Rebalancing The Ticketing Market: Sharon Hodgson, MP

19 Dec 2012

Credits: arbyreed@flickr

Fresh on the heels of MusicTank’s recent Ticketing Summit (Dec 2012), this post is a direct  response to: StubHub UK: Face Value:  The Secondary Market Conundrum

There are many points on which I would agree with the contribution to the secondary ticketing debate from StubHub’s Navin Kekane, particularly on the need for greater transparency of primary allocations – letting fans know how many tickets are available on the onsale date, and how many are channelled elsewhere.  I also agree that primary agents should be doing more to prevent bots from hoovering up tickets – not just in using visual recognition software, but more importantly in monitoring who is buying their tickets and cancelling purchases made by known touts, their aliases, or any identity which looks like it is part of a botnet.

However, his closing argument, that the current system of rampant touting benefits genuine fans, is not one of those points.

Stubhub were recently reported in the Mirror as holding a party for their powersellers, and I believe Viagogo recently had their Christmas party for their major sellers.  It is these individuals, who somehow gain access to large inventories of tickets, that these websites exist to serve – not the genuine fans, who in far too many cases are getting ripped off, and are not being given the information they need to be able to make an informed decision.

Mr Kekane is right that his website allows genuine fans to access sold out gigs if they’re prepared to pay the going rate.  Unfortunately, he neglects to mention that the reason many of them need to use his website (and others) is because so many tickets are now bought up (through whatever means or channels they have at their disposal) by those professional resellers Stubhub has been so keen to court with parties and negotiated commission, and drip fed onto the secondary market.

The average fan has little to no chance of getting tickets when they go on sale from the primary agent; even the Chair of the Association of Secondary Ticketing Agents admits that “the ordinary fan is screwed.  The decks are stacked against them.”

Mr Kekane claims that his site is open and transparent about the way it does business.  I would dispute that.  The consumer does not know from whom they are buying, whether they are buying from a business or an individual, or the provenance of the tickets.

The face value of the tickets is displayed in small writing before the consumer gets to the checkout screen (although I just checked the stated face value of a £120 Robbie Williams ticket against the primary agent price, which was £75 rather than the £88 stated).

At no point is the consumer made aware that the event organiser reserves the right to cancel and re-release tickets it knows to have been acquired by touts – something which does happen – and they are therefore taking a risk that they will be left outside the venue on the night.

All I and others who have been campaigning on this want to do is to rebalance the market in favour of those consumers. Secondary resale platforms could easily make themselves more transparent, but they know that if they did, the power sellers (and, it is important to say, those artists and organisers who allocate tickets directly) would not want to do business with them.

At least with eBay you can see whether you are buying from a habitual reseller or not, and indeed whether that individual has a good reputation for honouring purchases with genuine tickets; perhaps Stubhub could take a leaf out of their parent company’s book in this regard.

A cap on resale mark-ups may not be the right answer, although many who want to see the excesses of the secondary marked reigned in believe it is.

Regardless of how it is done, something needs to be done, and the only way that something can be done is if the Government provide the lead, and take action to put fans first.

Sharon Hodgson MP – Shadow Education Minister / MP for Washington and Sunderland West FanFair Alliance

A ticketing session will also be featured in our Get Plugged In: Live Music, Promotion and Venue Management Course 2013, commencing end of January.

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