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More industry comment following ticket resale exposé

By | Published on Monday 27 February 2012


The fallout from last week’s Channel 4 exposé of the secondary ticketing market, and the use of it by some key tour promoters to sell their own tickets at hiked up prices, continues, with anger about the practice still simmering online, though many of those promoters and artists directly accused by the ‘Dispatches’ documentary are staying quiet on the issue.

The focus remains on the Concert Promoters Association, which last week defended the actions of some of its members – ie the ones who put tickets for their own in-demand concerts directly onto the resale sites so to share in the mark-up – by arguing such activities became inevitable after the government refused to act against the boom in ticket touting that took place last decade, enabled by the net and ticket resale sites like Viagogo, Seatwave and Get Me In, not to mention eBay.

On Friday eFestivals challenged CPA Chairman Stuart Littlewood further on the issue, who again said that if uncontrolled online touting was allowed it was inevitable tour promoters would take part, while adding that he was of the view that, for those gigs where large numbers of tickets were resold via the secondary ticketing sites, everyone involved in those tours would have been in the loop, including artists and their management.

While it’s not known whether that is true with regard to all the artists featured in ‘Dispatches’, it’s no secret that some managers have also participated in the resale of tickets for shows by the acts they represent. Nevertheless, last week some agents – the middle men between promoters and artists – denied knowledge of the extent to which some live music firms were touting their own tickets.

eFestivals also took issue with Littlewood over the secrecy that shrouds the resale of tickets by parties directly linked to a tour, arguing that such secrecy breaches the CPA’s own rules on transparency and ethical trading. The website says Littlewood conceded that might be so, adding that the issue would be raised at the association’s next meeting, though he confirmed that there were currently no plans for the CPA to take any action against any of its members.

eFestivals has also spoken to T In The Park promoter Geoff Ellis who, while not himself featured in the ‘Dispatches’ exposé, said he too blamed the government’s inaction on the touting problem for the number of official tickets now being sold by promoters at a mark up via the secondary sites.

Recalling the efforts he and other promoters went to in a bid to persuade government to act a few years back, Ellis added: “We said at the time, if you don’t legislate then the music industry will go into the secondary market. Not because it wants to, but because it has got no choice. That’s not to say it’ll be embraced, but people will do it, because if you’ve got an artist that you’re working with and their fans are buying tickets off a secondary market, if those don’t come from the primary source, ie the promoter, then the artist doesn’t get any of that money, and it all goes to a ticket tout. Plus none of the VAT gets paid on it, and none of the PRS gets paid on it, and none of the money goes back into the industry”.

The tax and PRS issue is perhaps the most interesting element to this whole exposé.

The ‘Dispatches’ programme also claimed some of the secondary ticketing services bought up large quantities of tickets to shows where they didn’t have a relationship with relevant promoters, but then pretended to be an individual reseller when selling those tickets on. It’s not clear what that tax situation is around that sort of practice.

It’s also not clear whether those promoters who resell their own tickets via secondary sites are paying any share of the mark up to PRS For Music, as a royalty to the owners of the songs that are performed at their events. The live royalty PRS collects is a percentage of ticket revenues, and if – as they claim – promoters who sell their own tickets via Viagogo et al view the secondary sites as ‘premium-primary sales platforms’, then arguably 3% of any mark up should go to the songwriter or publisher via their collecting society. This may indeed be already happening though, given the secrecy that surrounds this whole practice, as yet it’s unclear what’s being paid to whom. One assumes the publishing sector will be looking for clarity on this issue this week.

You can read eFestivals’ interviews with Geoff Ellis and Stuart Littlewood here.

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