Saturday, 1 November 2014

No More Touts

Tickets go on sale for a high profile show only to sell out in minutes. Before you know it, those same tickets that, moments earlier, had probably been on sale for £50 are on resale websites for hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds more.

Sound familiar? If you're a fan of music, theatre, sports, or anything else that requires ticketed entry then you may have had that experience of sitting online and waiting for tickets to go on sale only for there to be none when you finally manage to get to the site. That's if you get onto the site because, all too often, you'll be met with a blank page or a “403: Forbidden” page.

The secondary ticket market is a huge problem in the UK. While other countries have regulations on resale of tickets, including how much the ticket can be marked up above the face value, the UK has little in the way of rules and laws. The only rule is that tickets to football matches and Olympic events can't be resold above their face value. Everything else is fair game for the secondary market, an industry that pulls in over £2,000,000,000 in profit every year.

While most people probably wouldn't mind paying a little over the face value, in this day and age of austerity, being asked to pay upwards of £200 for a £50 ticket is ludicrous. Yet nothing is being done. Even a Channel 4 episode of Dispatches was ignored. The episode is viewable here:

Until now.

After seeing how well a fan-funded show worked in the States, a group in the UK decided to do something similar. The Foo Fighters have spoken in favour of fan-funded shows and against the secondary ticket market. They're not thinking of the money (of which little, if any, of the profit from the secondary market actually goes to the band). They're thinking of their own roots, of saving up for albums and tickets, of being stuck in the nosebleed seats. Their current TV series, Sonic Highways, highlights many of these points. However, the UK show would have a twist in that it would highlight the problems of the secondary ticketing market.

And, for the second time in a few years, I found myself part of a perfect storm. Back in 2009/2010, I got involved in the “Rage For Christmas #1” campaign and was lucky enough to score tickets to their free show.

In mid-September, I was sent the link to a fan-funded Foo Fighters show in Birmingham. After a couple of hours debating it, I pledged £300 for 6 tickets. Less than a week later, we watched as the total ticked over to the target of £150,000.

So why did I do it? There's a number of reasons, one of them being that my mother regrets that they never took us to more concerts when we were younger. The reason? They were too expensive. So here was the perfect chance for my family and myself to see one of the world's biggest bands in a teeny-tiny venue.

The other reasons?

  • Like many people, I'm on a low wage so concert tickets are seen as a luxury. When you couple in travel, food, merchandise, and possibly accommodation, you're looking at hundreds of pounds.
  • For some reason, despite being in the centre of the country, Birmingham is often overlooked by the bigger bands. Yes, we have some of the country's largest festivals all within driving distance but if you're not a festival person (like myself) then you often feel left out. Birmingham is also the closest city to me and I'd love to go and support their local economy instead of having to go to London or Manchester (Not that I don't like London and Manchester but Birmingham does have some redeeming qualities!).
  • Often I'm at work and wind up missing out on tickets, leaving me at the mercy of the secondary ticket market. And I'd rather support the band than lining the pockets of the ticket touts. Foo Fighters fans in the US tragically got a taste of this when tickets to two shows (Wrigley Field for next year and a Nashville show last night) were sold in a record amount of time. Many of them, including non-transferable ones for the Nashville show, were being sold for astronomical amounts on secondary sites (ones for Nashville were originally on sale for $20 and wound up going for hundreds more). The band had the scalped tickets for the Nashville show cancelled and resold at their original value.
  • And the most important reason I'm supporting this – the ticket touts. I know that people will talk about capitalism and supply and demand, but why should that come at the cost of the fans? Why should the fans have to pay hundreds and thousands of pounds over the odds for seats? Seats which sometimes turn out to be fake, even when they've come from one of the reputable secondary resellers? And why should the touts be allowed to hoover up the majority of the tickets for an event? Ticketmaster USA have admitted that 90% of their daily hits come through botnets hoovering up tickets for the secondary market. With those kinds of numbers, what chance do fans have of buying fairly priced tickets? Under UK law, the use of botnets is illegal.

What I thought had started as a storm in a teacup has now become a perfect storm with and Birmingham at its eye. Radio stations are asking the band if they'll play the show. Fans across the Atlantic are approaching the band and flying banners in support of the fan-funded show at shows. It's a crazy idea and one that I'm so proud to be supporting. Knowing that there's others out there like myself makes me feel so much better. It's time for us to stand up for what we believe in and, while I don't think art should be free (Heck, part of my income comes from writing) I do think it should be fairly priced and affordable. And it most certainly shouldn't come at the cost of either the artists or the fans.

Will this show happen? Well, we'll find out some time around November 17th.

You can keep in touch with the campaign by following the hashtag #nomoretouts

You can also follow at:

Twitter:  @foofamilyuk

Campaign page.

Part 2, told from the point of view of victims of ticket scalpers, is here.
Part 3, told from the point of view of the musicians, is here.

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