The debate over secondary ticket sales, scalping and related issues is a hot topic in England thanks the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London and an investigative documentary that aired last week titled The Great Ticket Scandal.
Aired on England's Channel 4, the documentary featured journalistic investigators that got jobs at secondary ticket sellers Viagogo and Seatwave. Unfortunately The Great Ticket Scandal is not available in the U.S. but you can currently find the show on YouTube by searching for "Great Ticket Scandal."
After an attempt by Viagogo to block the airing of the documentary was unsuccessful, it went ahead as planned. Viagogo seems to have the most dirty laundry.
Particularly damaging was the revelation that:
"Viagogo staff compete directly with real fans to buy tickets from primary ticket sellers, like Ticketmaster, for in demand events as soon as they go on sale. To get around systems put in place to prevent bulk buying of tickets, Viagogo staff use multiple credit cards registered to different addresses."
Regarding their show The Great Ticket Scandal Dispatches also described:
"Dispatches...went undercover inside one of the UK's biggest ticket reselling websites - Viagogo - and found that major promoters allocate hundreds or even thousands of tickets to be sold through their website at well above the face value. Tickets for recent gigs and tours by Coldplay, Rihanna, Westlife, Take That, and V Festival have been allocated by the promoters in this way."
Viagogo has apparently not defended themselves other than attempting a preemptive legal strike but Seatwave CEO Joe Cohen was interviewed and took a much smarter approach in calling for greater transparency. He also verified that they do work with ticket brokers and other people that might also be referred to as scalpers.
While the concerns raised in The Great Ticket Scandal may not be new, they are being brought to light partly because of the rise of web-based resellers who at least attempt to ensure that fans are getting the real thing. However, there were a lot of questionable aspects raised in the documentary about which Music Ally got a response from multiple figures in England's ticketing world:
From online ticket seller WeGotTickets Director Dave Newton:
"It highlighted how certain parts of the live industry have been complicit in these 'legitimised' touting practices – agents, promoters and, in many cases, artists themselves...The water is muddied by companies like Ticketmaster who, as a primary seller, are happy to dance with the secondary ticketing devil with their ‘Get Me In’ outlet..."
"This is really just a continuation of the promoters-of-old who themselves used to take physical tickets out of the back door of the Box Office and put them in the hands of street touts for cash at a mark-up over face-value."
From the Association of Independent Festivals:
"AIF launched the Ticket Trust in summer 2011 in partnership with Sandbag as a direct response to these immoral operations to sell our members tickets at a profit. The Ticket Trust is a genuine fan to fan ticket exchange, which offers a safe and secure platform for resale of unwanted tickets at face value."
And from founder Richard Marks of "ethical tickets reseller" Scarlet Mist:
"What really sticks in our throat is the connivance of the promoters with the scalpers and touts. This is a rotten industry, and one which cries out to be regulated and throttled back."
I can definitely support services that allow for tickets to be exchanged at face value perhaps with a markup that reflects service fees. But, beyond that, this whole situation is a big mess that really needs to be addressed properly.
At the very least, the issue of secondary ticket sales needs to be investigated more thoroughly and transparency brought to the process so that fans can know exactly what is happening and make their choices accordingly. This process should include much closer scrutiny of Live Nation/Ticketmaster.
Even in cases where artists are benefitting from planned secondary sales, they need to be exposed if they are using such services to cover that fact. Then the fans can decide.
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.