It may well be the hottest ticket on the planet.
Super Bowl 50 is still months away, but coveted passes to the game at Levi’s Stadium are already being advertised for more than $4,000 on ticket sites. And thanks to the strange alchemy of the industry’s secondary marketplace, you’re not even buying an actual ticket but rather the promise of a ticket on game day. Good luck.
It turns out Super Bowl tickets are just the tip of a very mysterious iceberg.
“We tell people ticketing is one of the most misunderstood businesses out there,” said Jared Smith, president of Ticketmaster North America and the NFL’s official ticket partner. “Almost everyone is exposed to the industry at some point, but most have no idea how it all works.”
In an effort to shine a little light on this esoteric business, we offer Fifty Things About Tickets Most People Don’t Know:
1. The break-even point for most events is when 60 to 65 percent of tickets are sold.
2. U2 tickets for $1,200 on StubHub? That’s often not what people are buying them for but what sellers are asking (and often won’t get).
3. While the Super Bowl may be one of the world’s biggest events, it still issues a paper ticket even as the rest of the business is going electronic.
4. The deadline for Super Bowl 50’s random ticket drawing was June 1.
5. At the Super Bowl in Arizona, the average price of a ticket hovered around $11,000 on game day, an anomaly.
6. Ticket search engine TiqIQ says if you take out last January’s game, the previous five Super Bowls saw so-called “get-in,” or cheapest, prices drop 31.89 percent on average from conference championship to Super Bowl Sunday.
7. TiqIQ’s Jesse Lawrence called Super Bowl 49 “the ticket market’s Black Swan” because prices climbed right up to game day, instead of dropping as they often do.
8. Millennials represent one-third of all customers using Ticketmaster to buy tickets.
9. Tickets are increasingly about data mining: Buy a ticket and teams use your information to upsell you and foster an ongoing relationship.
10. Promoters say people often buy tickets based on their “bucket list,” including things like motor races at Daytona and Talledega.
11. When the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season tickets went digital, angry fans launched a Facebook campaign: “Bring Back the Paper Ticket.”
12. Sometimes, you need to pay for the privilege of buying a ticket: For this year’s Stanley Cup, Blackhawk fans offered $100 just to access a password to a presale that would let them get first dibs.
13. NFL teams employ hundreds of sales assistants who work the phones trying to sell potential ticket-buyers on seats or even luxury skyboxes.
14. Brokers say Super Bowl ticket prices on the secondary market historically go down about 40 percent between the season’s beginning and Super Bowl weekend.
15. The NFL says its ticket security features “include holograms, custom laser cutouts, thermachromic ink and a specially made gloss varnish.”
16. Smith says “bad guys” use technology to virtually game the online buying sites that’s “built specifically for cutting in line and buying tickets before fans can buy them.”
17. Ticketing is a $5 billion to $6 billion-a-year industry and Smith says “the vast majority of that money is not from Joe Fan reselling on StubHub; it’s pros by and large who bought those tickets with the express purpose of using sophisticated algorithms to resell them.”
18. Tickets for concerts and theater events generally sell first from the front and back rows, says Goldstar’s McCarthy.
19. But he adds “often the best values are in what we in the business call ‘the mushy middle.’”
20. A key battle for the future of ticketing is unfolding in a San Francisco courtroom: StubHub is suing the Golden State Warriors and Ticketmaster, alleging the team unfairly required fans who wanted to sell their tickets to use only Ticketmaster’s exchange.
21. Catholic parishes around New York had to hold drawings to dole out allotted tickets to see Pope Francis at Madison Square Garden.
22. Strongsville, Ohio, population 44,730, is where the NFL’s random-drawing ticket sweepstakes take place.
23. The NFL will not say how many actual tickets will be available for Super Bowl 50 until early next year.
24. Ticketmaster’s Super Bowl staffing goes from a half-dozen people a year before the game to several hundred just before the event.
25. The worst month for ticket sales is typically July, while December is the best.
26. Alex Burkhart of digital-ticket exchange Tixers says ushers at sporting events checking tickets are often the same ones for several teams because they make a living by rotating among several teams.
27. Tickets are the tip of an economic iceberg: A study by Arizona State University found that the last Super Bowl had a $720 million impact on the state.
28. For the last Super Bowl, 122,000 visitors stayed an average of four nights.
29. Of those visitors, 63,000 had tickets while 59,000 did not.
30. A ticket is no longer simply a pass to get into an event — with the increasing use of smartphone-ticketing, a team or event sponsor can now essentially track the user throughout the event, using iBeacons and location-based technology to provide services like parking or sell them food and merchandise.
31. Ticketmaster’s first-ever Internet ticket sale occurred in 1996 for the Seattle Mariners.
32. As of Sept. 22, there were 68 Super Bowl 50 tickets being advertised on TiqIQ, ranging from $3,979 to $5,490.
33. Some estimates say as many as 70 million tickets for sporting events in the United States go unused each year.
34. Ticketmaster says about two-thirds of millennials buy their live-event tickets on their smartphones and are 31 percent more likely to do so than their non-millennial counterparts.
35. The word ticket comes from etiquette, or “note attached to something indicating its contents,” from Middle French dialect.
36. Approximately 25 percent of ticket websites’ volume each year, says Tixers, comes during holiday season.
37. Shade is often a key factor, says McCarthy: “I know people who buy tickets based entirely on where the shade is during certain games.”
38. Tickets are changing more hands than ever because of technology, which means more people trying to take small margins on the upside.
39. Tickets to musical and theatrical events make up 60 percent of ticket discounter Goldstar’s sales.
40. Search for tickets to a smash Broadway show and you may end up at a fake site, set up by so-called “black hat” fraudsters to look like the venue’s website.
41. Huge ticket-price markups are the exception, not the rule, says Arizona State University economics professor Stephen Happel: “The reality is you can still get tickets for most events at face value.”
42. The NFL will give the host San Francisco 49ers 5 percent of the Super Bowl tickets to sell to their fans.
43. Other nonparticipating teams will get 1.2 percent each.
44. Fans often linger outside Super Bowl games to buy used tickets as souvenirs.
45. More than 450 million ticket transactions were processed on the Ticketmaster platform in 2014.
46. Sixty percent of total traffic to Ticketmaster’s site is through a mobile device.
47. The first use of the word ticket came in 1529.
48. Some teams, including the Warriors, charge a nonrefundable fee to get on their season ticket waiting list.
49. Ticketmaster says 75 percent of concert attendees first learned about the event through a digital device, such as a smartphone.
50. Eighty percent of people are using a mobile device at a live event.