Michael Violi is a Self Employed Ticket Broker. You can find him on the web at inthecheapseats.org and on Twitter at @theticketwizard.

When I was growing up I never thought to myself, “One day I will be a ticket broker.” Heck, I didn’t even know what a ticket broker was, but I did know what a ticket (street) scalper was and I did not want to do that for a living. With the advent of the internet the whole world of the secondary ticket market was turned upside down. Now, if you needed tickets to a sold out event, then you did not have to buy them from a street scalper. If you had tickets for an event that you could not attend, then you could now sell them on this amazing new site called eBay.

That is where my ticket broker “career” began. On eBay. While I was in college, at Texas A&M (Gig EM!), I wanted really good seats for a TOOL concert. On the floor, in the pit. Ticketmaster had sold out of those seats, so I searched the internet and found that they were selling tickets on eBay for about $75 each. “Great”, I thought! I bought a pair and was fired up for the show. For years I always wondered how this person obtained these tickets and how easily he/she just profited from this transaction, for he probably made about $100 in ten minutes of work.

At Texas A&M I was an ECON major, a sports nut, and gambling freak, so this ticket broker thing just about summed up every interest I had. My career did not begin at Texas A&M, though, but in New Jersey at Seton Hall University. I was in Grad School and I realized I was about 12 months away from having to find a real job. All throughout college I tried to get internships with various sports teams and I even worked for ABC Sports for a few years, but nothing fit. My ultimate career goal in life was to have my own businees but not have the type of business in which I had to work 100 hours a week.

My first ticket purchase (for resell) was four tickets to a show for the Eagles in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I had no idea why I picked this event to resell, and I had no idea what I was doing. I set up my first sale as an auction on eBay and lost about $25 on the first pair of tickets. Thinking this business was for the birds I put up the remaining pair of seats a few weeks later and ended up making about $50. Hmmm….maybe there was something to this. Next, I bought some tickets tickets for U2 in Detroit, thinking that any seats anywhere would make money because it was U2! I bought about 16 tickets at $90/each and had to sell them for $50! Ugh. I never thought I could lose money on a U2 concert, but that day I learned how important market size, day of the week, number of shows, supply of tickets, etc. were to the true market value of an event. After losing about $700 I was crushed and figured I would never make any real money selling tickets, so I had to start thinking about finding a 9-5 job.

The last tickets I had to sell were Dave Chappelle in NYC. I said to myself, “get rid of these and start acting like an adult and find a real job.” Low and behold these tickets were hot, I made some good money, and I was hooked! I started buying and selling everything in site. All I had was $2,500 in my bank account and about a $2,000 limit on my credit card, so I had to find a way to buy tickets and continually sell them before my credit card payment deadline occured, for I was not paying interest, and not lose more than $2,500! Somehow I made this work, and I was literally doing this credit card dance for 2-3 years (with a higher credit limit). There were plenty of times that I bought tickets that were barely worth the paper they were printed on, but that is how I learned the business. Through trial and error. Over time I just made less errors.

When I moved back to Texas after Grad School my parents were absolutely hounding me about getting a full time job. I swear, all I heard from them was “You have to get a job with a 401k and health insurance!” I finally dropped the bomb on them that I was going to use my college degree and MBA to be a ticket broker. I would not be getting any 401K nor would I have any health insurance…they were not pleased to say the least.

So I began the slow grind of making a living from selling tickets on the internet. For years my only purchases were concert tickets, and there is no secret to getting concert tickets even though many people think that all ticket brokers have some kind of inside connection. To get good concert ticket you would have to figure out the event onsale time, and ideally the first presale time and buy the tickets the second they went onsale. I became an expert on how to buy tickets online for all sorts of concerts. The only problem with this is that you had to be near a computer at a specific time nearly everyday to buy these tickets, and I did not feel great about competing for tickets with the common fan and then marking them up and selling them to them 10 minutes after the Ticketmaster sale. I felt there had to be a better way to make a living from being a ticket broker and that is when I stumbled upon the world of sports tickets, and oh what a glorious world.

The beauty of sports tickets are many

:

  1. Prices can greatly fluctuate depending on the performance of teams, promotions, opponent, etc, and if you were a sports nut you had a huge advantage in predicting the market over the non sports enthusiast.
  2. Playoffs. The real money is made in the playoffs when a ticket that cost $50 can sell for $500, literally.
  3. Flexibility – You do not have to be at the computer at a certain time to buy the tickets
  4. Availability – Nearly every sports ticket I buy any other person could have bought nearly identical tickets at one time or another, so I never felt like I was “stealing” tickets away from fans. I was just taking on risk, and if you know the market that risk is minimal.

Slowly I started acquiring tickets from various teams through mini plans and season tickets. What I learned is try to make a little money on the regular season and then pray, and I mean pray that the team makes a deep playoff run. After years, and a much larger bank roll, I was able to learn the art of profiting from sports tickets.

At this point in time nearly 100% of my inventory is sports tickets. I have been a broker for about 8 years now and the financial freedom and flexibility it gives me is amazing. The only downside is that it is not a very social job, and you don’t feel you are contributing too much to society, so that is why I also have a part time job and volunteer during the down time. Overall, I can say I am happy with my career choice and plan on being involved with tickets in some sort of capacity the rest of my life.

Update: You can now sell tickets right on SeatGeek! Learn more →