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Motherboard

Scalpers Are Making a Killing on Neil deGrasse Tyson's Sold-Out Speaking Tour

Somehow, this feels big.

by Jason Koebler
Aug 7 2014, 8:55pm

Image: NASA

The hottest ticket scalpers are hawking on StubHub right now is not for a boy band or a rap star or a nostalgic rock act who hasn't toured in a while. The ticket everyone wants won't leave your ears ringing. Instead, it'll grant you admission to watch an astrophysicist talk about the Universe for a couple hours.

I'm talking, of course, about Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of Cosmos and the internet's favorite scientist by a long shot (at least, if you take Bill Nye out of the equation), who is about to crisscross the country for a series of "captivating, entertaining, one of a kind conversations about our universe." In other words, he's going on a speaking tour.

When you consider the fact that he's a well known TV personality and has 2.2 million Twitter followers, it doesn't sound so absurd. But then, think again: This is a scientist lecturing about science. You can track down hundreds of these things in a two second YouTube search.

He's not giving lectures at small nightclubs or in university libraries. He's talking in honest-to-goodness concert venues that hold several thousand people. 

The Riverside Theatre, where he'll lecture in Milwaukee, is sponsored by Pabst. The So You Think You Can Dance tour, Ryan Adams, Carlos Santana, ZZ Top, Jerry Seinfeld, and Spoon are going through the same theatre in the next month or two. This is the big leagues, as far as mid-sized concert venues go.

The cheapest tickets on StubHub right now to see him at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle is $225 a pop. You can see Jack freakin' White there in two weeks for less than half that.

At times, it's easy to be a bit doom and gloom about the direction the country is heading when it comes to science, when politicians are actively denying climate change and decisions about basic human processes like pregnancy are so wholly misunderstood. But when the world's most famous scientist is outselling the world's current favorite rock star, well, that's something.

As someone who spent some time scalping tickets back in my college days, I can say with some confidence that the main thing pushing up the prices of Tyson tickets on the secondary market is the fact that scalpers didn't have any idea they should buy them, perhaps because he's a scientist, not someone currently blowing up pop radio or racking up millions of views on YouTube. That's why you'll find hundreds of tickets for Jack White on StubHub, but only a handful for Tyson.

But still: Tyson isn't even a performer, not in the traditional sense. He's just going to be talking—maybe he'll bring a video and some PowerPoint presentations. And people are desperate to see it.

Somehow, this feels big. It's not just Seattle. Shows have been added due to popular demand in Portland, in Milwaukee, in Walla Walla, Washington, for goodness sakes. His tickets have sold well in Detroit, in Chicago, in Boston, in Los Angeles, in Bozeman, Montana.

When you can convince thousands of people to listen to you talk about astrophysics, you're doing something right. And when the people demand more, when they split with a couple hundred bucks just to watch you do it, well, that just bodes well for everyone.