Opinion: Why online ticket retailers like Ticketmaster need to ban ticket touts

kat-TD-pic.jpgKatherine Hannaford writes…

Excuse me for five minutes whilst I vent and rant about how angry I am with Ticketmaster and other online ticket-sellers. You may be aware that this morning, tickets for six London Morrissey gigs went on sale at 9am. Or you will be, when tonight’s papers come out proclaiming the gigs as being the fastest-selling concerts since the guitar was invented.

Like all die-hard Morrissey fans, I logged on at 9am sharp to buy two tickets to just one of the gigs. I was actually using my HTC Touch on the bus, navigating through the pages with GPRS, which was actually behaving itself for once. Not only that, but I had someone else attempting to buy tickets for me as well, on a computer at home. By 9:04am however, we discovered that our attempts to see the quiff-tastic Mozfather were in vain, as all the tickets were sold out.

Hang on – a 3,300 capacity venue, sold out on all six nights, within minutes of the tickets going on sale? It reeked of ticket tout exploitation, and has angered me to the point where I’m urging Ticketmaster and the like to implement new measures to block touts from ruining actual fans’ chances of purchasing tickets. For the love of Morrissey and all good music!

It’s time something was done. When I checked eBay as soon as I got to work an hour after the tickets went on sale, there were already 42 auctions selling Morrissey tickets. Checking now, at 3:15pm, there’s 145 auctions, with the average price for a single standing ticket being £99. Considering the tickets retailed for £35, that’s a damn huge mark-up, and one which makes this Morrissey fan very angry indeed. And that’s not due to his depressing lyrics either.

I can remember the days when tickets were still sold over the phone, and touts had never heard of the internet, and I bet you can too. The fact that these unethical low-lifes have now fully embraced the internet, and harnessed the powers of multi-ticket buying and extortionate eBay floggings directly impacts on us actual fans, who now have to resort to illegal measures if we want to see him.

Measures should be put in place to stop touts from reselling tickets, and to ensure those buying straight from the vendor will actually be keeping the tickets themselves.

The NME attempted this last year, with their Stamp Out The Touts campaign, but unfortunately no-one really batted an eyelash, and we’re still facing the same problems 12 months later.

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This year saw the organisers of Glastonbury Festival take precautions against touts, by asking users when buying online to not only pre-register for the tickets months in advance, but also to upload photo ID of themselves, which were then printed on each ticket.

When entering the festival, we had to then show photo ID alongside out tickets, to prove we bought them ourselves, and didn’t acquire them through illegal means.

This process, whilst perfect for an annual festival like Glastonbury, obviously wouldn’t work with retailers such as Ticketmaster and SeeTickets. They sell thousands of tickets each day, to hundreds of UK gigs, and the labour needed to process each ticket sale would send the already-high booking fees through the roof.

What I suggest is that these sites ask for just the name of each ticket-holder, so it can be printed on the ticket. Photo ID can then be shown when entering the venue, to correlate the name with the ID.

I can’t think of a single way a tout could get around this, unless they were to sell the tickets before they actually go on sale with the vendor, so the winning bidder can nominate the ticket-holder’s name to be printed on the ticket when bought. But then that places the tout with the same odds as the actual music fan, so there’s no point in them attempting to exploit that route.

It’s time online retailers and The Department for Culture, Media and Sport start taking matters into their own hands. DCMS recently rejected a ban on reselling tickets for a profit, with Culture secretary Tessa Jowell stating “it would be unfair if consumers were unable to sell their own tickets and get their money back – we don’t want to criminalise genuine fans”.

She raises a fairly valid point there. Would eBay tightening security on ticket auctions, banning sales of tickets over the RRP, so it resembles an ethical ticket sales site like Scarlet Mist, actually do any good? Well, it’d certainly encourage touts to take their tickets off eBay, and back onto the streets outside venues – a practise which is decidely more dangerous than eBay, offering no buyer protection if the tickets end up being fake, or for the previous night’s concert!

Whatever practises are put into place, I’m sure it would be better than the anarchy we’re facing now, when genuine fans are shouldered out of the legal buying process, and due to their dedication, they’re forced to bite the bullet and buy tickets online at extortionate prices, or simply not see their favourite Northern crooner.

Katherine Hannaford is the Deputy Editor of Tech Digest, and shortly after writing this, she managed to purchase two tickets for Morrissey direct from Roundhouse themselves, who still have tickets available for all six nights, as of 3pm. Phone them on 0870 389 1846 or visit their site here for tickets.

For more music-related news, check out our Shiny blog My Chemical Toilet here

By Katherine Hannaford | November 23rd, 2007





Katherine HannafordOpinion: Why online ticket retailers like Ticketmaster need to ban ticket touts
  • http://andymerrett.co.uk Andy Merrett

    As far as I was aware all of this stuff already was unlawful, or at least against the terms and conditions of the ticket vendors.

    I wouldn’t expect eBay to do much about it though, despite pages like this: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/contracts.html

    They haven’t got time to sort out the real crap on their auction site, being far too busy jumping on innocent sellers because of their automated “banned items” procedures.

    I can’t really see how we’re going to get rid of touts. I’m also not sure how a photo system would work if you bought tickets for someone as a gift.

    It’s very annoying, granted.