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Tegan & Sara offer last minute ‘pay-what-you-want’ tickets to fill seats left empty by touts

By | Published on Wednesday 2 October 2019

Tegan & Sara

In the latest move to combat ticket touts, Tegan & Sara last night announced an “experiment” whereby they sold seats left empty by tickets remaining unsold on secondary sites on a pay-what-you-want basis shortly before showtime. All money raised from these last minute sales at the Sydney Goldstein Theater in San Francisco was donated to the duo’s Tegan & Sara Foundation charity.

“It has come to our attention that significant numbers of tickets to our show tonight in San Francisco were unethically gobbled up by secondary ticketing platforms during our tour onsale in July”, the pair said in a statement published on social media last night. “While the show tonight is technically sold out, many of these tickets are now being flooded back into the market for resale. Because there is little time to sell and we never ask our fans to go to secondary sites, this will likely result in empty seats tonight in the Sydney Goldstein Theater”.

They continued: “Our goal is to ensure that our real fans are in each and every seat and to prevent secondary platforms from hurting our show. As an experiment, tonight in San Francisco we will be offering rush seating for all open seats, at approximately 8.15pm. This means that we will allow any empty seats to be available on a ‘first come, first serve[d]’ basis in return for a ‘pay what you can’ cash donation at the door to The Tegan & Sara Foundation, which works to support LGBTQ+ girls and women”.

It was estimated that as many as 200 last minute seats might be available to fans willing to turn up and take a chance on getting in.

The move was welcomed by many fans, including those keen to take up last night’s offer and others hoping that the same would happen for other shows on the tour. The acclaim was not universal, however. Touts on Twitter claimed that the empty seats were there because people weren’t interested in seeing them – an argument that doesn’t entirely stand up for a sold out show – and some genuine fans said that they had turned to secondary sites to sell their tickets after they were unable to attend the show.

It’s not clear how many people actually took up the cheap ticket offer, but at least one fan on Twitter after the gig complained that the headline performance had been delayed while the empty seats were filled. They also said that they felt hard done by, having paid full price for their tickets, only to find that they could have got in for a fraction of the original ticket price.

Last month, Ed Sheeran promoter Kilimanjaro said that not wanting to annoy fans who paid full price for tickets was the reason it did not allow other fans to sell tickets below face value on its fan-to-fan resale system for the musician’s shows. This statement was in response to some fans complaining that they were unable to offload their unwanted tickets through the approved resale channel, especially when tickets remained available on primary sites, because they couldn’t discount the price of the tickets.

The system operated by Tegan & Sara last night does, of course, have the potential to alienate people who managed to buy tickets from primary sources. However, turning up at the last minute doesn’t guarantee entry to the shows, whereas those that did pay full price enjoyed the benefit of knowing they would definitely get in. And by donating money from these extra sales to charity – albeit their own charity – the duo did avoid any accusations that they are personally benefitting from selling some tickets twice.

All of this highlights the tricky issue of attempting to combat touts and the secondary market, with anti-touting initiatives sometimes annoying a portion of the fans even when the motives behind those initiatives are good.

Tegan & Sara indicated in their original statement last night that they may apply the offer of cheap last minute tickets to other shows on the tour, although they have not yet confirmed that this is the case.