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NZ Commission wins appeal for Viagogo injunction

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has successfully appealed against a High Court decision that prevented the issuing of an injunction against Switzerland-based online ticket reseller Viagogo.

On Wednesday (2 October), New Zealand’s Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s ruling that it did not have the jurisdiction to place an injunction against Viagogo, given that the secondary site had not been served with court proceedings in its native Switzerland.

In February, the High Court had rejected the Commerce Commission’s application to place an interim injunction against Viagogo. The injunction sought to prevent the use of “false and misleading” information around ticket prices and availability.

The judgement finds that, although the court “cannot finally determine a claim against a defendant while any protest to jurisdiction is outstanding”, the power “to grant interim relief is not limited in the same way”.

The Commission had claimed that Viagogo misled consumers by marketing itself as an “official” seller, exaggerating the scarcity of tickets, indicating tickets “guaranteed” entry and advertising ticket prices without including additional fees.

“The Commission will need to consider the changes made to Viagogo’s website, and decide whether in light of those changes it wishes to pursue its application for interim relief”

However, the judgement notes that “matters have moved on” since the hearing, stating that the Commission needs “to consider the changes made to Viagogo’s website, and decide whether in light of those changes it wishes to pursue its application for interim relief.”

A Viagogo spokesperson comments: “We have worked hard to address the New Zealand Commerce Commission’s concerns and remain committed to ensuring that Viagogo’s platform is compliant with the law.

To that end, given the extensive changes that have been made to the site, it is our hope that we can work directly with the Commerce Commission to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Viagogo legal action in an array of countries. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently halted proceedings against the site due to increased transparency, in a move that concerned anti-tout groups.

Courts in Australia and Germany have recently ordered Viagogo to make changes to the way it presents information. The site was banned from advertising through Google in a “landmark moment” in July.

 


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Tegan and Sara tackle ticket touts

Twin sister indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara made a stand against secondary ticketing platforms that had “unethically gobbled up” tickets for their show at San Francisco’s Sydney Goldstein Theater (1,687-cap.) earlier this week, offering up empty seats to fans on a first come first serve basis.

“Our goal is to ensure that our real fans are in each and every seat, and to prevent secondary platforms from hurting our show,” the pair posted on Facebook prior to the show on Tuesday (1 October).

“As an experiment, tonight we will be offering rush seating for all open seats. This means that we will allow any empty seats to be available on a “first come first serve” basis in return for a “pay what you can” cash donation at the door to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which works to support LGBTQ+ girls and women.”

After analysing tickets left on secondary platforms, the pair had calculated that over 200 seats at the “technically sold-out” show would remain unfilled.

The band stated they would keep fans “updated on rush seating and ticket availability” of upcoming shows.

Tegan and Sara are playing throughout October and early November in venues across the United States and Canada, before heading to the UK for dates in Brighton, London and Manchester.

 


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Quebec super-tout Lavallee sets up shop in UK

Julien Lavallee, the Canadian StubHub ‘power seller’ who last week made headlines after claiming to the Daily Record to pay venues a yearly fee in exchange in exchange for ticket inventory, has upped sticks for the Isle of Man.

Listings on StubHub show Lavallee’s company, I Want Tickets Inc., has relocated from Quebec – where for-profit ticket touting is illegal – to an address in Manx capital Douglas.

The Isle of Man is a self-governing dependency of the British crown in the Irish sea. Although the island’s foreign relations and defence are the responsibility of the UK, it has its own parliament, Tynwald, and its own legal system, known as Manx law, meaning British legislation – such as that being discussed regarding stricter regulation of the UK secondary ticketing market – does not automatically apply.

IQ has contacted Lavallee, who reportedly employs 20 staff, for an explanation of the move. StubHub declined to comment.

I Want Tickets Inc., has relocated from Quebec – where for-profit ticket touting is illegal – to an address in the capital of the Isle of Man, Douglas

The Record reported Lavallee “pays an annual subscription to venues”, including The SSE Hydro in Glasgow and The O2 in London, “to cream off tickets for star events”. The 13,000-capacity Hydro, operated by AEG, denied the claim, saying it “does not place any of its inventory on to the secondary ticketing market”, while The O2 said it was investigating further.

FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb said the Records investigation “offers a rare insight into the murky world of professionalised online ticket touting”.

“Here was a guy based thousands of miles away, hoovering up hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets for UK events, and then reselling them at a profit back to British fans. Because of a complete lack of transparency in the resale market, we don’t know if Julien Lavallee is a one-off rogue trader or the tip of a much bigger iceberg.”

On the plus side, he’s at least now hoovering up tickets closer to home…

 


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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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Italian ticket touts facing fines of €180,000

The sale of tickets on the secondary market in Italy could soon be punishable by a fine of up to €180,000.

Following weeks of controversy around online ticket resale – which kicked off with complaints by consumer-protection groups over widespread touting of tickets for Coldplay’s shows in Milan next July and culminated with Italian pop stars Vasco Rossi and Tiziano Ferro severing ties with Live Nation Italy for alleged collusion with Viagogo – Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, on Friday tabled an amendment to the 2017 budget act which, if passed, would provide for fines of €30,000–€180,000 for the sale of tickets by anyone but the event’s promoter or authorised resellers.

Franceschini (pictured) calls touting an “intolerable phenomenon”, and says “recent events show that self-regulation” – such as that advocated by Prof Waterson in the UK – “is not enough: we need legislative action.”

If passed into law, Franceschini’s proposal would be among the strictest ticket resale regulations in the world. The 2017 budget must be approved by the Italian parliament by 31 December 2016.

“Recent events show self-regulation is not enough… we need legislative action”

Following an admission by Live Nation Italy’s managing director, Roberto de Luca, on TV programme Le Iene that “we issue some tickets, a very limited number of tickets, on other sites, in this case Viagogo,” the company has withdrawn from Italian promoters’ association Assomusica.

A Live Nation Italy statement, however, notes: “The allegations on Le Iene relate to a small number of tickets for a handful of international artists. Live Nation Italy has never been asked to list any tickets on secondary markets by Italian artists.”

Assomusica, which recently called for “urgent legislative measures” to tackle ticket touting, welcomes Franceschini’s bill.

“I acknowledge with great satisfaction that […] Minister Franceschini announced that he will submit an amendment to the budget law to limit and counter the phenomenon of online ticket touting, or secondary ticketing,” says its president, Vincenzo Spera. “I’m really satisfied to see this unity of views between the minister and Assomusica…

“Our association has always been at the forefront of [putting an end to] touts making money from spoiling cultural events, which promote art and socialisation.”

 


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Wannabe super-tout faces 160 years in prison

A woman who allegedly accepted more than US$5 million from investors to buy tickets to sell for profit on the secondary market, but instead spent the money on a house and car, has been arrested by Chicago police.

According to an indictment by the US attorney for the northern district of Illinois and the Chicago offices of the FBI and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 42-year-old Tracy Monti told backers she had “business relationships with multiple primary market sources, such as event promoters and venues, through which she purportedly purchased tickets at face value”. The indictment alleges these relationships didn’t exist, and that in reality Monti used the victims’ funds to purchase a house in Chicago and a vehicle and to make “ponzi-type payments to other investors”.

Monti is charged with seven counts of wire fraud – each of which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison – and two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of ten years.

Monti is charged with seven counts of wire fraud – each of which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison – and two counts of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years

She pled not guilty in an arraignment (a formal reading of her charges) on Friday. A status hearing – a pre-trial hearing made in an effort to resolve the case – is set for 9 November.

The prosecution seeks the forfeiture of a house in the Austin neighbourhood of Chicago and approximately $5.02m in cash.

Before becoming a ticket reseller, Monti was Joan Jett’s publicist. She made headlines in 2013 after failing to pay back $43,750 to a former client, Lloyd Gillman.

 


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“Urgent” need for resale regulation in Italy

Italian promoters’ association Assomusica has announced its opposition to “any unauthorised resale of concert tickets” and called on the country’s competition authority to take action on speculative ticket listings.

The intervention by Assomusica, which represents more than 100 promoters and some 80% of all live shows in Italy, comes after two consumer groups complained to authorities when tickets for Coldplay’s two dates in Milan next July sold out in minutes and immediately appeared on secondary ticketing sites. One complaint, from Altroconsumo, asked the Antitrust Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, AGCM) to investigate primary seller TicketOne for alleged unfair business practices.

Assomusica, led by veteran concert promoter Vincenzo Spera, recommends outlawing resale of tickets by anyone not “authorised to do so” – ie promoters, primary ticket agencies and “third parties authorised [by promoters], whose name and/or VAT number must appear on the ticket”.

“It is the firm belief of our association that urgent legislative measures are necessary to govern … this evolving sector”

“It is the firm belief of our association,” says a statement, “that urgent legislative measures are necessary to govern the peculiarities of this evolving sector, which is of great socio-economic impact.”

Perhaps inspired by events in Belgium, the organisation further recommends blocking ticket resale sites which “do not respect the law”.

While stamping out fraudulent resale in Italy will, naturally, be its priority, Assomusica will also seek to cooperate with associations in other EU member states. “The problem is felt, in fact, in all European countries – France and Germany, in particular,” says Spera. “Only cooperation and the appropriate synergies with other entities […] can produce the desired results.”

 


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Canadian province to outlaw ticket bots

Ontario is to ban ticket bots, its chief legal advisor has revealed.

The proposed legislation, announced yesterday by the Canadian province’s attorney-general, Yasir Naqvi, builds on a private member’s bill introduced earlier this month by Sophie Kiwala, the member of the provincial parliament (MPP) for Kingston and Islands.

“I want to see what kind of solutions we can put in place”

Naqvi (pictured), who is also MPP for Ottawa Centre, tells the Canadian Press he intends to consult with consumer groups, music industry figures and politicians in other territories, such as New York (where attorney-general Eric Schneiderman has taken a tough line on those caught using ticket-buying software), when drawing up the new law.

“I want to see what kind of solutions we can put in place,” he explains. “New York and London are bigger markets than us, and they’re struggling with the same thing.”

 


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Tout-weary YMAS to cut out box office altogether

Perhaps inspired by Chance the Rapper, You Me at Six frontman Josh Franceschi has revealed he will sell the final allocation of 100 tickets for the band’s 26 November concert at Dingwalls (500-cap.) in Camden, London, himself.

After tickets for the show appeared on resale sites, leading Franceschi to call “people that only buy gig tickets to resell at three times the value” his “worst enemy”, the venue has agreed to release more tickets, which the singer will sell directly to fans at the Dr Martens store in Covent Garden:

 


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May promises action on Waterson report

Just over a month after Professor Michael Waterson said he was concerned government has yet to respond to his recommendations for the regulation of Britain’s secondary ticketing market, prime minister Theresa May has pledged to look “very carefully” at his findings “to see what can be done to address the issue” of unauthorised ticket touting in the UK.

Mrs May (pictured), speaking in parliament today during Prime Minister’s Questions, was responding to a question from Nigel Adams, the member of parliament for Selby and Ainsty.

Referring to an incident in which he’d fallen lost out to ticket bots, Adams said: “A few weeks ago, I thought I’d successfully bought four tickets online for one of my favourite bands, Green Day” – cue much laughing from the house – “only to be told the tickets were unavailable and the gig sold out. Within minutes I could buy the tickets on another site for twice the price.

“It turns out the ticket site had been the victim of a computerised attack by organised touts, who then resell the tickets at inflated prices.

“Will the prime minister ask her ministers to give close consideration to my amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, which would make the computerised targeting of tickets for resale an offence? Similar legislation exists elsewhere, and it would go a long way towards protecting consumers and genuine music fans.”

Adams’s amendment to the bill, for which the government hopes to achieve royal assent by spring 2017, would make it an offence to “use digital ticket purchasing software to purchase tickets for an event over and above the number permitted in the condition of sale” and “knowingly resell tickets using such software”.

“If this amendment is made law, it would help turn the the tide and ensure the ticketing market works in favour of fans rather than touts”

Adams has the support of the world’s largest secondary ticketing site, StubHub, which has itself come in for criticism from anti-touting groups (most recently the FanFair Alliance). A spokeswoman tells IQ: “We have consistently supported anti-bot legislation, and recently gave evidence to the US Senate Commerce Committee on this subject. This is one of the biggest issues that the ticketing industry faces.

“However, legislation alone cannot solve this. Professor Waterson’s review into the secondary ticket market concluded that event organisers and primary ticketing companies need to develop better technology in the fight against bots, which we fully support.”

FanFair also welcomes the amendment. The group’s campaign manager, Adam Webb, says: “Instinctively, I suspect most people would feel that hacking into a ticket sale with the sole intention of hoovering up huge volumes of inventory to then resell for profit would be illegal.

“Along with enforcement of existing consumer legislation – something that is urgently needed – if this amendment is made law, it would help turn the the tide and ensure that the ticketing market works in favour of fans, rather than touts and the under-regulated secondary platforms they operate from.”

Adams’s amendment will be debated in parliament on 27 October.

 


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