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Execs point finger at Google over ticket resale

Live music professionals have raised further questions about Google’s influence on the secondary ticketing market.

In a session at Primavera Pro in Barcelona yesterday (1 June), Neo Sala (Doctor Music), ticket resale specialist Nicole Jacobsen (previously tickets.de), Sam Shemtob (FEAT) and Scumeck Sabottka (MCT-Agentur) discussed how search engines host advertisements from unauthorised ticket resale platforms such as Viagogo, which appear at the top of the search page, above organic listings for official ticket sellers.

The panel noted how the advertising policies of search engines do not permit advertising that deceives users – either by excluding relevant information or providing misleading information – but suggested Google did not appear to be adequately enforcing this policy.

“We see a close parallel between the situation now with the live events industry, to that in the noughties with the record business,” said FEAT director Neo Sala, founder & CEO of Spain’s Doctor Music. “I think we all remember when you’d Google a song name and ‘mp3’ and you’d be met with piracy links as the first, second, third results. Today, try Googling ‘Harry Styles tickets’ and you’ll see a link to unauthorised, overpriced tickets right at the top. The live industry needs to ask Google to take the same sensible steps as they did with the record industry and start guiding fans to trusted, official sources.”

Viagogo was banned from advertising on Google globally in July 2019 after the latter came under fire from lawmakers for allegedly accepting advertising money from sites listing tickets fraudulently. The ban was quietly lifted four months later.

“In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are”

The panel said that, during Google’s brief ban on advertising from Viagogo in 2019, global traffic to the site fell by two thirds, which it claimed highlighted the extent of its influence.

A coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe launched the Make Tickets Fair! campaign earlier this year with the intention of helping music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market. The panel also touched on the development of the initiative.

“Across Europe, countries including Belgium, France, Ireland and others have outlawed unauthorised ticket resale,” added FEAT (Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing) director Sam Shemtob. “The European Court of Justice meanwhile has ruled that event tickets are a contract for services, subject to terms and conditions of the event promoter; and the incoming Digital Services Act promises to tighten consumer protections in e-commerce further.

“In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are. Do they want to enable the activities of ticket scalpers, and support the anti-consumer and anti-artist practices of unauthorised resale platforms? Or, do they want to stand up for their users and guide them toward legitimate tickets for the events they want to attend? We hope companies like Google will choose the latter option.”


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