Ticket scandal (or how do ticket resellers get away with it?)

Bought tickets to a gig recently? Pleased with the price you paid? Or did you miss out on something when they went on sale only to find they were massively above face value at the online stops you made to try and track some down?

Keith Goldhanger did and it bothered him. It bothered him a lot. And he didn’t get any less bothered by the fact lots of his favourite music publications were advertising these ticket resellers and therefore giving some legitimacy to the practice. Including Louder Than War briefly.

A couple of weeks ago, when we upgraded the website, we ended up with an advert for Seatwave on the site. Seatwave are one of the sites that do these expensive tickets. The advert appearing was out of our hands and it took a few days to take it down. We are not against adverts on the site- obviously we would rather we didn’t have to have them to survive but we can’t do all this stuff and lose money and we don’t want to charge the readers to come onto the site … what do you think about all of this, comments please!

~

SIR ! SIR ! I’ve got a question !! – coughs loudly, puts hand up SIR ! SIR! ….nothing…..
“If there’s anything you’re not sure of just ask”…. How many time have we heard that ?- Right….

Imagine living in a place where there’s only one shop and you go there one evening to buy a pint of milk and the shopkeeper wants a fiver for it (if you’re reading this Ronnie Corbett, you can ‘ave this). You look stunned and ask why? It is explained to you that all the 50p ones have sold out and these are pints that people bought earlier in the day and no longer need.

Before uttering the first syllable of “bastard” you are then told that this isn’t illegal, people have just sold them back to the shop. The pints of milk at the front of the fridge now cost £25 quid (so you’re effectively “getting a bargain”) and now you can either spend a fiver to “cover all the inconvenience these people have caused” or piss off and find a cow.

OK, not the perfect analogy, but read on…

It dawned on me recently that it might be a nice thing to go and see the XX in Brixton in December. I’m not really bothered if I go or not but I am actually prepared to shell out the £22 quid or whatever it is once I’ve added a quid or two for booking a ticket and getting it posted to me (or sent to me via email to print out!)

I’m not part of the XX “fan club”, or whatever the equivalent is called nowadays, and I’m not getting up at 9am to refresh happily away in order to punch the air as though I’ve actually WON some tickets when It’s finally my turn to put my debit card details in. So, I’m not concerned that those people that are going, probably got first dibs – maybe even the day before the morning that they went on sale because they were on a fans list or whatever. I’ve no problem with that.

But here’s what’s giving me the HUMP. AGAIN. Because it happens a lot. And I’m using the example of the XX gig only because I thought about going to the gig – I could name Mumford and Sons or Muse….the list is endless and applies to many bands fortunate enough to be as popular as this …and things like V festival, and Reading Festival amongst others (but NOT Glastonbury) – sometimes it also applies to gigs that haven’t even sold out.

No one in this world has been able to explain this to me. I’ve asked. I still don’t understand.
So here goes….

When I went back to the website that told me that this band were doing some gigs I noticed that they were all sold out, “NOT AVAILABLE” it says in the column named “SEE TICKETS”. Gig has “sold out”. NO PROBLEM it happens, they’re popular, been on the telly etc (see above).

But it’s the column next to this that I want to ask about. The one that’s named “VIAGOGO” that have a lot of tickets available “from £60.00″ .

Here’s the link and when you go there KAPPOW!!!!!!! There they are…rather a lot of them – “from £60.00″, or if you’re feeling really flush right up to £177.37! For the same standing position in the venue! Whoopie Bloody doooo! Ain’t that brill?

We can now get tickets for almost anything we want nowadays, eh? Especially us lot in London who have spare cash coming out of our ears. Isn’t the internet great!

No longer do we have to visit the venue to buy sold out tickets from “a shady character outside, or an auction website with ‘no guarantee they get what they paid for’ (it says that on their website) and ‘pay ten times as much for the privilege’  (that’s me ad-libbing) when we can now do this sort of thing ONLINE!!!

WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo yeah yipee! – someone’s really plugged a gap in the market here haven’t they ? Well, probably NOT.

Here’s what I can tell you about VIAGOGO. I used to think they were great because a few years ago when browsing through their website I managed to get three tickets for WEST HAM v STOKE for £45.00. Pretty fuckin’ decent eh? Especially when I could have gone to see LEYTON ORIENT the same afternoon for £23.00 quid a pop.

Three x tickets for £15.00 each and we got to see that bloke who can throw the ball towards the goal from the half way line and then see it again on Match of the Day that evening. This seemed a pretty good deal (and I mention this so LEYTON ORIENT fanzines can use this when the West Ham/Olympic stadium/cheap tickets argument raises it’s head again soon).

It all seems legit because there were loads of flashing adverts around the Boleyn ground advertising this company and on the back of the tickets was a stamp indicating that these tickets once belonged to another London Premiership club that obviously didn’t want them any more so threw them in the direction of VIAGOGO for what – a tenner (I’m guessing)? Who then sold them to me because I saw them 1st for £15.00.

And this, so far, is how I understand the company works.

And this ,so far, is how I understand how a similar company called SEATWAVE works.

And this ,so far, is how I understand is how a similar company called STUB HUB (who also have the “eBay” logo on their website) works.

And this, so far, is how I understand is how a similar company called GET ME IN (who also have the “TicketMaster” logo on their website ) works.

So, what a lot of indecisive XX fans there are out there (apparently) who join the mad rush to get tickets for these December gigs and then realise less than TWO HOURS LATER that they’ve got their cousins wedding / funeral / job / other gig the same day as the gig they’ve just shelled out £20+ for and realise they can’t go to anymore. And instead of calling their mates they hang out with down the pub to say “fuck me I’ve only gone and shelled out 20 quid for a gig I cant go to, do you want it?” they log onto these sites (maybe even register first) and get rid of their tickets this way.

Tickets that end up being on sale from between £60 and £177.34. AND THIS ALL HAPPENS WITHIN A COUPLE OF HOURS AFTER THE TICKETS HAVE ACTUALLY GONE ON SALE!!! BRILLIANT. This is certainly better that having to get someone to sell it to a tout outside eh……eh?

So…

Question number one – how much are all you XX fans selling these tickets for then (if you indeed are)?

Question number two – have you tried opening a Twitter account and asking “who wants my XX tickets for face value” (this does work)?

Question number three –  don’t you have any mates you could sell these unwanted purchases for?

Question number four – do you see yourselves as on line ticket touts wanting to make a fast buck (if indeed you are)?

Question number five – and do you actually give a fuck that there are people out there rather disappointed that they can’t go to the gig because it’s sold out and they can’t afford the £84 being asked to sit in the circle because since BESTIVAL their knees are fucked and they can’t stand up for more than half an hour at a time?

Feeling a bit Ester Rantzen (ask your mum) I then went back to the website that told me the XX were doing these gigs …a website ran by a publication that I am a customer of. They’re a music magazine. I often read their web page because I like what they write about and sometimes I read about things that inspire me to go out and have a look and listen.

I’ve been shelling out £2.40 (and less) for years now on a Wednesday morning for more years than the average age of the staff there. I’ve written them letters. Infiltrated their website every time they have something to say about a sold out gig.

And I’ve had no response.

Back in the ’90s I seem to remember they (or maybe Melody Maker) did a little (or big) item on ticket touts (BOOooooo!) . Not that I’m accusing anyone of being a ticket tout you understand. These are “Secondary ticket sellers”. A description I sort of understand as meaning something along the lines of ‘person A has something required by person B and because person A is stupid and untrustworthy there needs to be someone in the middle to take money from person B, give it to person A in return for a ticket and making a bit for themselves’.

‘A bit’ being double, treble, sometimes 10 times the amount person A has purchased the ticket for in the first place. Which is the bit I don’t understand and would like to concentrate on because I think that someone may be making a shit lot of money from someone else (BOOOOOooo!!!) who is willing to pay these extortionate prices, whilst at the same time preventing people like ME from getting a ticket for sensible money. Someone must be, mustn’t they (also BOOOOOooo!) ?

And no one seems to be able to explain to me how this is justified and how this isn’t an immoral practice.

So, question number six – is person A always an individual described above or are these ‘secondary ticketing companies’ allocated a certain amount of tickets for these events?

People with televisions may have seen a Channel 4 “Dispatches” show earlier this year suggesting that this may be the case, but I’m not here to challenge that accusation.

My question today (OK I admit, there’s a lot of questions and my counting is slightly out, and it’s going to get worse so hold on tight)…Please can you (NME, THE GUARDIAN and THE TELEGRAPH) acknowledge whether or not you feel that promoting these websites is morally worthwhile? Are you happy that your websites are in bed with companies offering tickets for gigs, sold out gigs (and unsold out gigs) at hugely inflated prices sometimes 30 minutes after they have gone on sale? Do you not read your own website where your readers usually swear a lot and call you names for not understanding that us – ‘the kids’ –  who buy your magazine don’t think it’s fair that there are often tickets still available for “sold out” gigs for over a hundred quid?

There are dozens of tickets for the XX that are currently on sale above face value available at the moment – IS EVERYONE TURNING A BLIND EYE ON THIS AND DENYING THAT THEY UNDERSTAND ALL THIS?

As a punter, I think it sucks. When the XX were playing the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen to a half empty room a few years ago it was people like ME that were paying 7 quid to get in and NOW because they’ve made a couple of ace albums you can only go to see them if you’re RICH enough to thump up 60 or 70 quid to do so (or get up early when the tickets go on sale).

I’d like to think other people think this sucks also. If you don’t, then write me a nice letter (or leave a comment) explaining to me how we’ve now got this two-tiered system in place that sells concert tickets at face value (+ booking fees + postage) like we’ve always had, and another system where we’ve got companies selling tickets for the same gigs on the same bit of floor space to people who missed out the first way for over three times the face value?

A bit like the pint of milk scenario I mentioned at the top. Also, do the bands (hoorrayyyyyyy!) care that this is happening and is anyone actually doing anything about this – apart from actually buying these tickets for over a hundred quid (BOOOOoooo!) because they “just have too”?

And are these publications happy, or just naive in linking these alternative options on their websites? Can any of these publications let me know? I’m happy to listen. To maybe ask a few more questions and come back here with the answers. Especially if I’m wrong because there may be a couple of you out there who also do not understand any of this.

Please let me know someone, because I still don’t understand and you’re all clever people out there so I expect you may be able to make this a simple thing to explain to me. And stop giving me the hump.

I await your responses (in any order!) ………anyone?

Post script:

About two hours after finishing this article I went to the home page of LOUDER THAN WAR and thought someone was having a very clever joke at my expense (which would have been odd because LTW were unaware at the time of what I was writing about).

Some of you may have seen that along the homepage recently were the now removed banner adverts for a “secondary ticketing company”. I’m not against adverts on websites at all but this got me angry. Then I laughed, then I cried. I got angry again and stamped my feet and suggested that we had a little chat about all of this.

WE DID.

It went on for about 7 days.

And it was decided eventually that this was not a good thing to have happened. So on behalf of LTW, I say sorry. To myself. Those in charge were unaware of my opinions regarding this and therefore I would like to sincerely say thanks to LTW (who I’m sure will pass on my own commendations back to me – I therefore indirectly pat my self on the back) for removing these adverts (horrayyyy!) (we were trying to change the ads from the start keith but I was out of manchester for a week so couldn’t get to a meeting to get it all sorted out with the people that run that side of things but thanks for your correspondence- the editor)

That was the easy bit.

Maybe this is all it takes

So that’s one down (unless I’m wrong about all this).

Also, Rolling Stones tickets – a day after these were announced, these websites were already advertising tickets. They varied in price between the cheapest ones at £305.68 + a booking fee of about £30.00 + VAT + postage to the more expensive ones at ELEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS !!!!

As someone just said on Twitter ‘how come these companies already have tickets to sell?’

Can I just say that last bit again please: someone on a the website of the “UK’s favorite music weekly” is selling Rolling stones tickets for ELEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS – and they’re not even on sale yet – Hello! Hello…. oi !

I think I need a lie down.

All words by Keith Goldhanger. You can read more from Keith on LTW here.

19 thoughts on “Ticket scandal (or how do ticket resellers get away with it?)

  1. Steve

    Yeah. Didn’t read all the way to the end, but for F’s sake, please support http://www.scarletmist.com.
    I don’t represent or sponsor them, but I use them whenever I want a face value ticket to a sold out gig.
    And I sell face value tickets I occasionally can’t use through them.

    Go see them now. They’re Grrrreatttt!

  2. Dr. Riley

    It’s reasons like this that I’ve recently launched http://ticketlab.co.uk. Once we’re in full swing, customers will be able to pay a minimal booking fee (+ Paypal’s fees) and get personalised e-tickets that can’t be touted. I know there are similar companies trying to get off the ground at the moment, but it’s up to us to support them and overturn the corrupt status quo of the events industry – why should anyone even have to pay £1.85 for a ticketing site to send you an e-ticket?! The whole system is bananas!

  3. Adrian Bull

    I have also written blogs on this issue and written to MP’s, promoters and tried setting up a campaign group to stop ticket touts / resellers. The sad fact is that there are people who are stupid and rich enough to pay £5200 for a pair of Rolling Stones tickets on Ebay, who are easy pickings. Tour promoters like to be able to brag that they are so good at their jobs that gigs always sell out. I was at the first Muse gig in Wembley, when it reopened, which had allegedly sold out yet there were plenty of empty seats – this is common. It’s all the tickets that the insider trading touts had not managed to sell. The fact that there are open traders on Ebay does indeed condone, what is and should be an illegal activity. Combined with the extortionate charges and fees charged by ticket agencies I am really angry at the way music fans are exploited and financially abused. For me it all started when Tom Waits did his last English gigs around 2001(ish) and I tried to get a ticket – inevitably the tickets were sold out within 30 minutes of going on sale. Half an hour later there were front row seats for sale on ebay, it didn’t take a genius to work out that not all tickets went on sale direct to the public. I think most artists are either unaware or don’t give a shit about what is going on (probably lied to by managers and agents and the 100′s of parasites that surround the successful). I went to see PIL at Brixton Academy on their first comebak tour and had a spare ticket of a friend who couldn’t go – I would have happily sold it for a fraction of the face value (the gig wasn’t a sell out cos it was too expensive) but I’m glad to say I was able to give it away to someone who was trying to raise enough money to get in. Fuck touts, fuck insider trading and fuck the Rolling Stones and the other multi-millionaire artists who could afford to put something back by playing free concerts! Glastonbury works because of printing ID on tickets – and even if you think Glasto is too expensive or corportate, they have succeeded in fucking the touts – I would rather tickets cost a little more to kill off the resellers and touts, but only if ticket prices come down in general first – there is a recession on you know! Sorry if this is rambling but it this issue has made me really mad!!

  4. Phil French

    Not sure why Louder Than War is beating itself up over this.
    They ran an ad for Seatwave by mistake, we all ignored it because we don’t care about the ads and then write a blog slagging themselves off for it it!
    I’m far more concerned about the endless stream of blogs they run about John Peel, whose private life is making me feel uncomfortable- where is the support for Jonathan King who went to prison for the same crimes?

  5. DrBass

    Agree with everyone over this. Cannot believe that people are allowed to get away with it. Ye olde touts who stand outside gigs reselling tickets are like saints compared to this lot. At least they’re working for their money.

  6. anon

    Totally agree that these sites aint a good thing and i would never ever use them, mainly because i’m a tight get and don’t like being ripped off, but i can shed some light on your queries.

    The secondary sites you have mentioned don’t buy the tickets from anyone at all, they allow me, you or anyone to advertise tickets we want to flog (for whatever reason) for a price we want for them. So if i wanted to sell a ticket for 100 quids, it would then get advertised on the site for say 110 quids, with the tenner going to the company and the 100 coming to me. This also explains the price differences for the same gigs. You might want 200 quids for yours, if you were proper greedy that is.

    A very high percentage of individuals selling on these sites are people who buy and sell tickets as a job, just like the bloke stood outside the venue, only this way he can stay dry and warm.

    I’m also guessing that NME/Guardian etc don’t actually know they’re promoting these sites. Advertising spaces are sold/rented to companies like Google who can actually target who is reading the page/site, so if they know you like music from your browsing history/searches then ads like these will show up for you.

    Do the bands care? Well some say they do and try to stop websites allowing people to sell them, but it’s not illegal so nothing can officially done. If a band’s really against this, then why not add another date at the town or city of the sell out shows meaning all their fans get to see them live and at a decent price. I say a decent price, the Stones have just gone onsale at 106 quids for the ‘cheap’ seats.

    These companies don’t already have tickets to sell, as i explained before, these are people using the companies to sell their own tickets. What you should be asking is how are these tickets for sale so quickly after the official onsale. Well, of course there are the dreaded presales. Presales are usually open to fanclub members, but all you usually have to do is register as a fan to get access, so maybe the ‘fans’ are just doing this to get the tickets before anyone else. There’s also presales for people who hold certain types of credit cards such as American Express, and then there’s also presales for some gigs if you are on the O2 mobile phone network.Also another big factor here are the promoters. Promoters of gigs in fact own these tickets and can sell them where and when they like. Many of them now hold some back from primary ticket agents such as See Tickets etc and then sell them on secondary ticket sites, even though these tickets aren’t exactly secondary so to speak. They will then sell them at what they call Market Value, which is just a price that idiots will pay to see their favourite band.

    PS Your football tickets will have been cheap to buy because it’s illegal in the UK to sell above the face value.

    Hope this sheds some light.
    In response to Dr Riley’s comment. Etickets can be sold on the secondary market too. Some gigs have gone for the option of only the card holder of the purchase can attend by having to show their card on arrival. This does stop secondary sales, but at the same time if you bought the ticket for a gift and you don’t intend on going yourself, you’re screwed.

  7. Keith Goldhanger

    Thanks for your comments – It may be worth directing any comments towards the publications that advertise these companies just to ask if they realise what these companies do. This is how LTW learnt about it (which was during the writing of the article and not before or after) – I didn’t ignore the ad’s (Phil French) I care about them if you don’t. And if you’d like to tell us what makes you feel uncomfortable about John Peels private life without quoting from the Daily Mail then get typing.

  8. Sean Atkinson

    Personally I think that if you want to get a ticket to a gig, you can get it. You’ve just got to be aware of the possible pre-sales and be online at 8.55am ready to get it. I appreciate that some people want to just turn up at 9.02am and be able to go straight through, but that’s not the world we live in. For many of the popular events, supply outstrips demand. And that’s the cold harsh truth.

    I’ve bought tickets under face value before, and I’ve bought some over face value. If I can’t get a ticket to a gig then I know I’ll be able to get one from eBay or wherever for about £10/15 more and I can live with that.

  9. rYAnD

    supply and demand.

    if tickets sell out at whatever sky-high price they sell at…that is their value

  10. Keith Goldhanger

    To shrug ones shoulders and accept that this is way the world revolves is naive in the least. How long before EVERYONE realises that this is an easy way to make a bit of spare cash at home thus increasing ticket prices for EVERY gig going ? YEAH !! Lets all become ticket touts shall we? How long before we all just accept that once a band gets popular enough to play in a venue above a thousand capacity it’ll cost 80 quid a ticket and all these venues will be full of posh rich people. is that what you want ? — cos that’s what’ll happen.

  11. LESLIE BROOKES

    SO WHY IS THERE A FRIGGIN SEATWAVE AD ON THIS PAGE ADVERTISING PRODIGY TICKETS FOR SEVENTY POUNDS THEN ?

  12. Tim from Radio Clash

    I had this with the New Order Troxy one-off show tickets from December last year. Literally was up at 9am, website, phone and card ready…couldn’t get through, website kept crashing, etc.

    So it was sold out in a few minutes, annoyingly. Even more annoyingly was that the tickets appeared on Viagogo, Seatwave at double or triple the price minutes later. Literally, about 10-15 minutes later. Apparently this isn’t said punter buying a few tickets and realising they’ve got something on (a casual sale like that would be unusual given the hoops you have to go through to get tickets for a high-demand gig these days) but organised gangs armed with call centres calling up and ordering the maximum tickets in bulk, and then flogging them for a high profit. The lady at the ticket company explained this was what was going on, but there’s nothing they can do apart from limit number of tickets.

    I waited a while and eventually bought some on eBay but still almost double the price I would’ve paid. I wasn’t happy…especially as it’s not going to fans of the band, or the band itself, but some touts. It should be illegal to pay more than the face value, like with football tickets.

  13. Stephen Smith

    I’m not sure it’s easy to take a moral stance on this – if you disallow re-sale of tickets, then what does the person who really does find out that they can’t go because they have to work do ?, and if you do allow re-sale then we’re into open market territory, and the rights and wrongs of selling on tickets then become the rights and wrongs of the capitalist market economy. And there are many arguments against that, but when all’s said and done we do live in a society where a capitalist market economy exists – and that’s because we’ve democratically elected governments who’ve decided for us that this is a good thing.

    So I’m not sure that there is anything morally wrong with selling on tickets at whatever price you can get (assuming you accept it’s OK to sell anything at a profit).

    I can see why venues would be likely to sell large numbers of tickets to agencies – 1) it stops them having to faff on with selling tickets; and 2) it means they can quickly get a guaranteed price for the whole venue – irrespective of how many people actually turn up – they may well do deals with the agencies to sell tickets for a whole range of events rather than just the one. Which means that they get a similar return on the gigs for The Mega International Stars, as they do for The Young Wannabees and The Ancient Hasbens – which may or may not sell out.

    The agencies run a risk of course – most people will come across them when gigs are heavily oversubscribed, in which case supply is short, and demand is high – the touts, sorry, agencies can then charge pretty much what the hell they like.

    In other cases though they are left with tickets on their hands that are difficult to shift – and we tend not hear people screaming so much about this.

    I’ve got two anecdotes re. ticket sellers :

    First way back in early 80′s – went to see Rush, ticketless, at Manchester Apollo – there were touts galore – selling tickets at vastly inflated prices – we couldn’t afford them. We got word though that there might be returns on sale from a window next to the entrance 2hrs before the gig. Sure enough there were – and the touts were actually quite violent in trying to get to the front of the queue to buy as many as they could – they failed, and got a smack or two for their troubles. We got our face value tickets – the touts were later seen selling tickets for less than face value – and probably didn’t manage it.

    Anecdote two – Euro 96 – It was desperately difficult to buy tickets through official routes – especially in groups. I tried to get 6 tickets for any game – at Leeds, Manchester, or Newcastle – I ended up having to have two people buy two lots of 3 tickets at St James, for the second highest pricing Tier.

    Friends who tried a day later could not get any tickets at all – this was weeks before the game.

    When we got there, we saw touts in Newcastle city centre selling the cheapest tickets at about double the top priced tickets. Outside the ground there were official UEFA ticket booths selling any ticket you like at the original face value (including the cheapest ones). Finally there were people wearing official UEFA ticket re-seller badges, wandering round selling any ticket, any where, £10. When we got inside our two sets of seats were right behind each other; and the ground was barely a quarter full – and remained that way. Which all goes to show that controlling ticket supply is a difficult business, and that supply and demand influence ticket markets in particular to a very high degree.

    Whatever, it would certainly help a lot of venues, and bands, and indeed ticketing agencies, if they showed that they valued their customers a little more, and tried to make tickets available for the “grass roots” audience, rather than wringing out every last penny, and guaranteeing access for only the richest. Morality doesn’t come into it – long term it’s those grass roots punters who will be coming back again.

  14. facebook_steve.danger.5

    This is from a large venue promoter about ticket prices and why they use Ticketmaster to sell tickets.wen we are setting a price, we work out what we have to receive, nett of charges. I have to account for the ticket agents charge for selling the ticket, the ‘inside charge’ and tax. So I might have a $100 nett I need to achieve, plus 15% tax plus ticket agent charge say of $5 per ticket, so price advertised is $120. But then the ticket agent will add a booking fee, and a courier charge to the customer. We also get them to add credit card charges as we don’t want to pay those. So that can add another $20 or so in total to the ACTUAL price the customer pays.
    It just shows costing structure. I’ve just had a big rant on Fbook about this as Get Me In are selling tickets for Nick Cave at twice their value + VAT + Booking for the cheapest tickets. They are fuckin’ touts..And scum

  15. Nelle

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  16. Pingback: An Open Letter To Jamie T About Secondary Ticketing Sites

  17. Walden rio

    Interesting Post! As, E-ticket advertising is the one of the most successful method to sell your event tickets more rapidly.

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