Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Ticket touting finally goes mainstream

Let’s remember that ticket touting will continue to exist even after the Olympics’ circus leaves Rio

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Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 10:00


One of the issues which has popped up regularly in these pages over the last few years has been ticket touting. Every couple of months, another story comes along which shines a light on activities in what is now called, in polite circles at any rate, the secondary ticketing market. It seems that such subtle misuse of the English language has become commonplace: just as “from now on” has become “going forward” or “kickbacks to promoters” have become “rebates“, we now refer to ticket touts, those who sell tickets for events for more than their face value, as people operating in the secondary ticketing market. It sounds posh, doesn’t it? I’m not a ticket tout, I operate in the secondary ticketing market.

Ticket touting is an issue which has been raised by a wide range of publications, individuals and interests, from consumer champions like Which? and the British government to Adele and high profile managers. All of these have looked at what’s going on with the upselling of tickets for live events of every hue, especially the operations of such websites as GetMeIn and Seatwave. Both of these sites are owned by the biggest primary ticket agency on the planet Ticketmaster which, in turn, is owned by Live Nation, the largest music conglomerate in the universe. There are a lot of vested interests in the mix given the wide range of shows, events and festivals which the latter entity and its many subsidaries across the globe are involved in.

For all of this, though, it’s a story which has never really gone anywhere. There’s occasional bouts of fuming and indignation and the like when people have to pay big prices for tickets for a sold-out show or when someone ends up with a dud ticket from an online site. Yet there’s little action taken about this kind of thing because it’s not seen as something which warrants much attenton.

Try telling that to the Brazilian police. Watching the non-sports action from Rio has been as fascinating as anything which has happened on the track, pitch, pool or water. That a couple of Irish figures have been caught up in the probe into ticket touting at the Olympics has meant we’re suddenly fully au fait here with the ins and outs of how the Brazilian authorities regard such activities as facilitating touting, forming a cartel and illicit marketing when it comes to tickets for largescale events.

While the Olympics is a much different beast to a sold out show in a theatre or arena, the same basic principles of greed and opportunism apply when it comes to price gouging and touting for music events. Former Brazilian footballer Romario, who has played a pivotal role in this story, refered to a ticket mafia in regard to the Olympic story, but it’s clear that the activities of such cartels doesn’t just begin and end in Rio. The difference is that the Brazilian police decided to take things seriously and do some police work. If they were brought in to take a similar rigorous approach to ticket touting in the music business, there wouldn’t be enough room in Bangu prison for all those who’d have to locked up and have their heads shaven, especially when it comes to the charge of “facilitating” touting.

We’ve seen what can be done in the last few weeks when action is taken to find out just how such a large volume of tickets end up on the black market. Reports and the like can only do such much, but the will needs to be there in the first place to investigate the process by which tickets end up in the hands of these touts and especially the ties which exist between touts and the event organisers. It’s only then that some clarity might be brought to this dodgy, shoddy and unsavoury business.