As it gets more and more difficult to get hold of tickets at face value when they are released read why it is all of our actions that are perpetuating this situation, but it is also us who can stop it
At some point we all need to buy tickets for something, be it a concert, festival, football match or a soiree to the theatre to catch the latest Lloyd Webber. These days the prices of tickets is going up, with an average weekend camping ticket to a music festival costing £150 and large acts charging over £100 for a stadium concert ticket, but with the rise in downloading music illegally from the internet depriving artists of a revenue that was previously available to them the main way to make a living is by performing live. What this has done is to encourage more and more tours and has reinvigorated the live music industry to an exciting level, which is good for all of us. To make up the shortfall in sales from music releases, and to cope with the ever growing demands for bigger and better live shows it is no surprise that ticket prices are rising, and in many ways this is how we are all paying for music piracy. I don't have a huge problem with this, talent should be rewarded, and who could begrudge musicians from making a living entertaining us all? What I have a problem with is with the huge mark-ups placed on the face value of tickets from the secondary ticket agencies and how greed is costing us all and creating the great 'Ticket Selling Paradox'
As long as we keep buying these tickets at two or three times the face value we will perpetuate the industry of ticket touts and secondary ticket agencies
What are Primary Ticket agencies and how do tickets get sold?
For the sake of brevity, let's use an example to illustrate this and pick a random artist and gig from the hat; the new boy band sensation JLS, who have generated a massive fan base since their appearance on the X-Factor. Let's assume that JLS have continued their meteoric rise and are going to play at the O2 Arena in London (though this may happen, this is not a real gig, so please don't ask me for tickets, even if by the time you read this they are filling the O2, which would not surprise me). The O2 can hold 20,000 people, so the Management and Promotors of JLS release these tickets to their authorised "Primary" ticket agencies to sell to fans. Primary ticket agencies are the most reputable and reliable of ticket agents as they are the only ones in direct contact with the people who put on the events, if you buy from a primary ticket agency you will pay the face value of the ticket plus a booking fee, though you may pay more if premium ticket packages are available.
The tickets go on sale
At 9am on Friday (a popular day for releases) our tickets go on sale and can be purchased from the primary ticket agencies such as Ticketmaster, See Tickets or Ticketline. By 9:05am, after a frantic rush of internet and phone traffic, every ticket has sold out, leaving a lucky few punching the air and a disappointed mass of people with their head in their hands, or pummelling their keyboards in despair that they will never get their chance to be singled out in the crowd by JB, Marvin, Ortise or Aston to be whisked away by them for a life of fame and fortune. Frantically the search begins to try to get hold of the now sold out tickets, and where better than the internet to start?
Wait a minute, I can get my tickets here
Even the least savvy internet user can use Google, and a cursory search for "JLS O2 Arena" pulls up an inevitable 200,000 results: "JLS Tickets on sale here", "Cheap JLS tickets, 100% safe ticket guarantee". Each one looks inviting, and this may be the chance you are looking for. You check the first site, and there they are, the tickets you are after, and they are still on sale! It's the R&B equivalent of Willy Wonka's golden ticket. But wait, you've seen things about internet scams so you check to make sure it all looks legitimate, there's a phone number, a ticket refund guarantee and a big Verisign secure logo, it's safe* (not necessarily, please see below for more articles on this). OK, so the tickets are twice the price of the ones you were trying to get from the primary ticket websites, oh and there's a big booking fee on top as well, but what the hell, you can go and see the boys - happy days! You can now relax, you have just bought tickets from a "Secondary" ticket agency.
How do Secondary Ticket Agencies get hold of those tickets?
There are a number of ways that Secondary Ticket Agencies get their hands on the tickets you couldn't:
- Secondary ticket agencies go online and buy tickets just like you tried and failed to, and more worryingly, they use computer software, called "Bots" to automatically buy hundreds and thousands of tickets. Many events do not allow bulk purchases, so there are checks in place to limit the number of tickets a single person or credit card can purchase which is why they employ many individuals to buy the tickets on their behalf and get them sent to their address. These tickets are sold to you at a huge premium and they don't even have them in their hands, and if this is discovered the tickets can be cancelled by the organisers of the event.
- Tickets from Primary ticket agencies are allocated to them so that they can be sold on for a premium (some Secondary agencies are owned by primary ticket agencies) so you would never be able to purchase these at face value.
- People no longer want their tickets, or can't go so they arrange to sell their tickets on. In our example, nobody could do this as they have only just gone on sale, which brings us to the fourth and most malicious way:
- They just don't have the tickets you have just bought. They may be defrauding you of your money, or they are using a practice called "Speculative Ticketing". This is when secondary ticket agencies say they have tickets for sale but until you order the tickets and pay for them they will not get hold of them, they are speculating that they can get them, normally from other ticket touts.
Now there are other ways that they get hold of tickets, but these are the most crucial ones for you to know about.
Other types of Secondary Ticket Agencies
Many of us have purchased or sold things on eBay, I have even sold a couple of tickets to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers that I couldn't get to (and didn't make my money back). But eBay will list tickets within minutes of them going on sale, tickets added by people who are trying to make some money touting tickets in a small way (a handful of times a year) but a large number of these are just listings placed by ticket touts and secondary ticket agencies who have obtained their tickets in any of the ways mentioned above. I wish there was a way to get a refund on your tickets if you couldn't make an event, but until there is then there will always be a market for these "fan to fan" websites and with this market comes the opportunist tout looking to get as much profit out of your JLS tickets as they can.
The Ticket Selling Paradox - Here's how the paradox works:
- You can't get the tickets you want because touts and secondary ticket agencies are snapping them all up the minute they go on sale.
- The only way you can get the tickets is to buy them at hideously inflated prices, risking getting ripped off, or have to accept that you will not be seeing JLS at the O2.
- You pay the inflated prices which means that the touts and secondary ticket agencies make loads of money, vindicating their efforts.
- This money is put into buying more tickets, and putting more and more practices in place to procure more tickets, which means that the next time that JLS tickets go on sale they sell out even faster so even more people are disappointed and try to get their tickets from secondary ticket agencies.
- This is only going to get worse, and no matter what your opinion is on Viagogo, eBay or any other secondary ticket agency you can see that this is a self perpetuating situation.
How can we stop the Paradox?
We, the public, can stop this dead in its tracks, but we can only do this together or it will fail at the first hurdle. As long as tickets purchased at face value can be sold at a massive profit then we are going to be less and less likely to pay the correct price, and it's not like these profits are going to the artists, or in some cases the charities that are putting on events, they are going straight into the pockets of the secondary ticket market. So what is the answer? I am afraid that the answer is to just stop buying them over the face value and accept the grim thought that sometimes we just can't get to see the events we want to. It may have some short term pain and don't get me wrong, I have been the one bashing my head on the keyboard because I couldn't get tickets before they sold out, but think about it, If a tout or secondary ticket agency buys 100 tickets for JLS at £40 each, looking to sell them for £100 and they don't sell any of them they will be out of pocket by £4000. This doesn't sound a lot, but they will also have lost £6000 in profit. Multiply this by the massive volumes of tickets that they do buy and sell to all the other events throughout a year and the impact your restraint will have on them is clear. When they are left with hundreds of unsold tickets they would have no choice but to rethink their strategies, or sell them as quickly as possible at a reasonable amount, which is good for us all. In this modern world, money is the single most powerful weapon we have, so why should't we wield it?
Where would we be without secondary ticket sales?
How terrible to imagine a world where the only people who buy tickets to a concert are the genuine fans, and where unscrupulous people have to seek other ways to milk your hard earned cash out of you? Life would not come to an end, concerts and events would still go on, and we would all have a bit more cash in our pockets because of it. That's no bad thing is it? Well some would make you believe that it is, and on some points I would concur. At the moment we rarely have a way to cancel our tickets, so if we can't make the event, for whatever reason, we are faced with losing our money unless we can sell them on, and in the post credit crunch Britain who can afford to do that? So we need a way to cope with this, which is why we need to either have genuine "Fan to Fan" ticket sales websites or proper mechanisms in place for tickets to be returned and refunded (with a processing fee, obviously). In order to prevent any inevitable abuse we need to build an understanding about what is an acceptable price to sell tickets on between fans. I would suggest that if someone is looking to make more than 10% on the face value then their tickets are too expensive, but this is something that we all, as a whole, need to decide on. The one thing I do know for sure is that if it continues unchecked then we will all be paying astronomical prices for our tickets very soon, and it won't be the artists that will be benefiting from it, it'll be the secondary ticket agents and ticket touts who will be laughing all the way into their brand new Mercedes, paid for by us.