Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

An essential reading list about ticket touting

It’s the story which refuses to go away

Once touting is outlawed, we should do the same with U2

Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 18:03


Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that we’ve stuck for some time, like a dog with a bone, to writing about the seedy world of ticket touting and live music industry involvement in same. There were times when we wondered if anyone else was paying any attention. There have been times when we wonder why we’re bothering. There were also times when we thought we had completely lost the plot. We probably had tbh.

But in January 2017, ticket touting is the story which refuses to go away. Blame U2 for this. The manner in which a number of tickets for their upcoming “Joshua Tree” nostalgiafest at Croke Park ended up on Ticketmaster’s Seatwave secondary ticketing market seems to have been the straw which broke the camel’s back and there’s no end in sight to stories, explainers and, as of today as you’ll see below, investigations.

Actually, speaking of U2, we are still waiting, over a week on, for the band’s rep to answer a very simple question: just how many tickets did the band make available to the fanclub in the pre-sale process? As we’ll see below, this is an answer which may be of interest to the various invesigations and consultations currently underway.

Indeed, it’s not just U2′s Croke Park show on their forthcoming Live Nation-promoted world tour which has people wondering where all the tickets went and how so many ended up on the secondary market. There’s a fascinating blog post by former Ticketmaster big cheese Nathan Hubbard about the resale market for the band’s summer tour.

“The current practice of speculative ticket selling on resale sites is a plague on the live events industry, rife with fraud and egregiously misleading advertising”, Hubbard writes. “Oh, and it completely and utterly screws fans. There are two parts to the live event business: the one you love that exhilarates you, and the seedy underbelly rotting underneath the surface.” Read Hubbard’s piece for more on this “seedy underbelly”.

It’s rare to come across readable, credible and straightforward primers on just how the secondary ticketing market operates so kudos to Guardian business reporter Rob Davies for this explainer about why the tickets are gone before you’ve had a chance to buy them. Davies outlines the different ways touts get their hands on tickets, including joining fan clubs and paying the appropriate fees to access the tickets before they go on general release. As we keep on saying until we’re blue in the face, it ain’t all bots.

Here’s a sentence I never expected to write: one of the best pieces on the ticket touting business has been written by one or more anonymous Irish civil servants. The consultation document from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation into the resale of tickets for entertainment and sporting events may not have a snappy title, but it has 63 pages of superbly detailed reporting and questioning about the current state of affairs. It’s a document where someone has gone to the trouble of ordering a deep dive into the story and coming out the other side with a comprehensive, multi-faceted set of themes and topics which is a million times more useful and valuable than publicity seeking TDs waffling in the Dail or doing the rounds of radio shows drumming up attention for themselves. It is especially good on ticket allocations in the pre-sale period before they go on sale to the general public.

Last but certainly by no means least, we have today’s announcement by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) that they have started an investigation into “suspected breaches of competition law in relation to the provision of tickets and the operation of ticketing services for live events.” This will see them “focus primarily on potentially anti-competitive conduct by operators including those involved in providing tickets and ticketing services, promoters and venues.”

Of course, we have been around some similar looking houses before with the CCPC: see these findings from a 2005 investigation into “alleged excessive booking fees by TicketMaster Ireland and its exclusive contractual relationships with MCD Promotions Limited and Aiken Promotions Limited” which, in hindsight, had much to say about the issue of rebates. It will be interesting nonetheless to see what, if anything, this investigation will uncover about the role played by relationships in the live music business in Ireland, and especially the global interests who now control so much of the live music ecosystem here, when it comes to “potentially anti-competitive conduct”. We ain’t done with this story by any stretch yet.