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The Ticket Selling Paradox

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. You pay the inflated prices which means that the touts and secondary ticket agencies make loads of money, vindicating their efforts.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Your Ratings & Comments
Based on 3 ratings
just a Idea
Written by Henrythedog2 | 28th May 2011
One way of combating would be say for instance having the name of the person on each ticket and photo id being shown on admission to the venue as indeed you do on booking a flight on an aircraft
This would obviously cost more in administration and would have to go on the price of the tickets,
At least it would be a justified booking fee.
It could be enforced with random spot checks rather than checking each person as this would slow up admission to the venue.
I’m sure people being ejected from a venue would make the news as a warning to others
And just how much of a problem would it really be for a venue to resell (– administration fee) tickets for someone who couldn’t genuinely attended
Dealing with the Paradox
Written by Highwaystar | 4th Feb 2011
I agree with what you say in your article,but it is not really anything new.
The lack of legal redress against the secondary sellers and touts is the reason they continue to thrive.But,sadly,they prey on the stupidity of people who continue to pay such outrageous prices just to go to certain gigs.These are the same idiots who will queue overnight to get a new iphone or computer game just to be among the first to have it,no matter that these items will fall dramatically in price within a few months.
The weakness in the nature of so many people sees them being exploited mercilessly by touts and scam artists.
I have never bought from a tout or on ebay.If I miss out on a gig I really wanted to see I`m gutted,sure-but to pay many times the value to obtain tickets for it from secondary sources would mean I would not be able to afford to buy tickets for other artists I`d wanted to see.
As the other person who has commented said-The primary selling agencies should be prevented by law from setting up secondary sites.Ticketmaster owns Get me in,and that is obscene.If touts could be given unlimited fines AND jailed for a year or so,that would discourage a significant number of them.But the law is weak and as the old saying goes `there`s one born every day`.So,sadly,I believe that ticket touts and secondary agencies will continue to thrive.
Perhaps,in fact,it will get even worse with the coming together of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.This ,potentially will lead to even higher ticket prices from primary sources,never mind the secondry ones!
Only if the really big artists rebel against this will there be any hope of fairer prices,but I can`t see that happenning.It`s increasingly difficult to make money through album/record sales thanks to the internet,so a lot of bands make their money through touring,It`s unlikely they`ll turn against the promoters and ticket agencies-that`s tantamount to biting the hand that feeds you.
So,regretably,the whole sorry mess will just go on and on.A real shame,but a problem that,I believe,can only be dealt with by new (and powerful) legislation.But will that ever happen????
Time for us to fight back!
Written by Ally | 6th Jan 2011
It's absolutely true, until we stop buying from secondary sellers and overpriced websites, then we deserve all that we get. However saying that, I do know that many people are totally unaware of the practices going on or at least on how large a scale it is . Ticket fraud never crossed my mind until I happened upon the 'safe concerts' site and found to my horror that I had spent £350.00 on tickets from a well dodgy seller!!! which was on safe concerts 'Red List' of sites to avoid!!! They looked to be a legit seller!!! I never realised how nieve i could be up until this point!
I did some digging and boy has this ticket tout scammed some people. They don't even have a real office. It is a virtual office which is manned like a call centre. So even if you get though on the phone you are talking to a basic reseptionist who takes calls for hundreds of different businesses (all virtual offices) on the same line. Hence they have no real knowledge or concern for your problem!
I don't think anyone has actually received tickets from this company to date or had any refunds for missed concerts! Everything in the above article ( The ticket selling Paradox) is true and we need to put these people out of business. Until we do genuine music fans will miss their favorite bands to fund these scammers in their rich life styles.

Personally I also think primary sellers like Ticketmaster should be banned from having a secondary site! It doesn't seem right that a so called 'trusted site' can also operate a site allowing touts to sell there tickets!

I may be wrong But I think that It should be made completely illegal for ANYONE to sell ANY tickets over their 'face value'. Its about time the law protected the innocent for a change!

It should then be hugely publicised to the general public that it IS illegal to sell tickets over their 'Face Value' and concert promotor's should make sure that the 'face value' of their tickets were as well publicised as the band itself, leaving no doubt as to what a ticket should cost! we should be encouraged to report any sightings or suspicions of overpriced tickets on sale and be constantly reminded that anyone attempting to sell overpriced tickets are attempting to rip us off!!! We should be certain that these culprits will face huge fines and prison sentences if reported. They would then have to hide very deep in the woodwork to scam people.

The bands themselves could back our campaign against these scammers who are making money from their talent and success! Oh in a perfect world it could be so easy.... It may be hard to stop the scammers and touts buying up lots of tickets, but it wouldn't be hard stopping them making any money out of them if it was illegal to sell them for more!!!

Article Info

Derren Nugent
Ticket Safe
20th March 2010
The Ticket Selling Paradox
Other related articles
Ticketing issues are draining the music industry of fun and spontaneity
Fans deserve fairness, openess and transparency, but do they really want punitive measures when Safeconcerts already has the answer for them?
Be 'Ticket Aware' - How to buy tickets safely
Buying tickets can be hazardous - fans are being caught out by numerous ticket scams, the authorities are currently doing little to protect victims but they are looking into it, so until things change we all need to be ticket aware.
What to do if you have been a victim of ticket tout fraud
Some basic advice on what to do if ticket fraud happens to you.
Primary and Secondary Ticketing
A bit about the difference between Primary and Secondary ticketing.
Ticket Touting Report
House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee Ticket touting - Second Report of Session 2007–08

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