Event Tickets and Touting
In recent years, there appears to be an increasing number of people voicing their concerns about ticket pricing and availability for events. This trend is not exclusively a “megastar” issue either. The practice occurs more often than not for any event where demand for tickets outstrips supply, which means sporting events, club nights, festivals, theatre shows, charity events, and boutique gigs can all be plagued by touting. Facebook, Reddit and other major social media sites have many posts detailing the difficulty of legitimate fans obtaining tickets at face-value. Recent examples resulting in public outrage were U2, Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar shows in 2017. But believe it or not, the problem is not new! It has been documented since the 1800s. According to James Anthony Devine, who published a paper about this (linked below), ‘in these times, theatre-goers were frustrated by then known as ‘ticket speculators’, ‘pariahs’ and ‘sidewalk men’, who frequently purchased many, if not all, of the tickets in advance of a show, despite efforts to stop them. These tickets were later resold at inflated prices. There was little to no legislation at this time, so private parties tried to limit the problem through various measures.’
The Famine and two World Wars have happened, we’ve gone to the moon, landed a rover on Mars and sent a Tesla Roadster into space but the system of ticket selling remains the same! This would suggest that the system is in fact a very good one! However, a Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ episode disputes this. In this documentary piece, they managed to get two of their investigators employed in a secondary ticket selling company named ‘Viagogo’. Throughout their period working there, Viagogo employees explained exactly how the company operates. In summary, Viagogo state they are only a platform facilitating ‘fan to fan’ ticket sales. However, it quickly emerged that they were actually receiving tickets directly from promoters and then selling these to fans at elevated prices. These are known as allocations.
The documentary found no evidence showing artists were complicit in this process, however, Live Nation are implicated heavily in the scandal. Live Nation are the largest entertainment company in the world and manage many major artists, venues and festivals worldwide including U2 and the 3Arena. And in 2010, Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged to form Live Nation Entertainment.
Ticketmaster also own a secondary ticketing platform ‘Seatwave’ however, they have gone on record as stating ‘Seatwave Ireland has never taken an allocation from anyone involved in the primary market or event organisation, including artists, their representatives or promoters.’
However, they offer no restriction on the markup value, thus continuing the incentive for people to buy tickets to be sold for a profit with no intention to attend the events. This essentially facilitates running a business without paying any taxes.
Where we’re headed:
In May 2017, a bill which is not being opposed by government, was put forward by Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan. This proposes a maximum 10% resale profit and a €5000 fine for anyone found breaching this markup. Aiken Promotions, the FAI, the ECC, DoneDeal and the majority of others supported this in the public consultation while Seatwave, Ticketmaster and TicketSwap all believe it will result in higher initial pricing and more ticket allocations. The future is uncertain but one thing’s for sure, the current way is not working.
E-Venting is an event management blog by Magnum Events
This week’s entry was written by Gary Hughes