The human touch when it comes to touting
Stories from Italy and the UK show that promoters and venues are involved in getting tickets to the touts
It’s always easier to blame computers for something rather than accept that greedy, unscrupulous humans are involved in the process. As we saw with the recent Radiohead debacle, the issue around how exactly touts and the secondary ticketing market get their mitts on tickets has of late always involved blaming bots. Now, I love technology as much as the next nerd, but it always struck me that those bots alone couldn’t be responsible for tickets ending up with touts minutes or even seconds after they go on sale. Surely, there had to be a human invovlvement in this piece of business?
Two stories have emerged over the last few days to indicate that this may indeed be the case. In Italy, as Billboard outline in detail, it turns out that Live Nation have been caught up in a secondary ticket story following an undercover TV report on Italian show Le Iene. The allegation is that Live Nation are directly partnering with a range of secondary ticketing partners to sell tickets at vastly inflated prices.
“The allegations stem from a television interview between the managing director of Live Nation Italy Roberto de Luca and reporter Matteo Viviani on primetime Italian TV show Le Iene, which aired earlier this week”, reports Billboard’s Richard Smirke. “The interview formed part of an undercover report which retraced the journey of a ticket as its price increased on the online secondary market from €50 to €1,050 using testimony and evidence from an anonymous employee who works in the ticketing sector and claims that the practice is widespread throughout the industry.
“During the course of the TV show, Luca is reported to have initially denied that Live Nation was complicit in placing tickets directly onto secondary platforms. The reporter then appears to show the exec a number of documents, which leads Luca to change his stance and admit that the company does indeed place tickets directly onto secondary sites.
“”I want to be clear that, to your question if Live Nation issued tickets on secondary sites and I answered no… in fact we issue some tickets. A very limited number of tickets on other sites, in this case [on] Viagogo,” said Luca, according to a transcript provided to Billboard.”
Live Nation Italy have denied these allegations, sort of. Their statement to Billboard said “the allegations in Le lene relate to a small number of tickets for a handful of international artists” but that “Live Nation Italy has never been asked to list any tickets on secondary markets by Italian artists.” However, this has not stopped blockbuster Italian act Vasco Rossi severing all ties with Live Nation, Italian minister of culture Dario Franceschini moving to outlaw the practice of secondary ticketing (describing it as “an intolerable phenomenon” and that recent events show “self-regulation is not enough”) and Italian consumer association Codacons submitting a complaint to the public prosecutor of Milan against Live Nation Italy. Ouch all round.
While Live Nation’s involvement in this kind of behaviour has long been talked about in the business, it’s another thing for the allegation to be aired in public in this manner, because of the unwillingness of those involved to talk in public and on the record about the process. We already know that the Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster operate such price-gouging sites as Get Me In and Seatwave, but this Italian undercover TV show demonstrates a whole different level of allegations (and, moreover, involving a site that Live Nation doesn’t actually own themselves). In many ways, it is reminiscent of Channel 4′s Dispatches documentary The Great Ticket Scandal, which did something similar in 2012, revealing that a huge range of promoters were allocating tickets for various shows to the secondary market.
In the UK, meanwhile, the Daily Record report that a high-ranking tout is claiming that he gets his hands on tickets thanks to the venues as well as the promoters. In this case, the tout is a guy called Julien Lavallee and he said that “we have contracts with venues that allow us to buy certain allotments in exchange for a yearly fee, so we reduce their risk in case they can’t attract the big acts.” Among the venues mentioned in the piece the O2 Arena in London and the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.
Later in the piece, having already said that he doesn’t use bot technology (though the Record says he “claims to employ 20 computer-savvy and deft-fingered staff”), Lavallee adds that “allocation can come from the promoter, venue, etc, many sources.” It seems that there’s a heck of a lot of humans employing insider trading and connections rather than bots involved in ensuring touts like Lavallee get tickets for the shows they want.
It will be interesting to see what’s the upshot of all of this. The stories are especially timely given that the UK parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee spent yesterday examining digital ticket harvesting and reselling.
As the Guardian reports, ticketing agencies are not exactly over the moon about all this attention. “Ticketmaster and StubHub told the committee that forcing them to demand more details from touts would drive those people on to less well-regulated offshore websites such as controversial Switzerland-based Viagogo.” However, as we’ve seen from Le lene’s investigation, Live Nation Italy, which is connected to Ticketmaster in the grand global LN Venn diagram, had allegedly no problem dealing with that particular company. This story is set to run and run – just get your ticket before the promoters and venues give ‘em to the touts to sell at vastly inflated prices.