A Fair Deal For Fans: How Do We Beat The Touts?

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Tickets to see Adele in London’s O2 Arena went on sale this morning. According to Music Business Worldwide, her management company has said that ticket reselling will not be tolerated. One of our writers, Steve Holley, a live music enthusiast and quite experienced at buying tickets, had this to say.

I, like so many fans, joined the O2 Priority waiting list to buy Adele tickets on Wednesday morning for her concerts at the O2 arena in London next year, and was unsuccessful. Some you win, some you lose. I can appreciate that demand for these concerts is going to be high, even with ticket prices for anywhere near the stage being close to £100, and tickets for the back of the arena on the top tier, an area deemed not suitable for anyone with acrophobia they’re so high, going for £55. However, what is really shameful is the fact that even whilst I was patiently waiting in the virtual queue, tickets were hitting StubHub for resale.

Now we’ve all seen the adverts that scream the mantra, ” They can’t go, so you can” on TV, on the side of taxis and buses, on the tube and even at the gigs. We’ve read the positive assurance that, “when fans can’t go, you can buy their tickets at StubHub.co.uk. The way ticket buying should be”. Picture this scene then: within seconds of buying their tickets, fans suddenly realised they had double booked the Adele gig with something else they had arranged for a random Tuesday or Wednesday next year in March. Maybe…but then they would have had quite a wait in the virtual queue to check their calendar and make sure they were free. And I guess that doesn’t explain why £55 tickets were suddenly advertised at £199, and £75 tickets were as much as £1000. This doesn’t sound to me like “the way ticket buying should be” but what can be done to stop this blatant abuse of the resale system? Ticket venues put barriers up at gigs to try to discourage ticket touts but the ticket touts, or should I say the fans that can’t go, don’t need to stand in the cold anymore. They are doing just fine, nice and warm, in front of their computer.

Way back in 2007, Kylie Minogue demanded tickets touted for her London Homecoming shows were cancelled so that genuine fans could have the chance to see her perform. Seats at her concerts in January sold out in just minutes. But Minogue was upset to discover tickets were being resold on eBay for more than five times their face value. Promoter Harvey Goldsmith said at the time: “eBay are an absolute disgrace. They have no right to be doing what they are doing. They are a thorn in the side of the industry. Every time we do a show we have to track eBay down, we have to find the seats and we cancel them.”

But here we are in 2015 with the problem being just as bad, but now legitimised by companies like StubHub, Get Me In and Viagogo and lots of others.

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Kylie is not the only one. U2 have tried. The Police and The Rolling Stones and The Arctic Monkeys have all tried schemes whereby fans join fan clubs or ballots to register for tickets, but the huge profits to be made in resale sites makes all of these barriers a small price to pay. It’s an interesting exercise to attempt to buy tickets on Ticketmaster and then, when unsuccessful, watch how fast they are available on Get Me In, another resale site.

Adele and her management team are very aware of the situation and have an official line of “the resale of tickets will not be tolerated” but, despite Adele’s website stating this, the reality of achieving it is another matter. Grey areas in UK legislation mean that if resellers do not make available actual seat numbers and only give block and row details, it is virtually impossible to cancel tickets as they would like. With 57,000 pre sale tickets already sold it is understood that around 2% ended up on resale sites, but we can only get a real gauge of the extent of the problem when another 85,000 tickets go on general sale on Friday morning. I am sure the percentage will soar and I am equally sure that, despite their protestations, team Adele will be powerless to stop it. I wish I was wrong but let’s wait and see on Friday afternoon. Adele’s team would like to see face value reseller sites like Twickets used and it will be interesting to see what the availability of tickets is there on Friday afternoon when compared with, for instance, StubHub. Remember the mantra: “when fans can’t go, you can buy their tickets” but don’t forget the small print…for up to ten times the face value! This is NOT the way ticket buying should be.

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I have no idea how fans can be protected from this modern phenomena and I know people who regularly buy four tickets to a gig with a view to selling two of them to help pay for the remaining two, as they think this is an acceptable way of keeping the cost of a gig down. I suppose the only way to combat this is to make it only possible via legislation to sell a ticket at face value but for that to happen it would mean a huge cost to the resale sites as they gleefully take a percentage of sell-on prices. Also this will never happen as eBay owns StubHub, and Ticketmaster owns Get Me In and I would imagine these are big money spinners for both parent companies.

Like all fans, I would love to know what you as readers think and what you think is a real and viable alternative for the fans that really do have a reason they can’t go to the gig?

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