Here’s an article I wrote for Luvmuzik last year. Slightly outdated now, but it may be interesting to some, so I’m putting it here for archival purposes.
Ticket to bribe (first published March 2008)
It’s a common occurrence to see a group of people standing outside concert venues, muttering “Tickets for the Muse”… “Got your Ronson tickets”, or the gloriously ironic, “Morrissey! Buy, sell, Morrissey!“ If you’re anything like me, you’ll have had to restrain yourself from decking one of them, or even setting their tickets on fire, but what exactly is it about this oh-so-familiar sight that gets us gig-goers so riled up? They are, after all, providing a service for those who otherwise wouldn’t get tickets – but hang on, why wouldn’t they? That’s right, because the touts would already have sniped the majority of the supply. And now they’re discussing the legalities of the practice in Parliament. Going down the route of legislation would lead to the equivalent of someone going to the cinema and buying all the tickets for cost price (for argument’s sake let’s use the already-overpriced Odeon on Leicester Square as an example – £12 a ticket) and then standing outside selling them for £100; Everyone knows the ticket wasn’t worth that, but it would be the only avenue left.
According to Rob Ballentine, who represents the Concert Promoters Association, “the only solution’s to ban the secondary ticket market altogether. Not only would that keep prices down, but it would also stop people selling tickets they don’t actually have” Touting is currently banned for football matches and the Olympics – so why should musical events be any different? ‘Officially’ this is because musicgoers are less prone to hooliganism. But put a tout in front of a few hardcore music fans and, believe me, sparks fly.
Of course, it’s easy to see how legislating against the current system could come back to haunt the honest fan who’s selling a ticket they can no longer use. But we can’t just let these people continue to rocket the price of seeing our favourite bands in concert – that is, if they let us see them at all. Recently, gigs by artists from Sir Cliff to Kylie have fallen victim to the touting system, to the extent that not even the presales remain sacred, with fans logging on at 9am to purchase their tickets, to find only the nosebleeds left. By this stage in the game, the good seats have already been snapped up – and most of them put on eBay – either through scalping networks or under-the-table connections with promoters and venues. They even had the cheek to take advantage of the Live 8 concerts – I wonder how much of that money went to the starving AIDS–ridden kids of the third world.
Granted, you could understand why these kids would need the extra money from touted tickets, but we’ve been hearing recently about artists demanding their “fair share” of second-hand sales. I’m well aware that your average musician – millionaire or not – makes most of their money on tour, but this is not the way to go about it. (Heaven forbid 99% of them actually make better music that will allow them to tour in more high-profile places…). Some artists, such as Radiohead and Robbie Williams – two acts that I really respect musically – have joined the recently-established Resale Rights Society, arguing for “a levy being added to resold tickets” – essentially, the artist profiting from a scalped sale. So why not sell at this higher price to start with? Or cut out the middle man, and get security to mug the kids in the queue on their way in.
Several acts already sell tickets “themselves” in a way that keeps touting to a strict minimum – you turn up on the day with photo ID, and get your ticket, with your name printed onto it, through services such as Musictoday. It’s been proven to work and be more economical than the legit sites. As Micheal Eavis says, “It’s cheap, easy technology [to get a photo printed onto a ticket] – what’s £1 on a £150 ticket?” – which, while it may be a bit of a pain if you end up not being able to go to a gig, is a great way to reduce scalping. What’s some scabby geezer going to do with 200 Take That tickets with his photo on them?
I, for one, am frustrated at the fact that the media seem to be portraying touted tickets as the only means of getting a ticket – as if they are ticketmaster/seetickets/livenation equivalents, making the case of these daylight robbers seem far more sympathetic. If touts were the only place to get tickets, then sure, the artists would have every right to a share. This is, after all, already the system for Ticketmaster and the like (which themselves are not perfect – the Seetickets presale for the recent Kylie tour, for example – and the reason why a growing number of fans are seeing a band live after downloading the album. The reality is that touted tickets are not the sole way to get to a gig. They are a second tier service; they have the same ticket authority as we do. And they are, to quote Jean Paul Sartre’s autobiography (no, seriously) “taking liberties”.