Coming out of the first ever Ticketing Professionals Conference (TPC) in Birmingham, UK on Friday 26th, it felt good to be part of our industry.  A hugely successful conference run by ticketing professionals for ticketing professionals, which must be repeated.

Then I saw the reports about Live Nation (LN), with a record year of revenue “and a whopping $1.2 Bn in secondary-market tickets alone” according to IQ – iq-mag.net – out of total revenue of $7.6 Bn.  A sixth of total revenue on the secondary market?  Weren’t these the people who put the tickets on the primary market in the first place?  But LN owned Ticketmaster owns leading secondary ticketers GetMeIn and Seatwave anyway, so they are part of the problem while pretending to be the solution.

Live Nation: $1.2 Bn in secondary ticket sales

Then one of the less controversial BBC Radio 4 programmes Moneybox on Saturday lunchtime 27th broadcast a complaint about the booking fees at the Colston Hall in Bristol.  By a twist of coincidence, Jonathan Brown of STAR and I had presented a session on the law around booking fees at TPC on Thursday, moderated by Colston Hall’s Jon Swain.  And Colston Hall is a registered charity fully compliant with the law, only quoting inclusive ticket prices, with no surprises.  The BBC piece seemed to suggest that booking fees were a terrible rip off and why weren’t ticket prices like supermarket prices – inclusive?  Which of course they are required to be in the UK and are at Colston Hall.  There is the daft complication of per transaction fees used by some venues, but not Colston Hall.  Double daft for the BBC and a trading standards officer to so misrepresent this.

payment-method related charges now history

I suspect the Bristol complainant was fondly remembering the days before the law intervened when many venues did not charge booking fees to personal bookers buying tickets over-the-counter and paying cash.  But payment-method related different charges are now history.  Perhaps the Colston Hall mistake is that as a registered charity they do carefully explain on their website how ticket prices are made up, based on a 7.5% commission rate.  What?  Only 7.5% you chorus, when it is usually 10-15% and higher!  Well as Newcastle Theatre Royal has pointed out, once they stopped their booking fee being explained separately, the complaints stopped.

Adele tickets £24,000 on secondary market

Then on Sunday 28th the front page of The Observer heralded Adele’s tour starting in Belfast today (29th) with news of secondary market tickets for £24,000.  Yes that is twenty-four thousand pounds sterling for one ticket, including GetMeIn’s £2,840 booking fee (at least they included it in the price quoted); Seat face value £85.  Upwards of 290 times face value.  StubHub slightly cheaper at £23,600.  What is painful about this is that Adele did not want this to happen to her fans, and a pre-registration process had been thought to eliminate 18,000 touts, and Adele had agreed an official re-sale site Twickets at face value.  The Observer story:  http://gu.com/p/4h5f4/stw

if a rip-off is possible, somebody will rip-off

But if a rip-off is possible, somebody will rip-off.  Fans of Brit award indie group Catfish and the Bottlemen found out to their cost on Friday (26th) when tickets for their tour sold out instantly then appeared moments later on the secondary ticket sites, £27.50 tickets offered for £328.90 on GetMeIn.  The law is supposed to protect fans using secondary ticket sites by giving full details of the seller and their tickets, face value, area, row and seat numbers, but monitoring by Which? found that many of the secondary market companies were letting re-sellers break the law – because in some cases the primary ticket providers have terms and conditions which mean they can cancel tickets re-sold unofficially.

Of course Labour MP Sharon Hodgson co-chair of the UK’s Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse has called on the Government again for protective legislation, protection that some artists like Adele, Sir Elton John, Prince, Mumford and Sons and Coldplay all want.  There is a Government report coming in May on whether the UK Consumer Rights Act 2015 provisions on secondary ticketing are working.  They are not.

It is about time the ticketing industry wanted fair play for itself and for its customers.  And not to feel that we have ‘white-collar’ crooks in our profession.

Roger Tomlinson

Monday 29 February 2016