Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The hue and cry over buying and selling tickets

It’s always slightly weird to see a very large number of people finally realising that an issue is worth fuming about. There was little in last week’s excellent The Great Ticket Scandal from the Channel 4 Dispatches team about the …

Mon, Feb 27, 2012, 08:57


It’s always slightly weird to see a very large number of people finally realising that an issue is worth fuming about. There was little in last week’s excellent The Great Ticket Scandal from the Channel 4 Dispatches team about the ticket touting business which will have come as a surprise to regular readers of OTR or other music business bulletins.

Even still, it was quite jaw-dropping all the same to see all those things you knew about widespread collusion in the live music business between the act, the promoter, the agent and the ticket-touting agencies laid bare in The Great Ticket Scandal. It seems that dodgy contracts and trying to pull the wool over the eye of the average music fan is not just a charge you can level at the record industry.

There has been lots (and lots) of comments and statements from all concerned since the show aired. You always get this sort of handwringing and outrage when an affair of this issue finally gets aired because all involved know there is nowhere to run anymore.

As the undercover Dispatches journalists discovered on camera, promoters appear to be in the game of holding back tickets for big shows so they can flogged for premium prices on sites like Viagogo (who tried and failed to get a court injunction to stop the show being broadcast on the grounds of “commercial confidence”) and Seatwave. Promoters mentioned fingered in the show included the likes of such well-known entitles as Live Nation, SJM, Metropolis Music, Phil McIntyre Entertainment, Stage Entertainment UK, 3A Entertainment and Irish big boys MCD (via their involvement in the V festival). It also shows that whoever pens warnings on the V Festival website like “if you use unofficial ticket outlet websites, ticket re-sale outlets or touts, you take the risk of being ripped off” has a rich sense of humour.

Naturally, the ticket resellers continue in business. After all, as they claim, fans want to buy tickets for sell-out shows and they have the tickets so, hey, we can do business. That they received many of the tickets ahead of ordinary decent music fans because of planned collusion between the various parties was always brushed over – until now.

Paul Mills puts it best of all. He was one of the undercover reporters on the show and, writing for the Guardian, puts it down to “a sleazy brand of capitalism that is typical of our times”. It’s greed, basically, a blatant money-grab by those who control the supply of tickets for high-profile, high-demand events to make even more money.

Nearly everyone involved in the shenaniagns had some mealy-mouthed excuses to offer. Viagogo and Seatwave have defended their turf, while the BBC received a comment from the Concert Promoters Association, which admitted that some promoters “at least in part, operate in the secondary market”. They then did some tutting about touts selling tickets which didn’t exist, as if the idea of selling real tickets at huge inflated prices was not as bad.

Like I said, “nearly everyone” had a defence, but about the artists? Where are they in all of this? After all, they’re the talent, they’re the ones who decide who promotes their shows and who represents their interests. Do they approve of this? Were they as annoyed and outraged as their loyal fans about this? Are they going to boycott those promoters listed above who engage in this appalling business of ripping off innocent fans?

Like hell, they are. The acts and their reps are interested in what’s on the cheque and nothing else. They demand massive fees (massive to make up for the lack of revenue they now get from recorded sales, instead of trying to work out how to work that changed landscape) and most couldn’t care less what prices their fans are charged to ensure they get those fees.

I know some OTR readers will go, as they always do when I point out that the acts have the final say, that the acts can’t keep an eye on everything to do with their business, but they can and they should. The buck stops with them. They have to be accountable for their actions in working with promoters who are now distrusted in the public eye by virtue of their assocation and collusion with organised price-gouging as discovered in the Dispatches show. Not that this will news to the acts or their managers: they certainly knew what was going on. If they didn’t, they weren’t looking too closely at the end-of-the-night settlements or asking questions or listening to their fans giving out yards about secondary ticketing agencies (we used to call them ticket touts but, going forward, they seem to have been given a new moniker) easily getting their hands on tickets to sell at hugely inflated prices.

Let no-one be under any illusion either that this practice hasn’t reached this island. If you really think that all 14,500 tickets for a hot show at Dublin’s O2 like, let’s say, One Direction will go on sale to the general public, you probably also still believe in the tooth fairy. While 10 per cent of the tickets are usually held back for O2’s priority customers, there will always still be far less than the remaining 13,000 tickets available on Ticketmaster’s system when the show purportedly goes on sale. How else do you think tickets for those One Direction Dublin shows in March 2013 can on sale minutes after they are sold out on the supposed primary ticket-selling site, on a secondary site like Viagogo at a hugely inflated premium? Do you really think people queued overnight for those tickets to go “nah, not bothered, have to wash my hair that night” five minutes after getting them in their hands about a show 13 months away? Perhaps we need a Dispatches-type expose over here to lift a few rocks and show the type of fat, avaricious worms wiggling around underneath feasting like parasites on the wallets and credit cards of Irish music fans.