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Transparency troubles: ticketing’s pinnacle issue

StubHub UK’s Wayne Grierson discusses the importance of ticket transferability and how a lack of transparency on the primary market is affecting the secondary sector

02 Sep 2019

Wayne Grierson, StubHub UK

Imagine you’ve long wanted to see your favourite band live.

Then one day, they announce a tour, with a date in your hometown in eight months’ time. This band hasn’t toured in a long time, and they always draw in the masses. What do you do? Buy the ticket of course – and maybe another for a friend, so you don’t go alone.

Fast forward six months. Now it’s clear that you will be travelling with work. Or you’ve not been able to find anyone to go with you. What should happen?

If you can’t make the gig, you should be able to resell the ticket to someone else, at a mutually agreed upon price, on a secure and transparent marketplace. That gives other people who weren’t as quick off the mark when tickets went on sale, the chance to go.

This is the essence of the secondary ticketing market. The transferability of tickets is necessary to achieve the best results for everyone. Without it, customers lose their money, venues lose their valued customers, nearby restaurants miss out on your footfall and your favourite band performs to a smaller crowd.

In recent years, the resale of tickets has come under scrutiny. Transparency has emerged as the pinnacle issue, to ensure consumers make informed purchasing decisions. This is a positive step forward for the ticketing industry. The fans must come first.

Transparency in the ticketing industry must be holistic if the true objective is to put consumers first

Yet what is increasingly clear is that transparency with respect to the first sale of tickets – i.e. how many tickets are available for sale, at what price, and at what time – is lacking. Recent media reports have begun to raise valid questions about whether fans are getting a raw deal.

We know that when tickets go on sale, they are not all sold at once. In addition to pre-sale opportunities through fan club memberships or having a particular credit card, it is an established industry practice, in many markets, to hold back tickets and release them for sale over time. Increasingly, those tickets held back from initial sale are being priced differently from the tickets sold previously – not necessarily because they are better seats – but because the demand for the show justifies higher prices.

This practice in itself isn’t objectionable, but the lack of transparency and customer awareness around it is very concerning. Ironically, many of the same industry players calling for transparency and fixed prices in secondary sales are resistant to adopting the same standards for themselves. Transparency in the ticketing industry must be holistic if the true objective is to put consumers first.

Our position is clear. Fans should know the reality of their purchasing options when they try to buy a ticket – as much with primary as secondary. Organisers and marketplaces must be honest if fans are to trust us.

And choice, and transferability, gives fans the best chance of seeing the artists they love in packed out, atmospheric venues – enjoying the best of live.


Wayne Grierson is general manager at StubHub UK.

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