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UK parliament announces new live music biz inquiry

The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, is to launch a fresh inquiry into the UK live music business, focusing particularly on secondary ticketing and the declining number of small music venues.

The new investigation replaces the committee’s previous inquiry into ‘ticket abuse’, which was cut short by the snap general election of June 2017, and will once again invite secondary ticketing companies – including previous prominent no-show Viagogo – to contribute evidence.

“This inquiry will be an opportunity for the committee to revisit the important issue of secondary ticket selling,” explains DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins MP (pictured). “We want to hear from the public about their direct experiences with this issue and what they think can be done to tackle it.

“We’ll also investigate what problems many small music venues face, as they struggle to keep their doors open despite the unwavering enthusiasm from the British public for live music.

“The committee also welcomes the government’s announcement [on 18 January] that the agent-of-change principle will form part of the National Planning Policy Framework for housing. As part of this new inquiry, we’ll be exploring other ways in which the government can support upcoming artists and grassroots venues that form such a crucial part of the music scene in the UK.”

“We want to hear from the public about their direct experiences”

Per DCMS, written evidence is invited in the following areas:

Evidence can be submitted via this link on the committee’s website until 17.00 on 28 February 2018.

 


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CMS Committee: Ban bots now

Members of the UK’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee – who earlier this month heard from music and ticketing industry figures in a heated evidence session on ticket abuse – has recommended “immediate measures” to ban the use of ticket bots.

In a letter to culture secretary Karen Bradley (pictured), dated 22 November, which can be read in full here, committee chairman Damian Collins says there is unanimous agreement in the need for “immediate measures to be taken to make it an offence to use digital ticket purchasing software to buy up an excessive number of tickets for events, as has happened in other jurisdictions”.

Despite digital culture minister Matt Hancock saying previously that in his view the use of bots is prohibited by the Computer Misuse Act 1990, Collins concludes the act “does not seem to allow sufficient provision or clarity in this area, and as such there is a strong case for new legislation here to prevent individuals manipulating online ticketing systems”.

The best course of action, suggests the committee, is to amend the Digital Economy Bill, as suggested by Nigel Adams MP, ahead of the House of Commons’ consideration of the bill next Monday.

“There seems to be a lot of consensus on amending the Digital Economy Bill to ban technology that harvests tickets on a large scale before genuine fans ever get a look-in”

“The answers we got from witnesses representing the ticket sellers and resellers went from complacent to evasive, and their failure to provide the most basic assurances about what they’re doing to tackle known large scale touts and fraudsters operating on their own sites – we had an example on screen in front of a member [of Parliament] in the session – have led us to believe there may be much bigger problems in this market than we originally thought,” reads a statement from Collins.

“We are writing to the secretary of state [Bradley] to ask her to begin to look more closely at this issue, but also as a first step that there seems to be a lot of consensus on amending the Digital Economy Bill to ban technology that harvests tickets on a large scale before genuine fans ever get a look-in.”

The banning of bots will apparently be a prelude to a much larger inquiry into ticketing in general, as reported by IQ last week.

 


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UK parliament recommends fresh ticketing inquiry

The British parliament’s Culture Media and Sport (CMS) Committee, which yesterday heard evidence from managers, artists and ticketing companies in a session on ‘ticket abuse’, has recommended a fresh investigation into “the whole area of ticketing” in response to “far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market”.

In a statement, issued this morning, the committee says it was “aware of the distortion of the ticketing markets caused by the use of technology (bots and software) to ‘harvest’ large numbers of tickets as soon as they went on general sale”, but that evidence from those opposed to the current resale market – and unsatisfactory responses from the ticketing companies represented – “led us to conclude that a fuller investigation of the whole area of ticketing is needed”.

The session brought to light “clear indications of too-close relationships between those selling tickets on the primary market and sellers on the secondary market,” reads the statement, which also criticises’ “witnesses’ failure to give satisfactory answers to the committee’s questions about where companies’ main profits are made, the possibility of even Chinese walls between parts of the same company and the willingness of the ticket selling companies to even try to identify, let alone bar, large-scale ticket touts and fraudulent sellers”.

A roundtable discussion, headed by secretary of state for culture, media and sport Karen Bradley and previously only announced as taking place “before Christmas”, will be held at the end of November.

“We will decide how best to take the issues forward once we know the outcome of this,” says the committee, “and in light of the conclusion of a Competition and Marketing Authority [sic] investigation, expected shortly, into whether ticket companies are complying with the law.

“This is fantastic news for all UK music fans and those who have campaigned so long for action …Yesterday, the dysfunctional market and bad practices of the big four secondary ticketing websites were laid bare”

“In the meantime, we will be writing to the secretary of state urging her to study the evidence given to us about the under-reporting of income by known touts and to raise this with HMRC [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs] as an area which warrants their investigation.”

Despite the committee being unimpressed by the ticketing company witnesses – StubHub was, said MPs, “not doing anything to check who [the people selling tickets on your site] are”, while Ticketmaster UK’s Chris Edmonds was told “you are not helping yourselves”, in response to his admission that tickets for Phil Collins’ upcoming UK tour, for which resale is prohibited, are listed on Ticketmaster/Live Nation-owned Get Me In! – all present agreed on the need to ban the use of ticket bots. “We intend to table an amendment on the report stage of the Digital Economy Bill later this month to effect this,” says the committee.

A spokesman for the FanFair Alliance welcomed the news. “This is fantastic news for all UK music fans and those who have campaigned so long for action,” he says in a statement.

“Yesterday, the dysfunctional market and bad practices of the Big Four secondary ticketing websites were laid bare before members of the Culture Media and Sport Committee. We anticipate that a fuller investigation of this market will lead to much-needed reform. The FanFair Alliance fully supports further actions into the fraudulent activities of online ticket touts and the industrial abuse of this market, as well as an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to ban the misuse of bots.”

 


Nigel Adams, the MP for Selby and Ainsty, who sits on the Culture Media and Sport Committee, tells IQ today he doesn’t expect the government to respond to the Waterson report until after the roundtable discussion later this month.

When asked if he shares Ian McAndrew’s view that primary ticketing companies passing to the secondary market are violating existing consumer legislation, Adams says that “may well be the case” and will be discussed with Bradley.

He also calls more transparency from promoters and ticketers into how many tickets are actually available to the general public.

 

 


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UK MPs warm to ticket resale regulation

Days after culture minister Dario Franceschini declared he would seek to make online ticket touting illegal in Italy, members of the British parliament (MPs) this morning signalled their willingness to further regulate the UK’s secondary ticketing market, with one stating: “The time has come when we have to do something.”

In three sessions, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee heard from MMF’s Annabella Coldrick, Wildlife Entertainment’s Ian McAndrew and You Me at Six frontman Josh Franceschi; Ticketmaster UK chairman Chris Edmonds, eBay/StubHub’s Alasdair McGowan and Paul Peak and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers’ Jonathan Brown; and Professor Michael Waterson and Iridium Consultancy’s Reg Walker, respectively, with MPs backing calls for action from those hostile to online ticket resale.

“I’m on your side on this one,” Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid-Worcestershire, told Coldrick. “The British public are more than happy to applaud entrepreneurs, but there’s a fundamental difference between that and price gouging.

“Being ripped off – that’s what the British public won’t tolerate.”

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham said: “I sat on the all-party group with Sharon [Hodgson MP] in the last parliament, and I took the view then that this market is working and we should leave well alone, but I have to say things have evolved […] and the time has come when we have to do something.”

“Things have evolved and the time has come when we have to do something”

Bingham, however, warned against acting hastily and appeared to suggest the issue still needs to be looked at in more detail. “What we don’t want to do, if we’re going to legislate, is send the industry back to blokes hanging around outside venues shouting, ‘Tickets, tickets, who wants tickets’,” he said. “As legislators, we want to get this right.”

Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney suggested “naming and shaming” promoters and venues complicit in the transfer of inventory from the primary to the secondary market, calling them “the villains in this”.

While declining to name names, Coldrick said there is a “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude among some artists, while McAndrew revealed he had been “approached often by the ‘big four’ resale sites”. “That’s a proposal I’ve refused on a number of occasions, but I can understand how that might be a temptation for [those] who want to maximise revenue,” he said, “and that’s why I think we need to look at transfer of tickets from the primary to the secondary market.”

Nigel Adams MP, a longtime campaigner against ticket bots and professional touts, asked Coldrick, McAndrew and Franceschi: “What is the solution? Not everybody can do what Josh does, sitting in a shop and selling tickets to fans… What do we need to do?”

“For a start, the law needs to be enforced,” said Coldrick. “The Consumer Rights Act [2015] says seat numbers and rows must be shown on tickets, that if promoters make a clear statement tickets can’t be resold they can cancel them…

“The experience was very positive, and a distinct progression from previous governments’ narrative around the issue of ticket abuse”

“There needs to be a wholesale inquiry into how these tickets are being sold and how they’re being acquired.”

McAndrew added: “We need to see criminalisation of bots, and we need to look at transfer of tickets from primary to secondary. I’d like to think that’s already an offence under existing consumer law.”

Reflecting on the session, McAndrew told IQ this afternoon: “I think the experience was very positive, and a distinct progression from previous governments’ narrative around the issue of ticket abuse, particularly with relation to ticket resale.

“The committee clearly understands the issues around ticket resale and the harm that is caused to consumers. They also understand the opaque nature and scale of the ticket resale business and how the lack of transparency impacts negatively on music fans, and recognise the vast profits and excessive fees generated by the £1 billion-a year-resale business and how virtually none of that goes back into the live music economy.

“I hope today’s session will provoke a more in-depth investigation to the issues around ticketing in the UK.”

 


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