Ticket touts, have become a ubiquitous part of the queuing experience at concerts and festivals. The stereotype of a long-coated and conspicuous person trying to act… inconspicuous, as they do the rounds of everyone they see, asking if they want to sell any tickets or buy more. No doubt this service is something that some gig goers rely upon, perhaps when attending concerts on a whim or if they couldn’t find tickets available online. However, it is a seemingly shady business, especially with those selling on the streets hours or minutes before the event, you can never be sure if what you’re buying is real or if it came from a legitimate source.
This type of ticket reselling was made illegal for football tickets in 1994 under Criminal Justice and Public Order act – not that this stops people from trying, but people are prosecuted and do go to prison for the offence. It, therefore, may seem peculiar that the same stance is not taken for music events by law, so the line seems to be more blurred on this ever-growing problem in the music industry. Unlock the Law, an online legal advice serve, states that you are supposed to have a license to trade such items on the street, and that “concert promoters may be able to bring civil proceedings against resellers”, however, they do go on to explain that going after the ticket touts in this way is not commonplace. Since the street selling was not tackled as thoroughly as the football ticket re-selling was, the problem seems to have grown much bigger and advanced with technology.
Ticket reselling has now turned into viable online businesses with some sites being the first place that gig-goers go to for tickets. Company’s such as Viagogo and GetMeIn offer a marketplace to buy but also sell your tickets. While this may sound like a fine idea in theory, in practice many ticket touts, who spend a lot of time buying up tickets at the original face value from ticketing websites such as Ticketmaster, use resale sites to sell tickets to the public for highly inflated prices.
You may be thinking “well if you just get in there quick, you can beat them!” Well no, you’re not up against the same dodgy cloaked person asking you for tickets outside the Echo Arena – you’re up against computer software known as “bots” that will access the website faster, and many more times than you. Not only does this slow the website down for everyone using it, but Ticket Manager (a ticket sales company that also looks to educate people about the ticketing business) states that “the technology pings the on-sale while a room full of people, usually off-shore in a second or third world country, furiously bang out the re-captcha”. When you’re up against this, it’s no wonder that tickets appear on resale sites so quickly, making it harder or impossible for the fans to buy at the much higher prices.
Fortunately, something is being done about this side of ticket touting, with laws coming in to criminalise the use of bots and introduce fines for ticket touts that use them. The government is looking to come down harder on these resale sites in general, as primary sites such as TicketMaster own some of the biggest resale sites like GetMeIn. Unfortunately, we can, therefore, see that all sides of the ticketing business are reaping the profits of ticket mark ups.
The whole ordeal is something that artists themselves have tried to tackle and many have spoken of how unfair to the fans it is. Tickets being sold for more money on resale sites in no way helps the artist or their team. The tickets were already sold to or from the primary websites, so there is no more money in it for them, even if they wanted it. Primary websites will list shows as being “sold out” while rows of seats can be left empty as people cannot afford to buy them from the resale company’s. CBC News reported that Adele attempted to ease the problem by teaming up with independent sellers to sell face value tickets after she saw them go for thousands of pounds on secondary sites. Ed Sheeran also looked to clash with the ticket touts as he cancelled 10,000 tickets that were being sold for sometimes hundreds of pounds more than their face value price.
It is not yet clear how well the new regulations have stemmed the flow of bot-bought tickets, or if the new laws will be properly enforced. As artists and promoters look to take matters into their own hands and introduce new, safer and tout proof, ways of ticketing, we can hope that fans will be able to experience their favourite bands and artists without a burning hole in their pocket.