Ticket touts found guilty of fraud in UK court
Internet ticket touts Peter Hunter and David Smith, who reportedly made almost £11 million from reselling tickets through secondary sites, have been found guilty of fraud today (13 February).
Following a three-month trial at Leeds Crown Court – the first of its kind regarding secondary ticketing in the UK – the pair, who traded as Ticket Wizz and BZZ, were found guilty of fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud. Both men had denied all charges.
The touts are believed to have spent over £4m between 2015 and 2017 buying tickets from primary sellers with automated buying software, including 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017 alone. They then sold the tickets on secondary platforms including Viagogo and now-shuttered platforms, GetMeIn and Seatwave, for substantial profit.
According to the National Trading Standards, Hunter and Smith used almost 100 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 emails to evade detection. The touts also engaged in ‘speculative selling’, listing tickets for sale that they did not own.
The pair are also thought to have flogged tickets to shows by artists such as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Liam Gallagher. Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp, was among those to testify at the trial, taking action against the resellers after spotting £75 tickets for a Teenage Cancer Trust gig being sold on for almost 1,000 times the price.
“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market”
“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and should reassure consumers that the fraudulent practices of secondary ticket sellers will no longer be tolerated,” comments Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards.
“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”
The verdict is the second victory for anti-tout campaigners this week, after UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) put the brakes on the Stubhub/Viagogo merger on Monday, leading to a further push for more in depth investigations into secondary ticketing practices.
“Today’s verdict shines further light on the murky world of secondary ticketing, and the dependency of websites such as Viagogo and StubHub upon large-scale commercial ticket resellers,” comments Adam Webb, campaign manager of anti-tout organisation FanFair Alliance.
“We strongly suspect Peter Hunter and David Smith are not exceptional, and that other suppliers to these sites may also acquire tickets by unlawful means – no questions asked.”
“Today’s verdict shines further light on the murky world of secondary ticketing”
Webb adds that the National Trading Standards now must “urgently increase the scope of their investigations”, while calling for the CMA “to apply further scrutiny towards the secondary ticketing market overall.”
“If the likes of Viagogo, StubHub and other secondary sites operate without due diligence, then their directors must be held to account,” says Webb.
When contacted by IQ, a Viagogo spokesperson condemned the use of “software to gain an unfair advantage when buying tickets” and stated the site removed the two sellers “as soon as we became aware of their fraudulent activity”.
The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (Feat) similarly welcomes the verdict, which campaign lead Katie O’Leary says is “wholly appropriate given the significance and scope” of the pair’s actions.
O’Leary states that the problem is not limited to “a couple of rogue actors”, stressing that the secondary market is “rife with consumer exploitation”.
“This is a clear example of the lengths that people go to in order to harvest tickets and sell them on at extortionate prices”
“This case is a clear example of the great lengths that people go to in order to harvest tickets and sell them on at extortionate prices to satisfy their personal greed,” continues O’Leary.
“We hope today’s ruling sets a precedent for action against scalpers, both in the UK and across Europe, and encourages more consistent policing and sanctioning of both exploitative traders and the marketplaces which profit from their actions.”
According to Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, the verdict does set “a hugely significant and useful precedent”.
“Our members worked closely with National Trading Standards to compile the evidence used to secure the conviction and we are pleased they were able to play a role in protecting ticket buyers,” says Brown.
“STAR will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that ticket buying is safe for consumers. Our advice is to buy from STAR members who are authorised to sell tickets for events and comply with a strict code of practice including an approved dispute resolution service in the unlikely event of something going wrong.”
Photo: Raph_PH/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)
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The decade in live: 2013
The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.
Following on from a few tough years, 2013 was the year the live industry began to sparkle again, thanks to the improvement of several key economies and more favourable weather conditions.
The main issue for the 2013 business, in fact, appeared to be the abundance of tours, which somewhat outnumbered the amount of resources available to handle them.
2013 was also the year when a new generation began to shine, with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and One Direction performing well on year-end charts, indicating that the future of live was certainly looking bright.
2013 in numbers
In 2013, the top 20 worldwide tours raked in a combined US$2.4 billion, up 24% on the $2bn generated the year before, according to Pollstar.
Bon Jovi once again made the top spot, surpassing their winning 2010 total by almost $60 million and achieving the highest year-end tour total of the year, grossing $259.5m from 2.7m tickets with the Because We Can tour.
Beyoncé’s The Mrs Carter Show came in second with a total gross of $188.6m, followed by Pink’s The Truth About Love with $170.6m. Justin Bieber came hot on the Pink’s heels at fourth, grossing $169m with his second concert tour Believe. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band earned $145.4m, adding to the $210.2m grossed in 2012.
Newcomers also made their mark in 2013, with One Direction scraping into the top ten global tours for the first time with the Take Me Home tour ($114) and Bruno Mars making his first top twenty appearance with Moonshine Jungle tour.
2013 in brief
Seatwave founder and chief exec Joe Cohen exits the UK-based company, claiming that the secondary ticketing business is in great shape.
Kylie Minogue and her manager of 25 years, Terry Blamey, split, as the artist announces her intention to concentrate on her acting career. Minogue is now represented by Jay-Z’s management company Roc Nation, who also look after Rihanna, MIA and The Ting Tings.
Universal sells EMI’s Parlophone label group to Warner Music for an estimated £480m ($764m). The deal effectively means that three record companies now dominate the global market – Universal, Sony and Warner.
SFX Entertainment receives an undisclosed financial boost from advertising giant WPP, which counts agencies such as JWT; Grey; and Young & Rubicam in its portfolio. The deal gives SFX a powerful ally as it looks to ramp up its EDM empire.
AEG’s deal to take over the management of Wembley Arena is referred to the Competition Commission in the UK after an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, which is concerned that AEG has too big an influence over live entertainment in the capital.
Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, becomes arguably the most renowned ticket tout in the world, when he resells tickets for his debenture box at the Royal Albert Hall.
New York-based agency Paradigm launches a record label, Big Picnic Records, which boss Marty Diamond intends to use to “support the development of new artists.”
Ticketmaster files a lawsuit against a New York man who they allege uses bots to buy as many as 200,000 tickets a day, before the general public can.
Pink smashes her record of 17 shows at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena by booking an 18th date on her The Truth About Love tour. The Australian leg includes 46 shows and is expected to sell more than 500,000 tickets.
The promoter and stage supplier are charged in relation to a fatal stage collapse, which claimed the life of Radiohead drum tech Scott Johnson in Toronto’s Downsview Park last year.
Live Nation and Insomniac Events confirm rumours of a creative partnership, although the latter’s chief, Pasquale Rotella states Insomniac will remain independent.
Vince Power sells a major shareholding in Benicàssim Festival to SJM Concerts and Denis Desmond in a deal designed to assure the future of the popular Spanish event. Power will remain MD of the event which this year featured Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Beady Eye, and The Killers.
Vivendi rejects an $8.5bn offer for Universal Music Group from Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank. It’s thought the increasing importance of music services in the mobile market prompted the unsolicited offer.
Lady Gaga and Madonna face prosecution in Russia for allegedly performing without proper visas. Both artists are accused of breaking Russia’s new gay propaganda laws, which make it illegal to promote homosexuality to minors.
Agency IMG Worldwide is put up for sale by private equity firm, Forstmann Little & Co, with analysts expecting a price tag of about $2bn.
Michael Gudinski’s Frontier Touring agrees a strategic partnership with dance promoter Future Music Festival to present the touring event, which visits five Australian cities and Malaysia next March.
Irving Azoff partners with The Madison Square Garden Company to create Azoff MSG Entertainment. In return for a $125m investment, MSG will own a 50% stake in a company, which will include artist management, TV production, live event branding and digital marketing divisions.
Benicàssim Festival © Jiquesan/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The jury in the $1.5bn case brought by Michael Jackson’s family against AEG finds that although AEG did employ Dr Conrad Murray, the company was not liable for his negligence.
Austin City Limits organisers are forced to cancel the final day of the US music festival when heavy rain and thunderstorms cause flooding.
Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber, is pulling together a management conglomerate thanks to backing from Waddell & Reed Financial. The New York Times says Braun is in talks with several potential partners including Drake and his management team, Shania Twain and Troy Carter (ex Lady Gaga manager).
Live Nation confirms it is negotiating terms to acquire the management companies of U2 and Madonna. The deal to buy Paul McGuinness’s Principle Management and Guy Oseary’s Maverick could cost about $30m with Oseary taking over management of both operations.
Talent agency William Morris Endeavour acquires IMG Worldwide in a $2.3bn deal backed by private equity group Silver Lake.
SFX Entertainment pays $16.2m for a 75% stake in Dutch- based ticketing operation Paylogic, which counts 2,000 clients across its offices in Groningen, Amsterdam, Berlin and Antwerp.
Who we lost
Notable industry deaths in 2013 include Claude Nobs, Montreux Jazz Festival founder and GM, 76; Modern World founder Henning Tögel, 58; Cecil Womack, The Valentinos and Womack & Womack singer, aged 65; Live Nation Denmark CEO Flemming Schmidt, 63; German promoter Fritz Rau, 83; Edwin Shirley, founder of Edwin Shirley Trucking and Edwin Shirley Staging, 65; Danish live music impresario Arne Worsøe, 72; Velvet Underground singer and guitarist and solo artist Lou Reed, 71.
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Ticketmaster ticket exchange goes live as Get Me In! closes
Ticketmaster has completed the process of closing its Seatwave and Get Me In! resale sites and launching its new price-capped ticket exchange.
In a decision welcomed by the broader industry, the company announced in August it was to shutter its dual European secondary ticketing platforms in favour of a price-capped system integrated into the main Ticketmaster site.
“When fans next log into [their account], they’ll see some brand-new features,” explains the company in a blog post announcing the launch. “First up, fans now have the option to sell tickets directly on Ticketmaster with the click of a button.
“Fans now have the option to sell tickets directly on Ticketmaster with the click of a button”
“Fans simply hit ‘sell’ on the tickets they can no longer use, and they’ll be put in front of millions of others to buy and go to the show in their place. When tickets are resold, we’ll cancel them and send new, unique ones to the fan who has bought them. That ensures that all tickets on Ticketmaster are 100% verified and fans will have no concerns about getting in at the door.”
The new ticket exchange joins similar solutions by several Ticketmaster rivals, including See Tickets’ Fan-to-Fan, CTS Eventim’s FanSALE and AXS’s Marketplace in Europe, and the soon-to-launch Ticketek Marketplace in Australia.
“Everything we do is about making the fan experience better,” continues the TM statement. “These changes have been designed and built to make it easier for fans to get into the shows they love.”
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BDV welcomes Seatwave shutdown – but says ‘nein’ to Viagogo
Members of BDV, the German concert promoters’ association, are putting on a united front against ticket touting with a new campaign that aims to educate the public about the risks of buying from the secondary market.
The initiative will see BDV’s members – which comprise all major German promoters, including Live Nation, DEAG, FKP Scorpio, Wizard Promotions and Peter Rieger Concert Agency – as well as anyone else who supports the campaign, display the Nein zum Ticketschwarzmarkt (No to the Ticket Black Market) logo on their tickets, posters and websites to raise awareness of the issue.
Following on from its general meeting in November, the association is also demanding a price cap of 25% above face value on all tickets resold in Germany.
BDV’s legal advisor, Johannes Ulbricht, decries a situation in which tickets are being listed on platforms such as StubHub, Viagogo and local resale site Ticketbande for up to 250% of the original price paid. “We have been fighting for years against this growing cancer on the events industry,” he says. “And, as the resellers mostly remain anonymous or have their headquarters abroad, it’s difficult to have them shut down.”
“As other ecommerce platforms are still being exploited for illegal activities, and are generating significant revenues, there is a need for legislative action
BDV president Jens Michow, while welcoming the recent announcement by Ticketmaster it is shutting down Seatwave and Get Me In!, says Germans are still being ripped off by secondary ticketing sites. “Ticketmaster’s decision is far-sighted,” he comments. “It is a decision that benefits audiences and artists, and is one that will increase quality and sustainability in the events industry.
“Unfortunately, as other ecommerce platforms are still being exploited for illegal activities, and are generating significant revenues, there is a need for legislative action.”
He adds that, “in the case of Viagogo, we are currently preparing a claim for damages.”
Collaboration, cooperation and the future of ticketing
Monday’s news that Ticketmaster is shutting its secondary ticketing sites, Get Me In! and Seatwave, has received an almost universally rapturous response from the UK live music industry (Rob Davies’s reservations in the Guardian duly noted) – which, to me, just highlights the ridiculous situation the industry allowed itself to get into over the last ten years, through intransigence and an aversion to cooperation and collaboration.
Without writing the complete history of this sorry state of affairs, let’s rewind to the DCMS’s decision not to legislate against above-face value resale back in 2007, when the live music industry was told, in summary, that there was no appetite for legislating against the free-market activities of all those that engaged in touting, and therefore the industry should go and sort out its own problems (cf. conclusions and recommendations from p38 of this document).
At that time in the UK, we had three established touting sites – this was before the successful rebranding of ‘touting’ as ‘secondary ticketing’ – Viagogo, Get Me In! and Seatwave.
What happened next?
One of the first things was that Ticketmaster bought Get Me in! – the first blatant example of the “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” trend that many in the industry subsequently adopted.
This was followed by the Music Managers Forum (yes, those wonderful people who have now been a significant force in turning the tide on this issue) launching the Resale Rights Society, whose aim was “to ensure that artists and the live music industry share in the proceeds of resold tickets” by endorsing ‘kitemarked’ secondary sites in return for a cut of the resale profits. WTF!
The Concert Promoters Association also got in on the act by launching their own secondary platform, OfficialBoxOffice.com, built and powered by See Tickets.
There was even a certain booking agency stalwart who, having railed against the secondary market at successive ILMCs, then was found lurking on the other side of the fence as an ‘ambassador’ for Viagogo.
These actions all contributed significantly to the sorry state of the live music market that, in February 2012, was so brilliantly exposed in Channel 4 Dispatches programme, with the finger being pointed at artists and promoters who were supplying primary inventory directly to the secondary platforms.
Then eBay brought over their StubHub platform from the US, and Ticketmaster bought Seatwave, giving us the ‘big four’.
The industry allowed itself to get into a ridiculous situation, through intransigence and an aversion to cooperation and collaboration
So how did the tide then turn?
A number of things happened around the same time, many inspired by ticket buyers who were pissed off at being ripped off. Who’d have thought? Certainly not Carl Leighton-Pope, who said at a Music Tank debate, “Now that secondary ticketing is here we have to embrace it. Nobody is going to be able to do anything about it, especially if the public wants it.”
Sharon Hodgson MP initiated a private member’s bill to introduce legislation capping resale at 10% above face value. The bill was voted down, but it did start a parliamentary process that then gave consumers (including consumer associations, such as Which?) and those in the live events industry who refused to be tempted into the dark side (stand up, Stuart Galbraith) something to build a campaign around.
Sharon herself was a pissed-off customer, having been ripped off trying to buy Take That tickets for her daughter.
This trend for pissed-off consumers taking direct action continued with Marie Goldman channelling her frustrations at her father being a victim of a duplicate (ie fraudulent) resale into developing the Piktical platform, which enables the whole ticketing industry to centrally control the distribution and redistribution of tickets, locked down by facial recognition.
And, more visibly, Claire Turnham’s Victim of Viagogo campaign, which was born out of the manipulation she suffered at the hands of Viagogo when buying Ed Sheeran tickets as a birthday present for her son. To date, the campaign has been responsible for more than £750,000 in refunds being returned into the hands of ticket buyers.
In the midst of all this, Twickets was launched from within a music industry base as a true fan-to-fan resale platform, with no tickets able to be resold above their original face value. (A heads-up at this point to the original fan-to-fan resale service, Scarlet Mist, which has been running largely unnoticed in the background for years. The solution to the problem was already there back in 2007, if the industry had only collaborated and collectively decided that it wanted to put its customers first.)
The increase in noise from the public, coupled with a momentum in the print, online and TV coverage, gave confidence to those artists big enough and principled enough (stand up, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Arctic Monkeys, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Noel Gallagher and others) to voice their opinions and to express their anger and frustration at their own fans getting ripped off.
Social media played a big part, too, as artists are now exposed to the voices of their audience directly (especially through Twitter) and want to know what their team (manager, agent, promoter) are doing about it.
The artists’ voices were channelled through the MMF, who leapt back over from the dark side into the light and launched FanFair Alliance (FFA), headed up by the tireless campaign manager Adam Webb.
Promoters weren’t prepared to allow customers to return tickets for a show – the sentiment being, “tough; it’s their fault they can’t make the show, not mine”
This was the key cog in the machinery, as it gave everyone in the live events industry in the UK something to aggregate around. FFA supported Victim of Viagogo, liaised with the long-established All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, fed the media and strategised with artists, managers and promoters, steadily building a rounded campaign whereby legislation, enforcement, education and pressure brought us to the point this week where Ticketmaster have announced: “That’s right, we’ve listened and we hear you: secondary sites just don’t cut it anymore and you’re tired of seeing others snap up tickets just to resell for a profit.”
Ticketmaster has made a pragmatic decision to protect their core primary business, as their focus (and the focus of nearly all ticket companies in the UK) is the entity that controls the inventory – whether that be the artist, the promoter or the venue.
Over the last 18 months, we have seen Viagogo lead their business in the UK to the edge of the legislative cliff, refusing to engage with parliamentarians, National Trading Standards or the Competition and Markets Authority. It can only be a matter of months before Viagogo is forcibly shut down – or they do another disappearing act under the cover of darkness, as they did when the RFU won their legal action against them a few years back and they fled overnight to Switzerland?
(It’s just a hunch, but Viagogo was set up by Eric Baker after he sold StubHub to eBay just over ten years ago. Could it be that the non-compete clause has run its course and very soon we’ll see Eric Baker back in the US with a new secondary ticketing incarnation, competing there with his former company?)
Over the same 18-month period, artists and their managers have put Ticketmaster on the spot by requesting, on a show-by-show basis, that they refuse to allow listing of certain shows on their two resale sites – the unspoken threat being that Ticketmaster would miss out on any primary inventory otherwise.
Ticketmaster never had a strategy to develop a secondary ticketing service – it acquired two players already in the market as a way of sharing in a pie that looked like it was just going to grow and grow with, at the time, seemingly no appetite within the industry or government to stop it.
Now the tide has turned, Ticketmaster (UK) are wisely repositioning themselves as a primary ticketing agency, and have flipped their existing resale platforms into providing fan-to-fan resale functionality for the main service.
In 2006, I specced out a return-and-resale module for WeGotTickets, as it had become a frequent request from customers who were no longer able to make a show. The module never got developed, largely because of the resistance we met from promoters. They weren’t prepared to allow customers to return tickets for a show that wasn’t completely sold out – the sentiment being, “tough; it’s their fault they can’t make the show, not mine”.
I understood this at the time but with hindsight it seems so short-sighted and insular. I wonder what would have happened if, at that time, all the ticket companies had developed such functionality (props to Skiddle for being the first, I believe, to actually go live) and we had evolved the UK ticketing industry into a position whereby the customer was clearly the priority. For everyone.
It is not enough to just pay lip service to the mantra of “putting the customer first”
There is an inherent contradiction in the way the ticketing industry works these days, in that the ticket companies focus almost all their energies and resources exclusively on their clients (those that control the inventory) – yet it is the ticket buyer that is charged for that service in the form of the booking fees, services charges, delivery charges, transaction charges, etc.
The booking fees that the customers pay are artificially (and ridiculously) high because the ticket companies offer the inventory controllers an inducement in the form of a kickback/rebate on every ticket sold, which can be as much as 50% of the total booking fee.
If we really are “doing it for the kids” (stand up, Alan McGee), then the service that is being provided by the ticket companies to the inventory controllers should be charged to those controllers and wrapped up in the ‘face value’ of the ticket. Certain delivery options could then incur an additional cost per order, but everything else should be an inside charge – a ‘show cost’, if you like.
One thing this whole debacle has shown me is that it is not enough to just pay lip service to the mantra of “putting the customer first”. Customers know a raw deal when they get one and sometimes they’re motivated to do something about it!
What needs to happen next is for the live events industry in general (and the ticket companies in particular) to come together to work out how to control the sale and resale of tickets in a way that is compatible with how the artists want their fans to be served.
I would propose that this would be through a central ticket repository system that all ticket companies are hooked into, where the issuing, transferring and redeeming of tickets is able to be controlled to the specifications of each live music event’s stakeholders – artist, manager, agent, promoter and venue. Blockchain technology may provide the appropriate backbone to such a system, but we need to be more open-minded than that so that we collaborate and cooperate to design the optimal solution before deciding on the technology upon which it’s built.
We could learn an awful lot from both the airline industry and the banking sector in this respect. I’ve said it many times before, but what allows me to take cash out of my Lloyds account from a NatWest ATM?
Collaboration across the sector, coupled with a desire to provide the best possible service for its customers.
WeGotTickets founder Dave Newton is currently advising on a number of projects in the ticketing and live music space, having resigned as a director of WeGotTickets last October. He can be reached on LinkedIn.
How technology can end ticket touting for good
This week’s news that Ticketmaster is closing its secondary websites Seatwave and Get Me In! sent shockwaves across the ticketing industry – but most agree this is a step in the right direction when it comes to combatting touting and preventing sky-high prices in the secondary market.
Secondary sales will still be permitted through Ticketmaster’s own site , but unlike on the existing secondary sites, you will only be allowed to charge for tickets at face value or lower. A 15% surcharge will be added to each ticket in order to cover the booking fees initially paid by the seller.
In the current climate of growing legislative scrutiny of secondary markets, including the recent ban on ticket bots and action being considered by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority against secondary seller Viagogo, Ticketmaster’s decision is a canny move which distances them from the growing consumer dissatisfaction with secondary platforms.
At part of the ticketing industry, we welcome Ticketmaster’s move to close Get Me In! and Seatwave as platforms for secondary sales, which have seen consumers being charged huge premiums to get hold of tickets for events against the wishes of artists and event organisers. The announcement is a significant step in ensuring primary ticket vendors are committed to fair-value resale, and is a real testament to the tireless work of consumer protection campaigners such as FanFair Alliance and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.
We must continue to work together with stakeholders across the ticketing industry to protect rightsholders and gain greater transparency over resale
However, ticket scalpers and other scammers hoping to make a killing on a big-ticket item will still be able to choose to sell tickets through alternative secondary markets such as Viagogo. This shift to fan-to-fan ticket exchanges must be powered by technological innovation, helping to protect the resale of tickets and reclaim some control for artists, venues and promoters.
One of the advantages of holding tickets on the blockchain is that ticket inventory rightsholders have the ability to set rules and parameters around which secondary platforms are whitelisted (or indeed blacklisted) to resale their tickets. Minimum and maximum price caps can also be set, giving artists and ticket agents the ability to stipulate ‘face value-only’ resale.
Welcoming the Ticketmaster news, FanFair Alliance said that “while enforcement action is still urgently required to clamp down on rogue operators such as Viagogo, we are now much closer to a genuine transformation of the secondary market – where large-scale online touts are locked out, where innovation can flourish, and the resale of tickets is made straightforward, transparent and consumer-friendly.”
We must continue to work together with stakeholders across the ticketing industry to protect rightsholders and gain greater transparency over the resale of tickets, bringing more value to consumers. Only with a combined approach can consumers and rightholders be properly protected by new technology.
Annika Monari is co-founder and director of Aventus Systems.
‘We’re close to a genuine transformation’: Get Me In!/Seatwave shutdown reactions
Anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance “warmly welcomes” Ticketmaster’s decision to close its European ticket resale sites, a spokesperson has said, as the latest step towards effecting a “genuine transformation of the secondary market” in the UK and beyond.
IQ revealed this morning that as of today (13 August), no new events may be listed on either Get Me In! or Seatwave, with both sites beginning a phased closure from October. The sites will be replaced by a new platform integrated into the main Ticketmaster site which caps the resale price at that paid by the original buyer.
“We are now much closer to a genuine transformation of the secondary market”
“After a long campaign to change the UK ticketing market and to put power into the hands of artists and their fans, the FanFair Alliance warmly welcomes this move by Ticketmaster,” reads FanFair’s statement. “While enforcement action is still urgently required to clamp down on rogue operators such as Viagogo, we are now much closer to a genuine transformation of the secondary market – where large-scale online touts are locked out, where innovation can flourish and the resale of tickets is made straightforward, transparent and consumer-friendly.
“We look forward to the roll out from October this year and seeing how these changes work in practice.”
“Ticket buyers will have another safe and trusted place to resell their tickets”
Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), comments: “This excellent news from Ticketmaster means that ticket buyers will have another safe and trusted place to resell their tickets.
“However, resale for profit will continue elsewhere and the spotlight is therefore on the remaining marketplaces, including those based overseas. The ongoing enforcement work by the Competition and Markets Authority and others to ensure compliance with UK legislation is crucial.”
“We are delighted that Ticketmaster is making a substantial effort to tackle touts”
Ben Sebborn, co-founder and director of UK primary ticket agency Skiddle, says: “We are delighted that Ticketmaster are making a substantial effort to tackle the touts by closing down their exploitative secondary sites, Get Me In! and Seatwave. By introducing their new resale platform, we hope the ticket buying experience is more positive for music fans, who have had a raw deal to date.
“In 2016, Skiddle introduced our own Re:Sell platform to make face-value secondary ticketing fairer and more flexible. Even though it has taken some time, we are pleased to see the largest outlets finally following suit and responding to industry and consumer pressure.”
“It sounds like a step in the right direction for fans”
Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at UK consumer association Which?, says: “We have repeatedly exposed secondary ticketing websites, including Seatwave and Get Me In!, for flouting the rules, so it’s good to see Ticketmaster taking positive action.
“It sounds like a step in the right direction for fans and we now hope it’s new platform will promote much-needed transparency in an industry that has been plagued by sharp practices.”
“This is a welcome move from Ticketmaster”
The news was also welcomed by the British government, with digital and creative industries minister Margot James commenting: “We want real fans to be able to see their favourite artists and events at a fair price.
“This is a welcome move from Ticketmaster and shows that they’re following our lead and taking a tough stance on cracking down on unacceptable behaviour in the secondary ticket market.”
“The battle to create a fairer, more transparent, resale market continues”
“We welcome the news that Ticketmaster is to close its resale sites, Get Me In! and Seatwave,” says Richard Davies, CEO of face-value resale site Twickets, a rival to the new Ticketmaster platform. “It is encouraging to see the biggest ticketing company in the world taking this step, which validates our face-value resale policy of the past seven years. The decision will hopefully enable those who are no longer able to attend a Ticketmaster show to pass on tickets at face value to those who wish to attend.
“However, the battle to create a fairer, more transparent, resale market continues. Companies such as Viagogo and StubHub, and Ticketbis in Europe, still tout tickets on an industrial scale, placing profit ahead of fairness to consumers.
“Twickets remains the only site enabling fans to buy and sell tickets for any event at face value, without the eye-watering mark ups that have left so many consumers dejected and distraught.”
This story will be updated with more reactions as we receive them.
Get Me Out!: Ticketmaster shuts down European resale sites
Live Nation is shuttering its European secondary ticketing platforms, Get Me In! and Seatwave, in favour of a price-capped system integrated into the main Ticketmaster site.
As of today (13 August), no new events may be listed on either Get Me In! or Seatwave, with both sites beginning a phased closure from October (to account for existing orders, all of which will be honoured). The new-look Ticketmaster will be rolled out in the UK and Republic of Ireland the same month, followed by a launch across Europe in the early part of 2019.
Both Get Me In! and Seatwave (acquired by Ticketmaster in 2008 and 2014, respectively) operated in the UK, while the latter was also active in France, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Finland, Spain and the Netherlands. IQ understands no staff will lose their jobs, with all former employees being reassigned within Ticketmaster.
“Our number-one priority is to get tickets into the hands of fans so that they can go to the events they love,” says Andrew Parsons, Ticketmaster UK’s managing director. “We know that fans are tired of seeing others snap up tickets just to resell for a profit on secondary websites, so we have taken action.”
The news follows the launch of similar price-capped ticket resale platforms by all Ticketmaster’s major UK rivals: See Tickets’ Fan-to-Fan last year, Eventim UK’s FanSALE in January and AXS’s Marketplace in June. As a result, the country’s primary sector is, for the first time in a decade, united against for-profit ticket touting.
As with See’s Fan-to-Fan, the Ticketmaster ticket exchange will operate via the user’s account, with only tickets originally bought on Ticketmaster able to be resold. For buyers, all resale tickets will show as pink dots on the seatmap, compared to blue for primary tickets.
“Closing down our secondary sites and creating a ticket exchange on Ticketmaster has always been our long-term plan”
Sellers on the new platform can resell tickets up to the price originally paid – ie face value, plus any fees paid at the time of the original purchase. (Sites such as FanSALE and AXS Marketplace cap prices at 10% above face value for the same reason.)
The buyer of the resold ticket will pay a 15% fee, with no cost to the seller.
A Ticketmaster spokesperson confirms the face value-or-less model will only be rolled out in Europe, with other international resale sites unaffected by the shake-up (for example, TicketsNow and Ticketmaster Resale in the US both allow the listing of tickets above face value).
The shutdown of Seatwave and Get Me In! leaves just two of Europe’s ‘big four’ resale sites – eBay’s StubHub and the ever-controversial Viagogo – in operation.
“Closing down our secondary sites and creating a ticket exchange on Ticketmaster has always been our long-term plan,” continues Parsons. “We’re excited to launch our redesigned website, which will make buying and selling tickets fast and simple, with all tickets in the same place.
“Our new Ticketmaster ticket exchange lets fans sell tickets they can’t use directly through their Ticketmaster account, for the price originally paid or less. Selling tickets through Ticketmaster is really simple: we do all the hard work and outline the maximum that can be charged for the ticket – and it doesn’t cost fans a penny to sell them.”
UK resale sites (with one notable exception) adopt new transparency rules
Three of the UK’s ‘big four’ secondary ticketing sites have formally committed to providing new information – including the identity of ticket sellers and the risk buyers will be turned away at the door – about all tickets resold on their platforms, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced this morning.
Following a nearly year-long investigation, the CMA said last November it would take consider taking legal action against websites it suspected of breaking UK consumer law, giving the sites in question a deadline of spring 2018 to get their houses in order.
According to the competition watchdog, Ticketmaster’s Seatwave and Get Me In! and eBay-owned StubHub UK have now agreed to ensure all ticket listings indicate:
- Whether there is a risk a customer might be turned away at the door
- Which seat in the venue the customer will get
- Who is selling the ticket, so customers can benefit from enhanced legal rights when buying from a business
The three sites have told the CMA they will make it mandatory for sellers to provide this information when listing a ticket, routinely carry out their own checks on primary ticket sellers’ websites about resale restrictions and “act promptly” if event organisers tell them information is missing.
The notable absence, unsurprisingly, is Viagogo, which the CMA says “has not, currently, agreed to make changes the CMA considers necessary. Therefore, the CMA has notified them it will take action through the courts, unless they promptly commit to satisfactorily addressing its concerns.”
“All secondary ticketing websites must play by the rules and treat their customers fairly if anything goes wrong”
CMA raided Viagogo’s offices, along with StubHub’s, last November as part of its investigation into the UK secondary ticketing market.
“Thousands of people use secondary ticketing websites to buy tickets for concerts, theatre and other events, so it’s crucial they are told what they are buying, from whom they are buying it and whether their ticket might not actually get them into the event,” says Michael Grenfell (pictured), the CMA’s executive director for enforcement, commenting on today’s announcement.
“We welcome the changes already made and new commitments we’ve been given by StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In! to improve the information on offer, so that people can better judge whether they’re getting a good deal.
“But all secondary ticketing websites must play by the rules and treat their customers fairly if anything goes wrong. We take failure to comply with consumer protection law very seriously.
“So far Viagogo has failed to address our concerns, and we are determined to ensure they comply with the law. We are prepared to use the full range of our powers to protect customers – including action through the courts.”
FanFair Alliance, which campaigns against ‘industrial-scale’ ticket touting, calls the CMA announcement “vindication for the FanFair Alliance campaign to overhaul the online ticket resale market”.
“It’s disappointing that not all secondary website platforms have followed suit”
Campaign manager Adam Webb says: “UK audiences have been taken for a ride for too long by the biggest secondary platforms and the dedicated touts who fuel their business. They will now be forced to dramatically change their practices and provide proper transparency. This cannot come soon enough.
“It is disappointing, though hardly unexpected, that Viagogo continue to flout the law and mislead the British public. If they fail to follow their competitors and make similar commitments, then we expect to see prosecution for non-compliance at the earliest opportunity.”
In a rare showing of unity for the primary and secondary sectors, Fair Ticketing Alliance (FTA) – the recently launched association of “responsible UK ticket brokers” – also welcomes the changes, saying it’s “delighted” CMA enforcement action has led to reforms by three of the big four.
“The Fair Ticketing Alliance is delighted with the swift action of StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave to improve transparency for customers following action by the Competition and Markets Authority,” says FTA member Scot Tobias. “Undoubtedly, this will improve the experience of live music and entertainment fans using their sites and is precisely in line with what we have been calling for as brokers.
“It’s disappointing, however, that not all secondary website platforms have followed suit. Our members have stopped listing tickets on sites who do not comply with everything set out by the CMA. We urge those sites to do so immediately.
“We want consumers to be able to make clear, informed decisions when buying tickets on the secondary market, and we welcome the CMA’s view that these changes will help people pick the best deals for them. The FTA supports a secondary marketplace that offers choice, trust and flexibility and we believe that today’s announcement is another big step in the right direction.”
ASA clamps down on secondaries’ drip pricing
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today ordered the ‘big four’ secondary ticketing platforms to remove what it calls the “misleading presentation of pricing information” from their websites.
The ASA’s intervention – which follows a recent judgment against Ticketmaster over its description of Platinum tickets as the “best available” – is a response to concerns raised, including by anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance, about “misleading pricing” by secondary ticketing sites, says the advertising watchdog.
Following an investigation in which it discovered additional fees and charges were added at the end of the booking process – so-called drip pricing – the ASA has banned Viagogo, StubHub UK and Ticketmaster’s Get Me In! and Seatwave from not making clear the total ticket price at the beginning of the booking process; not including the booking fee upfront; and not making clear the applicable delivery fee.
In addition, the authority has barred Viagogo from calling itself an “official site” (something also outlawed by Google in its recent overhaul of its AdWords policy) and making the claim its tickets have a “100% guarantee”, when in fact promoters have been known to invalidate tickets bought on the site, such as with Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour.
British advertising rules now require quoted prices to include non-optional taxes and fees that apply to all, or most, buyers, as well any delivery fees.
“The message is simple and clear: the price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end”
Commenting on the decision, ASA chief executive Guy Parker (pictured) says: “Many of us will recognise the frustration of being happy with the initial price of tickets on a secondary website only to be stung by hefty fees when we come to book. The message from our rulings is simple and it’s clear: the price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end.”
Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance, adds: “FanFair Alliance is aware of thousands of UK music fans who feel ripped off by so-called secondary ticketing platforms. Almost without fail, these victims share three recurring complaints: they were directed via Google advertising towards these sites; they thought they were purchasing from an authorised seller; and they were misled on pricing.
“While we welcome today’s ASA ruling and hope it goes some way to addressing this latter issue, what’s absolutely crucial now is enforcement. Without proper sanctions, we fear that much-needed reforms will not be implemented, particularly by Viagogo, and the public will continue to be duped.”
“For Ed’s shows we’ve taken every effort to cut out the online touts and ensure that his fans can buy tickets at the price we set,” comments Ed Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp. “That’s a major challenge when so-called secondary ticketing sites like Viagogo blatantly mislead the public, and why we strongly back both the FanFair Alliance campaign and this ASA ruling.”