Why is Adele the only act playing hardball with ticket touts?
The secondary ticketing market is under attack from many quarters at the moment, but Adele seems to be the only high profile act getting stuck in
The news that New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman has decided to pay some attention to the secondary ticketing market is the latest salvo in the war against ticket touts. Schneiderman’s office has acted on the back of hundreds of tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming tour appearing for sale for up to $5,000 or more on StubHub, TicketNetwork and Vivid Seats. The fact that the tour only goes on sale on Friday is what has piqued the attorney general’s interest.
“In many cases, consumers who purchase a speculative ticket do not receive the seats that were advertised and paid for”, notes the letter from Schneiderman’s office to the sites in question. “In some cases, consumers receive no tickets at all. Speculative ticket sales also drive up prices for consumers, and often cause widespread confusion and frustration among consumers, who wonder how tickets can appear on the resale market before tickets are released to the public.”
The attorney general’s office’s move follows recent action against the secondary ticketing market over here such as the open letter from high-profile managers, agents and Coldplay protesting about “the increasing industrial-scale abuse and insider exploitation of tickets for music, arts and sports events by ticket touts, and their online associates and facilitators”. We have also had the Which? magazine investigation, which concluded that the secondary ticketing market – including such sites as the Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster’s Seatwave and Get Me In, as well as StubHub and Viagogo – was attracting touts who were operating on “an industrial scale” and some sites “may be acting like touts themselves”.
It’s quite a run of protests, letters and investigations. Yet in the middle of all of this, it’s noticable that only one act has really played hardball with the whole issue of secondary tickets and that’s Adele. Yes, I know that Coldplay have co-signed a stiff letter, but Team Adele are the ones who decided to take action.
This meant, as her manager Jonathan Dickens explained, “carefully monitoring all of the registrations” for her recent tour pre-sale “to try and spot anything suspicious” and not allowing known or likely touts in. Of course, some touts did get through the net and tickets did appear for sale on secondary sites. In these cases, Dickens and co also took action and cancelled the ticket. It’s well worth reading the Music Business Worldwide piece in full to read about the obstacles that Dickens faced, given the numerous grey areas in current legislation governing this particular marketplace.
But it’s also worth asking just why Adele is the only high profile act to date prepared to take this kind of action. Why didn’t U2, to take another example of an act whose tickets ended up on the secondary ticketing market before they went on sale to the general public, do anything about the secondary ticketing market for their recent Irish shows? There were plenty of irate fans calling shows like Joe Duffy’s Liveline on RTE Radio One to complain about the blatant mark-up for tickets on secondary sites owned by those who operated the primary sites. As Adele has shown, the touts can be tackled, though it does take effort and will to do so, qualities Dickens and his client demonstrated in spades.
Is this down to a management decision or a band decision not to take action? Was there some reason why Guy Oseary didn’t get involved in stopping the exorbitant price gouging which was going on like Dickens did with Adele? Why don’t we see more of Oseary and his fellow managers in the Live Nation Maverick venture speaking out when it comes to ticket touts on sites like Get Me In and Seatwave? Indeed, why don’t we see more of their superstar clients trying to protect their fans from these touts? Do they give a damn about their fans?
Because the buck stops with the acts. If the acts wanted to stop the secondary ticketing market in its tracks, they could do so. As Adele and Dickens have shown, you can make an effort and you can have an effect. Sure, you can also bring pressure to bear in the shape of letters and protests, but the real juice happens when you take action and explain what you’ve just done. All of this will help to bring more pressure to bear on legislators and regulators to take action because it shows fans that some acts are prepared to work hard to ensure they won’t be ripped off. There will always be touts, but the manner in which the online secondary ticketing market operates, and especially the fact that some of these websites are owned by the world’s premier ticketing service Ticketmaster, has brought touting in from the cold. Plus, of course, “secondary ticketing market” sounds a heck of a lot nicer and posher and nebulous than “ticket touts” and “scalpers”.
It’s worth remembering, of course, that there is nothing new about the secondary ticketing market. One of the most interesting pieces about touting actually appeared six years ago. As Ethan Smith reported at the time, “virtually every major concert tour today involves some official tickets that are priced and sold as if they were offered for resale by fans or brokers, but that are set aside by the artists and promoters, according to a number of people involved in the sales. That includes recent tours by Bon Jovi, Celine Dion and Van Halen, and a current tour starring Billy Joel and Elton John.” None of the acts or their reps were available for comment.