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Primary and Secondary Ticketing

A bit about the difference between Primary and Secondary ticketing.

Primary Ticket Agents

In a nutshell primary ticket agents obtain allocations of tickets directly from Event Promoters, Theatrical Producers and/or Venues. They adhere to a code of conduct and are full members of their voluntary body STAR (The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers)

If you purchase your tickets from a primary site that is a member of STAR you can be sure that they have:

  • An independent dispute resolution service
  • The STAR assurance on standards of service and information from members

Tickets from primary sources are generally sold at face value, although customers may have to pay extra for postal and handling charges. Promoters sell tickets though authorised or “primary” agents. The market has changed considerably over the past few years, particularly with the rise of Internet selling; this has had a major impact on the ticket market. Whilst there are may advantages to the changing market place there are also a number of disadvantages, legitimate ticket outlets are working within the industry to combat the problems but to date this has had little impact and the problem is intensifying.

The industry is currently working toward resolutions to the problems within the secondary market but whatever solutions they may put forward will be too late for the many consumers who are currently being caught out in an unreliable market place where fraudulent activity is rife and growing.

Michael Eavis and the Glastonbury Festival team have put in stringent methods and have effectively combated touts, however, these measures are stringent and it may be too costly and inconvenient to reproduce such a system on a wider basis. These stringent controls also raises questions, do fans really want ever more stringent measures in a society where everything seems to be becoming more and more controlled?

Primary ticket agents are the best place to buy tickets for events, as the market is in such disarray at the moment we strongly advise you only to buy from primary sources, the top primary ticket agents are listed here.

We believe that primary ticket agents let themselves down by not offering a refund to customers

We believe that primary ticket agents let themselves down by not offering a refund to customers - when tickets are sold so long in advance an individuals circumstances may change and they may find themselves unable to attend the event. This is an aspect that needs to change as it forces people to look to other avenues to sell on their tickets.

Secondary ticket sellers

The secondary market is complicated, diverse and largely unauthorised, however there are some notable exceptions to this as Festival Republic have now got links with Viagogo - and Ticketmaster has a partnership with GetMein tickets, these are complex developments and probably further muddy the water making it even more difficult for the consumer to understand what is an already complex and difficult market place.

Secondary ticket sellers obtain tickets from a variety of sources, often from other ticket sellers for entertainment events; they then resell these tickets to consumers, usually at a premium. There is overlap and confusion between secondary ticket sellers and ticket touts, touts often obtain their tickets by using a number of people to buy from box offices or on line in bulk, they get round measures to stop them by using a range of quick dialling methods and other means.
With the involvement of two major players in the business having links with the secondary market the distinction between the Primary and the Secondary Market is becoming somewhat blurred, it's getting tough for ticket buyers to work out who is a primary seller and who is a secondary re-seller.  

The confusion and rapid growth within the industry has led to a difficult relationship between primary ticket sellers, secondary ticket sellers, the authorities, the industry and the public. There is confusion, ambivalence, a lack of clarity and a certain reluctance to act, it would seem that any action taken will not meet with the approval of everyone, therefore it appears that the problem is set to continue for some time, during that time the significant rise in the number of professional looking fraudulent sites are able to continue to prey on the public.

The secondary ticket market is developing their own association ASTA UK - ASTA have been set up as a not for profit Regulatory Body for the Secondary Ticket Industry. They have a code of practice, a code of ethics and claim to be accountable and responsible. It has been alleged that a number of scam sites and touts have been affiliated with ASTA and at the time of writing it is unclear as to the effectiveness of this organisation.

There is an absence, in the primary market, of effective returns mechanisms for unwanted tickets. We think that this has a major impact on the current situation as more often than not tickets have to be purchased well in advance of the event, clearly people's circumstances change and it seems reasonable to accept that it is unfair and unreasonable for individuals to be left out of pocket.

This loophole whereby primary agents are not giving refunds adds a legitimacy to re selling tickets thus making it even easier for the less scrupulous to sell on tickets at vastly inflated prices.


There can be little doubt that the ticket market is in a state of disarray and that this situation has developed over the past few years as new technology has made it easier for criminals and unscrupulous sellers to operate. The growth in the industry and the market place has made it difficult for the industry to keep pace; this in turn has resulted in the fact that the situation has become fraught with dangers for the unwary consumer.

Consumers do need mechanisms in place where they can obtain refunds when they are unable to use the tickets they have paid for.

Ticket sellers need to offer better protection to the consumer and this can be managed in a number of ways, clear, transparent information is essential, ticket purchasers should be able to distinguish whether or not the agent/site they are buying from is a legitimate ticket agent.

Tickets should only be allowed to be re-sold at face value plus booking/handling fees.

This is not a situation that will be easy to remedy, our advice to consumers is to always buy from legitimate, primary sources - if you are in any doubt check on the festival/band/venue website - this should tell you where and who is selling legitimate tickets. Meanwhile, check out the information on buying tickets safely - don't let your hard earned cash line the pockets of the many fraudsters plying their trade on the internet.

Your Ratings & Comments
Based on 1 rating
Written by heavenlycupcake | 28th May 2010
Just read the House of Commons report which points out one very important aspect: if ticket agencies and venues accepted returns that would encourage touts to buy even more tickets because they could just return any unsold tickets.
0 of 1 people found this helpful

Article Info

Ticket Safe
5th July 2009
Primary and Secondary Ticketing
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