“Buy or sell? Buy or sell?”
If you’ve been to a concert since, well, the dawn of time, then yes. It’s the cry of the neanderthals you’re most likely to hear outside music venues up and down the country. It’s rife and rampant and unfortunately it’s just the way things are now. Ticket touts are completely allowed to buy tickets in bulk and sell them for an inflated profit. Another article on this site from last year touches on the entire model in a far more articulate and informative manner than I can muster. However, I’ve been feeling rather disillusioned by the entire state of things recently and feel I need to write some words.
It all stems from Radiohead. Bloody Radiohead. I can’t get enough of them. When they announced their shows at Roundhouse earlier this year, tickets sold out in minutes. I reckon they were sold out before they had even gone on sale as some people mentioned a Gigsandtours link activated before the 9am green light. All gone. I stared at a monitor, “glass eyes” for nearly 30 minutes, telling me I was “just” in a queue, looking at “the numbers”, feeling “optimistic” and positive that “I will” secure the tickets, with my multiple browsers “like spinning plates”, feeling “lucky”. This was shortly followed by a sense of being “in limbo”, “climbing up the walls” and then ultimately “let down” that “I can’t” see them and would have to resort to “giving up the ghost”. Well, I’m not going to “sulk”. Time to get the “knives out” and call the “karma…” No I’ll stop. I love you really Radiohead.
Seriously though. It was frustrating and quite frankly a shambles. There were 9,900 tickets available across the band’s three-night residency at the London venue from May 26-28, but many were left empty-handed after waiting in a queue on the band’s website. Thom Yorke himself took to Twitter and said: “I’m as f*cked off as you are, and am only human.” A bit rich, considering the demand was always going to outweigh the enormous supply. You had a choice fellas! You had a choice!
Fun fact: Radiohead’s last London date was at the O2. Capacity? 20,000. The other headlining show on this A Moon Shaped Pool tour is two consecutive nights at NY’s Madison Square Garden with a capacity of 18,200. Over 36,000 tickets in comparison to under 10,000 for London, so something doesn’t really add up.
But that’s beside the main point. As the dust settled… well actually, not even that long. Pretty much immediately people were selling the tickets (face value £65 + booking/postage fees) for massively inflated prices. All the way from £450 and upwards to £5,500, on Stubhub, Viagogo and Gumtree. What a bunch of scumbags. Surely these users can be reported right? Wrong! After doing some research I realised that, surprisingly, gig tickets don’t fall under the same rules and regulations as football tickets. The resale of the ticket does however contradict the venue, promoter and bands management’s terms and conditions.
The user who posted the advert below (£5,500 ticket for a £65 ticket) seemed to justify the price as “supply and demand”. The price is irrelevant I suppose, as we live in a capitalist society and everything should go to the highest bidder. Nothing wrong with making a couple of extra bucks on top eh? But it’s the ethics and morals of this which I find fascinating. After asking for more information about the £5,500 ticket and how legitimate this was, the seller was eager to lock down the sale (after confirming that the ticket was indeed real) with a £100 deposit for the ticket to a PayPal account, and a request for payment was swiftly sent through. What surprised me is, after some not so intensive online searching, the user was actually clearly a passionate music fan; a film-maker and gig photographer too. Whatever the morality of ticket profiteering, I’m adamant that this person would not have been selling at such an inflated price if it wasn’t for the anonymity of posting on Gumtree.
When all the information had been provided and the seller confirmed that they were indeed re-selling the ticket, I informed them they had been reported to the venue and promoter, as this was against the ticket’s terms and conditions. The reaction was one of anger, plus a threat of legal action for passing on their personal details (which, for the record, the official ticket sellers had already obtained from the original ticket transaction) if the tickets were made invalid. They would not take legal action if they got to see Radiohead; i.e. they would only care about their personal details being passed on if they lost not only their precious tickets but also their massive mark up. Once informed that the tickets were likely to be made invalid, I also recommend that they take down the ad at risk of someone (foolishly) purchasing the ticket and being stung hugely in the pocketnot to mention missing the gig (and the ‘pleasure’ of meeting their daylight robber and having to queue with them for a few hours, making a dear friend for life perhaps.)
Contacting the Roundhouse to pass on the ticket reference ID (for the record, this is information they already had on their database), they were grateful for the information and adamant that they were clamping down on re-sellers. The Roundhouse made a big point of this with the ID requirements, and issued a zero tolerance stance. Their terms and conditions were as follows:
“Please note that special arrangements will be in place for this event:
The name of the lead booker will be printed on each ticket. The name cannot be changed once the booking has been made.
The lead booker will be asked to present photo ID to gain entry into the venue. Acceptable forms of photographic ID are: Passport, driving license, CitizenCard or Photocard. Tickets will not be refunded if you arrive without one of the above forms of ID.
If you are booking more than one ticket your guests must arrive at the concert at the same time as you. Failure to do so will result in the guests being turned away.
Tickets cannot be resold. Any tickets resold will not be valid for entry.
Tickets cannot be exchanged or refunded.
Tickets acquired through a secondary source will be invalid.
Due to ID checks, the queue may move slower than usual. Please arrive in plenty of time to avoid disappointment.
By continuing with your booking, you are confirming you agree to these Terms and Conditions. Failure to adhere the terms and conditions may result in your order being cancelled. There are no exceptions to this rule.”
In a similar vein, the Radiohead Sandbag UK website (who deal with all their merchandise/tickets) stated:
“TICKETS SALES TERMS AND CONDITIONS :
Once purchased, tickets cannot be transferred, exchanged, refunded or returned unless the event is cancelled or moved to another date. No name or address changes may be made once your order is completed. In the case of will call, only the person whose name is on the order will be able to collect the tickets, no changes can be made.
Right to admission is reserved by the promoter and event venue.”
Despite these claims, Sandbag when contacted seemed largely uninterested when presented with information on ticket resales: “Thank you for raising this to us. We are aware of this” and “We’re keeping an eye on the secondary markets”.
Somehow i doubt it, as I’m certain if they really wanted to eradicate this market, they could easily find the details of the seller, ticket reference and intent to sell without any real fuss. I suppose it’s pointless and meaningless for bands and management when they’ve done their job. The concert sold out (was that ever a doubt?) and whatever happens on the secondary market is completely irrelevant to them on a financial level. They still get paid the agreed amount at the end of the day.
Perhaps the problem is more deeply rooted with the ticket sellers themselves. Some ticket companies allegedly hold back tickets before they are released and put them on sale on secondary ticketing websites such as Viagogo and TicketStub/Stubhub at highly inflated “market value” prices. I suppose there’s an internal team who “purchase” the tickets before the music fans can get to them, which again doesn’t affect the agreed fees for the band/management/tour promotors and venues. still, when that happens, you know something isn’t right.
How about this for an idea – implement the same rules that Glastonbury has successfully initiated, with ID checks, pre-registration sign-ups and waiting lists to separate the people who genuinely want to enjoy the festival from the people who want to exploit them? I’m convinced this would eradicate the problem, as it would take away the comfort of anonymity – people wouldn’t want to be seen as nasty, money-grabbing scumbag touts. Having talked to many music fans, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for this idea. I’m certain that if the person selling the £5,500 ticket had been subject to an ID checker, using their real name rather than punching in a random name on Gumtree communicating anonymously under the Gumtree mask, they would’ve thought twice.
I know this from experience because I can tell you that, when you meet your would-be tout face-to-face completely randomly in Barcelona during Primavera festival, the seller will express shame and embarrassment and apologise profusely. [Editor’s note: this story deserves to be told in full. Below are the text messages Amadeep was sent by an amateur tout he’d threatened to report. In the end Ama felt sorry for him (you’ll understand why in a minute) and didn’t report him, but he did share the conversation while we were at Primavera together. Which is when it suddenly got weird; literally five minutes after showing the texts to us, which included a photo of the sender, we walked passed the man himself. Ama’s partner went up to make sure it was him, before forcing Ama into a hilariously awkward conversation with him while we all pissed ourselves laughing at the uncanniness of it all. One of the most bizarre coincidences ever. Anyway, back to Ama…]
Mr. REDACTED sent a message thereafter asking not to reveal their name/details, something I told him I wouldn’t do as I’m not trying to create a witchhunt here. But maybe people who think it’s reasonable to profit need to be named and shamed, because it was shocking to see how many “regular” people were open to fleecing fellow gig-goers. Not your scurvy-ridden, flat-cap wearing Del Boy wannabes marauding the venues to make a fast buck, but people like you and me. I know times are tough and the opportunity to secure some easy cash is tempting but it’s ridiculous how easy it is for people to do when they don’t have to face you. At least street touts have the balls to look you in the eye with a toothless smile on their face as they rip you off. Until there is a registration system put in place, how about contacting them, seeing if they are legitimately re-selling the tickets (the profit margin is irrelevant [although recent proposals have argued that 10% on top of face value should be considered the upper limit]) and if they are – report them to the relevant parties such as the venue, ticket agency… hell, even the band/management. I think it’s clear that no one apart from actual music fans care about this and although it’s not illegal, it contradicts most venue and ticket holders’ terms and conditions.
How can we stop this going forward and get music ticketing to align with the same rules that apply to sports? Lobby the government? The Conservative Culture Minister surely will be outraged about this, surely? Fat chance! Of course they aren’t. This very government rejected clear proposals to ensure tickets for popular sports matches and music events are not resold for a huge profit and should instead be decided by “supply and demand” – jargon meaning whatever fans can be convinced to pay. From an article in The Independent last year:
“The Government believes that prices should be set by supply and demand in the secondary ticketing market,” said culture minister Tracey Crouch in response to a question from a Labour MP Chris Bryant had written to ministers to ask them what steps they were taking ensure that tickets for the Rugby World Cup and Ashes cricket tests were sold at their face value. The free-market rhetoric of ‘supply and demand’ contrasts with government positioning before the election which saw headlines proclaiming a crackdown on ticket touts. Sports minister Lord Moynihan, the former chairman of the British Olympic Association, said at the time: “This harvesting is now out of control and volumes of tickets are acquired on such a scale it is proving hard if not impossible for genuine music and sports fans to purchase a ticket at face value for high-demand events.”
Inflated prices are likely to mean that fans on lower incomes aren’t able to afford tickets for shows, meaning the decision of whether to attend will have already been taken for them. The good news is the fans are already fighting back. The Government committed itself to a further inquiry into the secondary ticketing market which was published recently, and this seems to have inspired a movement.
A new ‘fanfair alliance’ has now been announced to campaign against ticket touting. With the backing of over 40 individuals and companies from across the music community, as well as an assortment of trade bodies representing artists, songwriters, labels, managers, producers and independent promoters and venues, the new campaign has four key objectives on its agenda in a bid to constrain the resale of tickets to in-demand shows at considerable mark-ups. You can take a look at the official website and get involved here. Let’s hope it’s a successful campaign. Until then, if you see people selling tickets at an insane mark-up on Gumtree, you know what to do…