adapt and cause problems for the ticketing industry.

Scalper Bots Presser

Photo Courtesy of WBFO

Schumer said this scenario played out most recently in August in Western New York, when Paul McCartney fans looking to purchase tickets for his October 22 show at the First Niagara Center were unable to do so because all of the tickets were sold out within minutes. In a Buffalo News report from August 31, it was confirmed the culprit was, once again, the use of bots to purchase all of the tickets and then sell them on secondary websites. Now, fans are reporting tickets being sold on secondary websites at prices up to $8,000. Bots also bought up tickets in 11 minutes for the Smashing Pumpkins at the Riviera Theatre this past June; it took bots 17 minutes to buy up the tickets for a Disturbed show coming to Rapids Theatre in April. Schumer said there is no fair way for a fan to purchase a ticket online if they have to compete with bots that are capable of auto-dialing and purchasing tickets in the matter of seconds, jamming up the online ticketing system, and thereby leaving an unfair playing field for fans looking to purchase seats to an event or concert at the face value price.

As a result, Schumer is introducing legislation that would prohibit the unfair and deceptive act of using software, including bots, for the purposes of circumventing measures used by online ticket sellers to ensure concertgoers are given a fair chance to buy tickets. Schumer said this legislation would help ensure consumers are given equitable access to tickets for events in the future and are not precluded from purchasing tickets at a fair price. Schumer said this legislation would also make selling any ticket after knowingly obtaining it through the use of bots punishable with a fine of $1,000 for each ticket sale. Schumer is pushing his colleagues in the Senate to pass a bipartisan House of Representatives bill, called the Better On-line Ticket Sales Act of 2014, or the BOTS Act, in order to increase fairness for consumers in the ticket-purchasing industry.

Schumer was joined by ​David Taylor of Empire State Concerts, and independent promoter in the Buffalo area, Tod Knizuk of the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, which works to create greater access to the arts for the public, and Donny Kutzbach of Funtime Presents. 

“Online bots are plaguing the concert and entertainment industry to such a degree that in some cases up to 40 percent of all available tickets for an event are going to ticket scalpers and secondary ticketing outlets like StubHub,” said David Taylor of Empire State Concerts, an independent promoter. “The bot problem exists not only in the large arenas, but also in the theater and club industry as well. Consumers are forced to pay exorbitant prices that are many times more than the face value of a ticket just to attend a concert to see a favorite artist. If legislation is not introduced to regulate, or stop the bot call centers they will continue to take advantage of consumers in New York and treat the entertainment industry in the state like an open vault. I thank Senator Schumer for taking on this cause to ensure that fans don’t have to pay ridiculous prices to see their favorite bands here in Buffalo.”

“We know that access to the arts is good for communities, in terms of cultural and economic development,” said Tod Kniazuk, Executive Director of the Arts Services Initiaive of Western New York. “That’s why ASI strives to make the arts more accessible for all, and we thank Senator Schumerfor his work to ensure that hackers and bots won’t deprive Western New Yorkers of once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences, like seeing Paul McCartnet, right here in Buffalo.”

“The use of ‘bots’ by third party ticket sellers hurts essentially everyone involved in the live music economy. The artists and show promoter/producers who equally have the most at risk are having control taken away from us on our own events. It also means someone else – not in any way involved in the work of putting together and presenting these events – is benefiting financially. It in turn drives up the price for fans. It’s not good for anyone except those using this software,” said Donny Kutzbach of Funtime Presents/Town Ballroom. “We are glad to see Senator Schumer taking a stand on this issue and would like to see legislation to stop this practice that is unfair to the consumer and those artists and businesses trying to present great music and art at fair prices.”

Companies like First Niagara Center and Ticketmaster, whose parent company is Live Nation Entertainment, have led the charge against the bots used by online hackers and scalpers in an attempt to improve the ticket-buying experience for customers and guarantee increased transparency for fans. Schumer explained that many ticket reselling companies are hurt by bots, as frustrated consumers are often directed to their websites to purchase tickets from the online scalpers at overly inflated prices. In fact, in a 2012 post by Ticketmaster, the company stated that bots “hammer our system and website, they substantially increase our technology costs, they anger our customers and they keep us from building a direct relationship with fans.” Therefore, Schumer said his legislation would help crack down on this practice, which hurts both concertgoers and ticket companies, and he will be pushing his colleagues in Congress to pass this legislation without delay.