Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

U2, ticket touts, TDs and Irish Times’ letter writers

It’s the perfect January storm, but will anything new emerge from the latest outbreak of consternation?

Here, we didn't have Seatwave problems back in 1987

Thu, Jan 19, 2017, 10:29


It wouldn’t be a U2 homecoming gig without some sort of on-the-ground huffing and puffing. This time around, it was the fact that lots of tickets for the band’s summer show at Dublin’s Croke Park ended up in the hands of touts who, as touts then tend to do, upped the price and flogged them on the secondary ticketing markets like Seatwave.

Cue predictable consternation at how the dynamics of supply and demand operate. After all, the bigglyest Irish band ever playing the biggest album of their career at a 78,000 capacity gig was always going to attract more people than you could fit within the confines of the stadium on Jones Road. Cue a brace of TDs joining in the kerfuffle with a bill which aims to wipe out ticket touting just like that. Cue a couple of letters to the editor of The Irish Times to add to the merriment of the nation. And you wonder why certain members of Team U2 have privately said that playing at home is always a headache?

But when you parse what’s going on here, questions come to mind which our brace of Dail deputies would be far better asking and investigating rather than pushing some half-cooked bill up the hill. Touting will never go away because you will always have people who are willing to pay over the odds for tickets they missed out on when they first went on sale. As long as there is a demand like this, there will be a supply to meet the demand and it’s the question of where this supply is coming from which needs to be pursued.

So just how the hell are touts able to always get their hands on tickets for high-profile shows, concerts and sporting events? There has been a lot of talk about bots and the like, but that’s far too simplistic an excuse. As we’ve examined here before, there has to be a human element involved in the process at some stage.

For example, one aspect of the ticket-selling business which has been mentioned again and again as a means by which touts get their hands on tickets is the presale process. This is where members of a band’s fanclub get first dibs on tickets. It usually happens in the week or days before the show goes on sale to the general public to ensure that the band’s superfans get served ahead of everyone else. As goodwill gestures go, it’s a good one.

However, numerous conversations with those in the ticketing business over the last few weeks indicate that touts are using the fanclub process to acquire tickets to sell on. After all, joining the fanclub is often no more onerous than paying a fee which they can easily recoup when they sell on the tickets. Use a few friends and associates to get more fan club memberships and you could be looking at a fine haul of tickets to sell once Ticketmaster’s allocation sells out and those who missed out want to buy a ticket at any price.

Of course, the number of tickets available in the fanclub presale process varies depending on the act and the venue. Given the week that was in it, for example, how many tickets exactly did U2 sell in the fanclub presale process for the Croke Park show? I asked U2′s spokesperson and, at the time of writing, am still waiting for a reply.

It would be very helpful to get this number as it would give a good indication just how many tickets were available to the general public when Ticketmaster opened for business on Monday morning. There’s a big difference between 1,000, 10,000 and even 40,000 tickets going on sale to the fanclub because this then has a big bearing on how many tickets are available for general sale and how many tickets enterprising touts can snap up in the presale process.

This is the kind of thing which the TDs should be asking and investigating rather than simply huffing and puffing for attention. They should be looking at the bigger picture when it comes to the live music market and asking, for example, how come the same corporate entity is promoting the U2 tour, managing the band, flogging the tickets and operating one of the biggest secondary ticketing markets. Does this have an effect on the market?

Asking questions like this would require some hard yards which the TDs don’t seem willing to do as it would get in the way of their tweeting and publicity seeking. Their bill won’t stop ticket touting because of the demand/supply pickle and the difficulties in stopping a practise which would simply go back to street-level if outlawed online (and best of luck doing that, by the way). However, some digging around by our elected representatives about just how the live entertainment market operates here, and the ties that bind so much of the operations together, would be of far greater value to all concerned than TDs engaging in a bit of showboating.