Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Peter Donnelly




Given the long-standing sociological tradition of studying marginal or fringe subcultures, I am surprised that sociologists have not investigated the social life world of ticket scalpers. Until this research, no sociologist has attempted to ascertain an understanding of what ticket scalpers actually do in the "here and now" of everyday life. Therefore, given the lack of attention directed toward ticket scalpers or ticket scalping, this study is intended to provide the sociological discourse with some preliminary insights into the lived experience of ticket scalpers.

This research is theoretically grounded in the symbolic interactionist tradition and the cultural studies movement. Blending the central tenets of Blumerian interactionism (Blumer, 1969) with the critical approach of cultural studies, this thesis addresses the social conceptions of ticket scalping and ticket scalpers. Using ethnographic data collection methods including interviewing, participant observation, field observation, and content analysis, the research spanned a twelve-month period. Centrally, the field research efforts were orchestrated around ticket scalpers and their clientele while other groups such as the police, venue and league security, and members of corporations including Ticketmaster and promotional tour companies were also interviewed to provide insight and opinion on the social activity of ticket scalping.

Several principal questions are debated through the presentation of the data that seek to define, examine, and challenge the social conceptions of ticket scalping. Where does the process come from, and how does it continue to exist? How does the ticket scalping process actually occur as an emergent economic transaction? What role do agents of social control play in the process, and who are these agents? How different or similar are ticket scalpers from the so-called "legitimate" institutions of ticket distribution? This thesis is not intended to provide all the answers to these questions, rather it introduces sociologists to the nature of the ticket scalping process around these central debates.

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Sociology Commons