Reining in the ticket resale industry is long overdue


WHENEVER the big acts of music put their tickets on sale and they instantly sell out, people will be tempted to use the ticket resale market.

This is an industry that has been slowly growing and growing, with large scale revenues, thousands or perhaps millions of tickets for sale to a variety of events, and is seemingly forever earning validation through its association with promoters, music magazines, websites, venues, professional sports teams and organisations, and even face value vendors. After all, re-seller GetMeIn is owned by Ticketmaster, while viagogo and Stub Hub have associations with Premier League teams – no mean feat given the Premier League banned ticket resale in 1994.

Yet the excess values on these sites have long been problematic. This issue raised its head again this morning when buzz band Royal Blood had only their second ever full UK headline tour go on sale. Priced at £15, tickets sold out in seconds, and within a quarter of an hour begun appearing on the ticket resale market in large quantities.

For the most recent in a line of galling personal examples, I hit refresh at 9am on the dot on SeeTickets to find the whole ticket allocation had been sold for Royal Blood’s show at the O2 Academy in Oxford in November. Then, within minutes, tickets for that very show – all of which had a £15 face value before booking and postage fees – were being re-sold for £80. This is even before the astronomical booking fees, shipping costs and VAT fees added on top of the price that these sites normally charge to get their astonishing and unnecessarily large cut. At the time of writing, 28 tickets for the band’s Oxford show that could have gone to legitimate Royal Blood fans or curious minds are up for sale on viagogo for repulsive exaggeration of the face value.

Previously, it has been possible to count hundreds and even thousands of event tickets on ticket resale websites, and almost all of them are at punishingly large values. But this is nothing new. An excellent Channel 4 documentary on the matter in 2012 found wide systemic manipulation of the market by promoters and ticket resale agencies that essentially meant they were charging what they wanted. Yet in the two and a half years since, the problem remains an infuriating bone of contention amongst the music-going community.

The Royal Blood farce continues to demonstrate the issue. One peek on Twitter in the wake of the 9am ticket sale revealed dozens and dozens of fans irritated that tried and missed out on the tickets, yet a simultaneous peek of the ticket resale sites showed dozens of tickets that could have gone to these people but will not unless they pay outlandish premiums.

Clearly, something must be done and some bands have tried efforts to combat these. Charity gigs are the obvious starting point as they are sold with the caveat of no re-sale being allowed, but if people cannot go, they really are screwed, so that’s not going to work.

One thing that has been proposed is a re-sale limit, be it to 10% of face value as has been mooted, but this has been blocked by the government who have confusingly argued the industry has merits despite its obvious status an irritation magnet for fans.

Suggested in a discussion after the Royal Blood debacle is that fans who buy and don’t want to go should either be allowed to cancel their order with their face value distributor or those distributors should have a dedicated face value ticket resale section. Certainly, they already have the infrastructure in place, and it would finally stop Ticketmaster’s gross conflict of interest with regards to its ownership of the odious GetMeIn re-seller.

Music fans clearly want tighter regulation of the industry, because it is clear that this industry is taking advantage of them and is even crashing a system, pricing legitimate fans out and even making getting face value tickets a lottery. But with nothing coming, it feels like this is a painful side of music going that is going to be continually tolerated, and it sucks that it remains this way.

Either that or more people will begin to use actual face value sellers such as Scarlet Mist or @Twickets, which actually feel like a genuine face-to-face ticket resale site and not a swap shop with the odious touts. Hopefully a tighter, more aware version of these sites that can also filter out the bogus scammers and the touts will make life easier for fans.

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