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Industry responds following Dispatches secondary ticketing exposé

By | Published on Friday 24 February 2012


It remains to be seen what the long term impact of last night’s ‘Dispatches’ exposé on the secondary ticketing market will be – it may depend on whether the tabloids pick up on the story, and if it gives Sharon Hodgson, the MP who has campaigned on this issue most prolifically, new momentum for her proposals that the law limit any ticket mark ups to 10%.

As previously reported, the Channel 4 documentary show focused on the ticket resale sector last night, after legal efforts by resale site Viagogo to stop the programme being aired failed. The exposé looked in particular at how certain tour promoters are now working with resale services like Viagogo to put large numbers of tickets directly on to the auction sites as soon as tickets go on sale, cutting the numbers available via primary ticketing agents like Ticketmaster. The tour promoters and resale agents then share any mark up on those tickets.

Although not illegal, some argue that by adopting an ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ approach to the boom in ticket touting that occurred after the rise of eBay and ticket-specific auction websites, these promoters are exaserbating the problem, meaning more fans miss out on primary tickets and are forced to pay artificially hiked up prices.

Others object to the secrecy behind the industrial touting that takes place, with most resale sites officially claiming they don’t get directly involved in ticket provision, and that they merely provide a platform that enables fans to sell to other fans, but the Channel 4 programme shows that in some and possibly many cases that’s simply not true. In terms of the resale sites, Viagogo and Seatwave were the focus of the documentary, while Live Nation and SJM in particular were profiled as the promoters which tout their own tickets.

While, as previously reported, both Viagogo and Seatwave issued individual statements defending their business models before the Channel 4 exposé aired, the promoters have put out a statement via their trade body the Concert Promoters Association, which claims that its members were forced to participate in the ticket resale game after it became clear government would not move to limit the boom in online touting, and that they see the use of Viagogo type platforms in this way as a form of legitimate ‘premium primary ticketing’ rather than strictly participating in the ‘secondary sale’ market.

CPA’s statement reads: “[We] warned the Department Of Culture Media And Sport and a committee of MPs that without legislation [against the rise in touting], promoters, artists and managers would, at least in part, operate in the secondary market in order to catch the lost revenue on behalf of the artists and event owners so that this money would at least stay in the industry. If promoters put tickets into the secondary market then the result is that prices are brought down whilst also ensuring that some of the tickets available in the secondary are actually genuine ones”.

The trade body continues: “In this respect the secondary market is effectively being used as a premium-price primary market for those fans who wish to use it for convenience. We are sure that those fans who use the secondary market for convenience and are prepared to pay a premium would be happier that the premium went to the artist via the promoter rather than went to a tout”.

But, judging by the response to the ‘Dispatches’ programme on Twitter and the Channel 4 website last night fans are not very happy at all about the promoters using the secondary ticketing platforms in this way, with many sending messages to the bands whose tours the show focused on – Take That in particular – urging them to act on this issue, or find new promoters. Realistically, and assuming there isn’t any real will in government to act on touting, it’s only action by artists to distance themselves from the resale phenomenon, possibly for PR reasons, that is going to have any tangible impact on the practice.

Though those in the industry who have retained an anti stance to secondary ticketing throughout, and who resisted the temptation to join the party, may also be motivated to become more vocal on this issue once again. A few of those people issued statements this morning, as follows.

Richard Marks, founder of the recently relaunched ‘ethical ticket resale site’ Scarlet Mist: “What really sticks in our throat is the connivance of the promoters with the scalpers and touts. This is a rotten industry, and one which cries out to be regulated and throttled back. We urge Parliament to support Sharon Hodgson’s proposals to stop this cynical deception”.

A spokesman for the Association Of Independent Festivals: “The ‘Dispatches’ exposé on secondary ticketing sites has revealed that the majority of tickets on these sites are purchased and sold by [professional] touts and in-house buyers. AIF launched the Ticket Trust in summer 2011 in partnership with Sandbag as a direct response to these immoral operations. The Ticket Trust is a genuine fan-to-fan ticket exchange, which offers a safe and secure platform for the resale of unwanted tickets at face value. In 2011, tickets were ethically exchanged for End Of The Road, Bestival, Camp Bestival, Kendal Calling, Creamfields and Secret Garden Party, and watch this space as the world’s biggest and most conscious artists join the exchange and stand up for the very fans who keep them in business”.

Sandbag’s Christiaan Munro, a co-founder of The Ticket Trust: “‘Dispatches’ has made public what many in the music industry have known or suspected for a long time. The wholesale use of the secondary market is not necessarily illegal but is morally abhorrent. We take great pride in having established The Ticket Trust secondary platform with the Association Of Independent Festivals and hope that many more other real music fans can get to sell or buy unwanted tickets at face value in a fair and transparent manner. I guess it is now time for those involved to ask themselves if they are still comfortable biting the hand that feeds them”.

And a spokesman for AIF affiliated Kendal Calling: “[Our festival] is built on creating amazing experiences for fans. That includes the ticket buying process and price. We are proud to be supporting the not-for-profit resales and encourage fans to be a part of this too”.

And finally, Dave Newton, Director of independent ticketing website WeGotTickets: “‘Dispatches’ certainly highlighted how certain parts of the live industry have been complicit in these ‘legitimised’ touting practices – agents, promoters and, in many cases, artists themselves. We need to be careful, however, not to confuse the online and secondary ticketing sectors, thereby tarring the legitimate electronic ticket vendor with the same brush. The water is muddied by companies like Ticketmaster who, as a primary seller, are happy to dance with the secondary ticketing devil with their Get Me In outlet. Also the Concert Promoters Association set up (the quickly defunct) a few years back, which was powered by See Tickets. This was their ‘can’t beat them then join them’ reaction to Viagogo and Seatwave launching in the UK and taking the touting business that they were previously in control of”.

He continues: “This is really just a continuation of the promoters-of-old who themselves used to take physical tickets out of the back door of the Box Office and put them in the hands of street touts for cash at a mark-up over face-value. At the end of the day we encourage customers to investigate where they’re buying their tickets from, if the company is opaque with their processes and don’t account for their fees or where the ticket comes from then questions should be asked. WeGotTickets remains a primary ticketing company with all our tickets sold at face value and supplied directly to us by the event organiser. Every penny of our fees is fully accounted for and our booking fee is also the lowest in the industry – this is a policy of transparency that we have campaigned for years and will continue to adhere to”.

The ‘Dispatches’ programme is now online here.

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