Will there ever be a ticket tout solution? | Features | MN2S

About a month ago, Prince announced a 16 night European tour. The ‘Piano and a Microphone’ tour was to feature nothing but the artist himself and the two titular appendages. Fans around the continent were delighted, and they eagerly awaited Friday 13th November when tickets were to become available. But there was a problem. At 10.01am on that Friday morning the tickets did not go on sale. Instead, Prince announced that he was postponing ticket sales to take a stand against ticket resellers.

An age old problem

This was one of the biggest stands against touting in recent memory, but reselling tickets for large profits is nothing new. And since reselling tickets is not illegal in the UK, it’s no wonder it has taken off in such a big way. Originally it would take the form of individuals buying extra tickets and selling them to make money, or genuine fans who couldn’t make it selling their tickets to fans that could. But these days, touting happens on a much bigger scale.

The problem Prince had was not with a few individuals, but with ticket website Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster had the sole rights to selling tickets to Prince’s concerts in the UK, but before the tickets even went on sale they were showing up as ‘sold out’ and were scheduled to be available on the website Get Me In! for up to £5000. The worst thing about this whole situation is that Ticketmaster owns Get Me In!, meaning they stand to profit from moving tickets to their reselling site as soon as they can, whether they do it themselves or not.

This is not the first time Ticketmaster has been criticised for moves like this. In 2012, tickets to the Rolling Stones’ UK concerts appeared on Get Me In! in a mere 7 minutes for up to £15,000 each. It was actually cheaper for UK fans to book a holiday to New York and watch the Rolling Stones shows there.

Other sites like Viagogo and StubHub are equally guilty of selling tickets at excessively inflated prices, sometimes seconds after they originally go on sale. And because of the cuts these sites take, even if a real fan wants to resell their ticket to another fan at face value, they cannot do so without making a loss.

Whether there is corruption behind the scenes or not, it is clear that reselling sites are no longer used to help fans who missed out on tickets the first time round. Instead, they exist to help companies like Ticketmaster, and non-fans who buy up tickets for the specific purpose of reselling, make exuberant amounts of money. This practice harms fans, who are left with no choice but to pay extortionate prices to see the bands they love; and it harms artists, who make no money from the resales, but are still often caught up in the controversy.

A possible solution

People have struggled to find a solution to this problem for many years, and a few companies think they have finally come up with one. Dice is a company that professes to sell “face value tickets with absolutely no catch.” Most importantly, the website says it “puts fans first, standing against secondary ticketing over the face value ticket price.” How do they do this? By making their tickets 100% mobile only. Short of stealing the original ticket owner’s phone, ID and face, there is no way a reseller can make money off these tickets.

Una make anti-touting an even bigger part of their selling-point. They say they are “dedicated to putting fans first,” as the UK’s “first transparent ticketing agency”. (Since they haven’t launched yet, they will technically be at least the second, behind Dice.) Una plans to provide personalised tickets that will be impossible for touts to resell.

But with personalised e-tickets, what happens when genuine fans want to sell a ticket because they can’t make the gig? Una has an answer to this too. They offer an online marketplace that allows fans to transfer their tickets to other Una users at face value or less.

An imperfect fix?

Services like these are clearly a step in the right direction, and it is good to see that there are ticket sellers that put musicians and fans above money. But the solutions they offer are not perfect. Una’s reselling platform only works if a lot of people are signed up to Una, and at the moment there’s no way of knowing how popular the service will be. It is likely that these services will only appeal to hardcore music fans, and that bigger shows by more mainstream acts will still suffer from the same ticket touting problems as they do now.

On top of this, ticket selling experts (albeit from Ticketmaster) say that personalised tickets and mobile tickets slow down the entry process at venues to an unsuitable level. Fiddling around with a phone, they say, takes much more time than checking a ticket has the correct date and time.

Laying down the law

If services like Una and Dice don’t end up solving the problem, perhaps it is time for the government to step in and legislate. Last month, two government departments asked for public consultation on a joint review of consumer protection and ticket reselling. If they choose to side with the fans and musicians, they may want to implement some sort of markup limit to online ticket resellers –  not unlike the reselling rules of Una’s marketplace. If they choose side with the industrial resellers, they will set a precedent allowing this practice to continue for years. For the sake of music lovers everywhere, let’s hope they opt for the former.

Featured image by Randy Heinitz. Used under Creative Commons.

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