We’ve run many articles over the last year or so about the insidious evil that is the secondary ticketing site. During that time a bill slowly filtered its way through government and was made into law just two days ago, but sadly by then it was watered down to such an extent that ultimately it only offers limited succour to the gig goer. However, there could be a saviour in sight in the form of US startup Upriise. Katie Clare has been talking to one of the founders of Upriise about how they hope to eventually stamp secondary ticket sites out of the equation, making it so that one day no one will ever have to pay more than face value for a ticket.
It’s an emotion made up of disappointment, anger and incredulity; it is the “THEY SOLD OUT IN 5 SECONDS AND WE DIDN’T GET TICKETS!” feeling and it sucks. If your conscience (and bank balance) allows, you could always turn to a secondary ticket agency (most likely owned by the primary ticket agency who moments later might have told you “Yes, those face value tickets really did sell out in 5 seconds – honest!”) to buy a ticket as there are almost always plenty ready and waiting for you to buy from them, all be they at double, triple or maybe even for a ticket.
Amendment’s to the Consumer Rights Bill which would have bought more transparency into the secondary ticketing market have made their way through the Houses of Parliament, with a debate on January 12th solidifying what fans have known for some time; that this is a situation that needs to be addressed. However the Government who tried to block this Clause in the Lords seem to feel differently, as does the current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Sajid Javid. Javid, speaking in the House of Commons as a MP backbencher, said in opposition to MP Sharon Hodgson, whom is making the bid to bring in not only transparency but also a cap on how much people can resell tickets for, “Ticket resellers act like classic entrepreneurs.” He continued “They are providing a service that deserves to be rewarded.”
On February 25th former Sports Minister Lord Moynihan succeeded in bringing an amendment to the consumer rights bill that will require secondary ticket sites to provide information such as the row and seat number as well as the name of the ticket’s original seller***. The new legislation is expected to be made law within three months and it’s certainly a triumph against the secondary ticketing market, albeit a small one. It will hopefully, if nothing else, put pressure on the Culture Sectary to bring in controls to stem the excessive profiteering of secondary ticketing despite his vocal approval of “entrepreneurial”
thieves ticket resellers.
As it stands with governments, safeguards for fans are moving in the right direct, but currently they’re somewhat lacking in punch. Bearing in mind also that the primary ticket agencies, with their secondary cash cow ticket sites, are unlikely to be struck with a conscious any time soon, how are we to avoid being
pick-pocketed made to pay considerably more than face value for tickets just because we want to see our favourite artists play live?
Some bands are making a stand dictating that their face value tickets are for fans only. The Foo Fighters plan to beat the touts by releasing tickets in the US at the venue only this year, their “BEAT THE BOTS” campaign, is taking us back to the pre-internet days of ticketing where you simply line up at the box office to buy your ticket. Which is great for those with flexible jobs, but less so for those of us who can’t line up at a box office for, probably, many hours – or even camp out – to be sure of securing tickets. It’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to work for the majority.
The four core surviving members of the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, announced they will reunite for four final shows to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the band at Chicago’s Soldier Field in July and that they’ll continue the tradition of Grateful Dead ticketing by mail order, where tickets will be made available via a first-come, first-served mail order system. Going old school like this may’ve made it suitable for fans unable to freeze their buns off in line for hours / days, and it’s definitely stimulated the revenue of the postal service (and certainly allowed fan creativity to flow) it also, sadly, means your paid up front money is tied up for some time if you are not lucky enough to bag tickets because you’ll then have to wait for the money orders (postal orders in the UK) to be returned … and of course, you’ve paid out for those stamps and the money order fees regardless of success. However, it goes without saying that these costs are small potatoes in comparison to the hike in price that a secondary ticket agent charges, so The Grateful Death system is sounding pretty groovy atm – assuming, of course, that you trust the post office to deliver tickets worth most likely £100 or more without tracking and insurance!
So there are bands out there doing something practical to protect their fans but is this something that only the big boys can do? What about the fans themselves, is there anything they can put into action and to what effect? Is there someone coming up with any viable alternatives to the current ticketing model?
Out in California Tim Ryan and Daniel Brasier (see photo, right) believe they have found a solution. Upriise is a new start-up company who are setting out to eradicate the hassle of secondary ticket sites, allowing fans to see their favourite artists without having to pay above face value for the privilege and with the added bonus of “No ridiculous service fees”. I spoke to Daniel Brasier to find out more about Upriise, with my first question being how they came up with the idea of setting up the service…
“Tim Ryan and I have spent a combined 35 years on Wall Street, with most of our time focused on building and implementing technology solutions for stock exchanges. In our free time, which was limited, we’d usually dive head-first into music in some way or another. We were colleagues first, and then the very best of friends. We’ve probably been to dozens of concerts together. It’s interesting, the more concerts you attend and the more tickets you buy, (the more) you realize that there are a few flaws in the system. The system is either antiquated, rigged or both. It seems like the concert experience, these days, ends perfectly but begins quite miserably. Everyone loves going to a concert, but everyone hates buying a ticket. Whether it’s exorbitant service fees, outrageous ticket scalping or even the mysterious 10am ticket sale, which sells out before it begins – let’s just says there’s a lot left to be desired.”
“We decided that it was time to modernise the first half of the concert experience and make it, well, a bit more enjoyable. We created Upriise to refocus the concert experience on the two essential parties that matter – the artist and the fan. Upriise was formed with a goal to create a closer, more joyful, more sustainable relationship between musicians and their fans. This has and will always be the core focus of our company. The double ‘i’ in the company name represents both the artist and the fan, which we believe nothing should ever come between. We will never lose sight of this ideal. It is a promise we make to fans, a promise we make to artists, and above all a promise we make to ourselves.”
So how do the guys plan to do this, make it so that fans can buy tickets directly off the artists?
“Upriise is a complete shift in the way concerts are constructed.” said Daniel. “We are creating a technology platform that gives musicians and promoters the ability to underwrite their own concerts by selling micro-sponsorships to fans. Using the Upriise web and app based ecosystem, artists can create fan-funded concerts while giving their fans an experience like no other. No ridiculous service fees and no ticket scalping, and we even give fans a refund if their plans change. No, you’re not dreaming. It’s literally an entire reboot on the current model, and it’s long overdue. Last year, the European Space Agency and NASA landed a robot on a comet, for crying out loud, and you mean to tell me that it’s impossible to get a concert ticket at face value in the 21st century? No. The ticketing industry hasn’t changed in decades; it still operates in the world of payphones and typewriters; it’s time for a face-lift.”
What kind of bands does Daniel see using the service? Small bands with only a handful of fans or huge bands who sell out concert arenas?
“We honestly see this as a complete shift in the current system, a shift that puts the focus on the fan. I could blow your mind with stories I’ve heard over the past 6 months; stories from fans of all ages, and from all over the world. These fans love and adore their favourite bands and musicians, but so many of them have never, ever, been able to see them live. Why? Because tickets go on sale and seconds later they’re $650 each on sites like StubHub and Viagogo. Artists, unfortunately, have had their hands tied when it comes to combating ticket scalping. Now they’ll have full control! We see Upriise becoming a standard for bands of any size that want to place their beloved fans, front and center.
Because both Daniel and Tim being are based stateside that was where Upriise started, but do they think this model could work outside of the U.S.?
“Absolutely!” enthuses Daniel. “Quite recently, a huge battle has been raging against ticket touts in the UK. An Open Letter was published in The Independent calling for the House of Commons to pass a proposed amendment aimed at providing more transparency in secondary market sales. The letter was signed by over 80 notable musicians and industry professionals, including members and managers of Pink Floyd, One Direction, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys. The amendment, however, failed. Isn’t that odd? Why is transparency bad? We see our model working anywhere there’s a musician and a fan that adores them. What has to happen first is a pulling back of the curtain if you will – it’s time to expose the Wizard. There is quite a number of people profiting off of ticket scalping and that money is made off the backs of musicians, and fans, like you and me. It’s not chump change, either – the secondary ticketing market is a $20 Billion business. In the end, however, good always prevails. The dishonesty and corruption that’s blanketed the ticketing industry has had its day, and that day is coming to a close. It’s time to reunite The Musician and The Fan once more. It’s time for an Upriising.”
It’s pretty clear that fans, artists and the music industry as a whole is aware of the many problems in ticketing – and there are certainly people working towards viable alternatives. In the meantime, the one thing we as fans can do that will have an impact in bettering the system right away is to not ever buy or sell through secondary ticket sites, they are certainly only interested in making money and without yours it’ll help aid in their demise.
***More information on the governments U-turn on secondary ticketing regulation, which means that they’ll be required to provide details such as the face value of the ticket, the seat number and any applicable restrictions, can be found on Music Week here.