Bands and fans declare war on online ticket touts _ money _ the guardian

The managers of bands including Arctic Monkeys and One Direction are spearheading a new campaign against online ticket touting that aims to pile pressure on the government to end the resale rip-off.

The FanFair Alliance, which was unveiled on Thursday, is designed to unite fans, artists and music businesses against online touts who have been accused of systematically exploiting gig goers, breaching UK laws and diverting revenues from the creative economy.

The campaign launch comes just days before an expected government announcement on what ministers intend to do – or not do – to tackle the problems.

“The black market in ticket resales is now widely recognised to have reached an industrial scale, with touts operating anonymously and with impunity on under-regulated secondary ticketing sites,” claim those behind the initiative.

Campaigners are urging the government to take “four pragmatic steps” that would disrupt the touts and help get more face-value tickets into the hands of fans.


Definition of fair trade act Meanwhile, gig goers are being encouraged to sign up at fanfairalliance.org where they can share their experiences and stories, and there are plans to produce educational guides for fans and music businesses.

Last year, in the wake of a growing outcry over the reselling of tickets at vastly inflated prices, the government announced an independent review of how the secondary ticketing market was working. The definition of trade off This sector is dominated by four players: Seatwave, Get Me In, Viagogo and StubHub (the first two of which are owned by Ticketmaster).

Two months ago the review team, headed by Professor Michael Waterson, published their report. Definition of foreign trade policy This found that the secondary ticketing sites “are seemingly falling short” when it comes to ensuring compliance with rules brought in last year to protect consumers.

The report also suggested that touts who sell large numbers of tickets to concerts and other events at inflated prices might eventually be required to apply for official licences.

The government only has a few days left to issue its official response to the review team’s findings, as parliament will rise for the summer recess on Thursday.

Rules introduced in May 2015 require anyone reselling tickets via a secondary ticketing website to provide details of the block, row and, crucially, seat number, as well as the face value. Triangular trade system definition But campaigners and consumer bodies say the websites are failing to ensure the required information is provided when people list tickets for sale.

• Get Me In was this week listing tickets for Black Sabbath’s last-ever show, in Birmingham on 4 February 2017, for £715 each, even though these particular seats have a face value of £50 and are at the rear of the Genting Arena. Foreign trade policy definition Two seats would set you back a total of £1,697, which includes Get Me In’s £267 “processing fee”.

• Seatwave was this week listing tickets to the David Bowie Prom at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 29 July for £190 each. International trade organizations definition Yet the face value is £30, and the venue’s website is warning that “once purchased, [Proms] tickets cannot be resold – reselling a ticket makes it void and the ticketholder may be refused entry”.

Initially backed by more than 40 individuals and businesses that have signed a declaration supporting fair ticketing practices, the FanFair Alliance – which also has the backing of trade bodies such as the Musicians’ Union – is urging ministers to:

• Give fans more clarity about who they are buying from. On trade definition Professional traders, often known as “power sellers”, are currently able to operate anonymously on secondary ticketing sites, say the campaigners, who add: “We believe their identities should be made clear to buyers.”

• Ensure that secondary ticketing platforms “show proper corporate responsibility”. Definition of a trademark The FanFair Alliance says it believes the resale sites, not their users, should bear responsibility for ensuring compliance with consumer legislation.

• Make the abuse of technology – via the use of internet “bots” – in order to buy up tickets a criminal offence. Trade show marketing definition “Touts frequently hack into primary ticketing systems to buy up inventory for resale. Trade fair definition The government should clarify that such actions are breaking the Computer Misuse Act and attach appropriate penalties,” say the campaigners.

Whatever the government says next week, it is thought that politicians keen to overhaul the way ticketing works in the UK are now preparing to attach amendments to legislation that could be introduced late this year or early next year. Processing trade definition The Conservative peer Lord Colin Moynihan is understood to be keen to attach an amendment about ticketing to a bill already slated for debate, such as the policing and crime bill or the better markets bill.

Wildlife Entertainment’s Ian McAndrew, manager of Arctic Monkeys and Royal Blood, says: “I am delighted we are launching with such a groundswell of support, and I hope more will come on board and join us.”

Meanwhile, the veteran promoter Harvey Goldsmith, who has worked with acts such as Pink Floyd and helped organise the 1985 Live Aid concert, has also called for more action from politicians, saying touting was “doing untold harm to our business”.

He says: “The problem today is that the primary ticketing operations [such as Ticketmaster] also own secondary auction sites, and send applicants to them at an early stage.”

Goldsmith is an advocate of capping resale prices at face value plus 10%, which he says would kill off profiteering touts but still allow people to resell tickets they can’t use.

The resale websites say they are simply responding to what fans want: the ability to buy and resell tickets when the primary supply is exhausted, or if people can no longer make the event.

Ticketmaster has said that ticketing marketplaces “are dynamic and react to demand and the willingness of fans to pay … Tickets are sometimes listed at prices higher than the face value. Definition of barter trade system Tickets very rarely sell at these elevated prices, though, with many selling at face value or below the original price.”

StubHub has spoken of its concern that “there are still insufficient legal safeguards to stop event organisers using row and seat number details to cancel without compensation tickets offered for resale”. Definition of carry trade Whose side is Ticketmaster on?

A Ticketmaster subsidiary is helping professional touts hoover up tickets by passing on inside information about fast-selling events, allowing them to pounce on “hot” shows ahead of ordinary fans, it is claimed.

The allegation comes weeks after a government-commissioned report lifted the lid on the world of event tickets, which is dominated by “primary” agents such as Ticketmaster and See Tickets, and so-called secondary market websites, the best known of which are Seatwave, Viagogo, Get Me In and StubHub. Trade papers definition The secondary sites are where touts and genuine fans alike sell tickets they have bought from the likes of Ticketmaster, which is thought to be the world’s biggest ticketing company.

In his official report published in May, Professor Michael Waterson said he was convinced that some primary ticket agents or promoters were, behind the scenes, supplying the secondary market sites with tickets to be sold at higher prices in order to boost their profits.

A well-placed source in the touting world told Guardian Money that inside information on Ticketmaster sales was regularly passed on to touts who sell tickets on Get Me In, one of two UK secondary market websites owned by Ticketmaster (the other is Seatwave).

The information was gleaned from the company’s “on-sale call”, a conference call that takes place on the morning that tickets for major gigs go on sale – usually on a Friday. Trade in definition Senior figures at Ticketmaster use the call to discuss which tickets are selling well. Retail trade area definition However, account managers at Get Me In are understood to have listened in to the call on a regular basis.

Account managers are responsible for managing the needs of major touts, known as “power sellers” or brokers, who have built up lucrative businesses by listing hundreds of tickets on sites such as Get Me In. Trade finance definition banking When the touts sell a ticket, the website gets a cut.

The source claimed that account managers would regularly listen to the on-sale call and pass up-to-the-minute information about the bestselling events to their power sellers via a separate phone line. Intra industry trade definition This helped them focus their efforts on the most popular events and maximise their potential profits by snapping up popular tickets – and then selling them to fans at a substantial mark-up. Trade weighted exchange rate definition “They’re on the call, telling you which tickets are doing well … it helps in targeting the right gigs,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ticketmaster declined to comment, but senior staff are believed to have been unaware that employees of Get Me In had access to the on-sale call.

Separately, two sources active in the touting world told Money that Get Me In pays the most powerful touts for tickets that they are yet to sell. Local trade definition This is significant because it helps the touts build up cash reserves that can be used to increase the number of tickets they can buy and sell. Trade union economics definition Ticketmaster stands to gain from high prices on the secondary websites because its subsidiaries, such as Get Me In, take a percentage commission on each one.

One seasoned tout said that some secondary ticketing websites regularly pay touts for tickets they haven’t yet sold. Trade repository definition “They do pay out in advance,” he says. Definition of international trade in economics “They say they don’t, but that’s for consumers.” In his 227-page report, Waterson stated that the secondary sites “may reward power sellers … with better terms, for example, early payment”.

Speaking to the Guardian, Waterson said primary ticket companies had little incentive to rein in touts: “In the absence of instructions to the contrary, there are clear financial incentives for a ticket seller to move some tickets into the secondary market in the case of potential sell-out events.”

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