Why Are Some Tickets (Like Phish Tickets) Non-Transferable?

Most event tickets are transferable.

Transferable tickets mean you can sell your tickets on an online secondary ticket market supplier, or give them away to friends and family.

The overwhelming majority of sports (i.e The New York Yankees), concerts (i.e. Phish), and Broadway (i.e The Lion King) tickets are one-hundred percent transferable.

Concert Stage Before Show
Concert Stage Before Show

There are, however, tickets that are non-transferable.  Non-transferable tickets means you can’t give them away and you can’t sell them.  Only you, and you alone, can use them to attend the event.

Paperless Tickets

In recent years, promoters have started using paperless tickets.  Paperless tickets are non-transferable.  To gain admittance to an event using paperless tickets, you must present photo identification and the credit card used to purchase the tickets.  Or you’re asked to pick the tickets up at will call and prove your identity using the same burden as previously mentioned.

As you might imagine, many concert-goers find paperless tickets clumsy and inconvenient.  In fact, the Consumers League of New Jersey calls them “restricted tickets.”


With paperless tickets you can’t resell them, you can’t give them away, and you can’t donate them to charity.  If you buy extra tickets for friends and family you all have to enter the venue at the same time.

If you buy paperless season tickets to your favorite sports team you can forget about reselling your seats to games you’re unable to attend or selling a few tickets to defer costs.

Real Fans

Why are paperless tickets (which are non-transferable tickets) used if they’re so awkward?

Well, paperless tickets are used to thwart ticket resellers.  Artists and promoters claim that they keep prices low and put tickets into the hands of “real fans.”


Paperless tickets also help primary ticket sellers increase their profits.  The primary ticket seller can charge fees to consumers who want to sell or transfer their non-transferable tickets.

Initially, you may think this makes paperless tickets attractive.  They stop resellers from scooping up tickets and you can still transfer them.  However, there is a catch and it’s an expensive one.  If the primary ticket issuer charges a fee to transfer your tickets they create a “closed-loop system.”

What is a  Closed-Loop System?

“Closed-loop systems” are bad for consumers as they drive up ticket prices.  The main ticket seller will control prices on two markets: the primary and secondary.  If they can do that you can forget about ever getting cheap tickets.

Sure tickets sell for more than face value price on the secondary ticket market but they also sell for far less.  That will not happen in a “closed-loop system.”  The primary ticket seller will charge you coming and going.

If you covet freedom, competitive pricing, and you don’t want to be stuck with tickets you can’t use, then stay as far away from paperless tickets as possible.

Disadvantages Of Non-Transferable Tickets

>>You can’t resell them

>>You can’t give them away

>>You can’t gift them

>>You can’t donate them to charity

>>Must enter the event at the same time as the person who purchased the tickets