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TicketOne: touts thriving under named ticket law

Italy’s largest primary ticketing service, TicketOne, has once again criticised national communications regulator AGCOM for its lack of action against secondary sites, highlighting the “significant failing” of the newly introduced named ticket law.

Criticism is levelled at the “foreseeable and forewarned futility” of the regulator’s controversial named ticket law, which was implemented on 1 July. According to TicketOne, the ‘named’ tickets are being sold “widely” on secondary sites.

Additionally, the CTS Eventim-owned company questions AGCOM’s (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni, Communications Authority) “total lack” of action against secondary sites, following an initial call-to action in March and a follow-up in June, which included a threat to refer AGCOM to the judiciary.

“In light of the documents submitted, and of further concrete evidence immediately available on the sites for anyone who accesses them,” states TicketOne chief executive Stefano Lionetti, “it is not understandable why AGCOM has not intervened – and does not intervene immediately – to crack down on illegal conduct, removing content and shuttering sites, as well as implementing financial penalties.”

“It is not understandable why AGCOM has not intervened and does not intervene immediately to crack down on illegal conduct”

Lionetti states AGCOM is “not exercising the powers granted to it by the Ministry of Economy and Finance,” referencing the stringent anti-ticket touting regulations passed by the Italian government in 2018.

The ticketing site notes that the failure to implement regulations is highlighted by the fact that all cases reported and documented in the initial March complaint were in reference to summer events that have now passed.

“It would therefore now be impossible to fulfil the requests to remove content or shutter the sites, leaving only the possibility of levying fines to mitigate the harm done to consumers, artists and operators in the sector,” reads a TicketOne statement.

TicketOne now urges the timely application of the law in terms of content removal, fines and shuttering of sites, once again not excluding contact with the judicial authorities.


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Anti-tout giants to deliver ESNS keynotes

The debate over secondary ticketing will no doubt take centre stage at international conference and showcase festival Eurosonic Noorderslag in January, as two strong anti-tout promoters deliver separate keynote interviews.

British promoter Harvey Goldsmith and German promoter and agent Scumeck Sabottka are both fierce opponents of ticket touts and they’ll no doubt be forthright when discussing with Allan McGowan and Emma Banks respectively.

Among 150 other panels at the 17-20 January event in Groningen, Netherlands, is a debate on how boutique festivals continue to be competitive in an ever-lengthening festival season. Panellists include Christoph Storbeck from Italy’s Ypsigrock, Grimur Atlason from Iceland Airwaves, Jenny Wren from Ireland’s Body & Soul, and Stefan Reichmann from Germany’s Haldern Pop.

The Agents Panel will feature insight from X-Ray Touring’s Paul Bolton, CAA’s Summer Marshall, Sarah Sølvsteen from Sølvsteen Inc and Brian Ahern from WME.

Elsewhere there’ll be a keynote from Ticketmaster head of music David Marcus, a chance to meet key players in the Danish live music industry (Denmark is the focus country for 2018), a discussion on the difficulties of touring Asia, and the latest on health and safety from Chris Kemp and Henrik Nielsen.

The 2017 conference attracted 4,200 professional delegates, including representatives from over 400 international festivals.

The event’s showcase festivals Eurosonic and Noorderslag includes almost 400 artists from over 30 countries. Artists include Bad Sounds, Ellis May, Housewives, NIHILS, School of X and Tamino.

The EBBA Awards and European Festival Awards will open proceedings on 17 January.


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Top promoters and ticketers face prosecution

Some of the biggest ticketing companies and promoters in Spain and Italy are facing prosecution as authorities continue to crack down on touting.

In Milan, state prosecutor Adriano Scudieri has accused promoters Di and Gi, Live Nation and Vivo of misleading consumers about how close concerts were to selling-out. He also claims they signed “hidden agreements” with secondary ticketing site Viagogo to directly hand over tickets for sale at “unreasonably” high prices without them getting on the primary market, netting €1.4million in the process.

The companies have further been accused of conspiring against rights collection organisation, SIAE.

In Spain, Madrid City Council has called on the region’s Department of Consumer Affairs to take action against Ticketmaster, accusing it of “misleading advertising”. It alleges the firm fraudulently told customers that concert tickets were sold-out, then directed them to its resale site Seatwave, where the same tickets cost vastly more.

This latest action in Spain and Italy seems to mark a renewed effort by states across Europe to tackle ticket touting.

In April, the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) levied fines totalling €1.7 million on five ticket agencies.

TicketOne, owned by Germany’s CTS Eventim, was fined €1m for failing to take adequate measures to prevent tickets getting into the hands of touts. Four secondary ticketing sites – Viagogo, MyWayTicket, Live Nation’s Seatwave and eBay/StubHub’s Ticketbis – were hit with a collective €700,000 fine for failing to provide complete ticket information to customers “concerning several essential elements which potential buyers need to make their transactional decisions”.


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See Tickets CEO on tackling touts and competition

It’s a boom time for See Tickets. The company had a record year in 2016 and results for 2017 are well ahead of that. The company recently launched Fan-to-Fan, an ethical re-sale platform as well as a peer to peer marketing service, and has made some significant inroads into the US market. Index spoke to CEO Rob Wilmshurst about battling the touts, and being in one of the most competitive sectors of the live music industry.

You recently launched your own face-value ticket resale site, and you’ve been in parliament to give evidence on secondary ticketing – how important is it to you to minimise ticket touting? 

It’s important to our clients, the artists and our mutual customers so it has to be important to us. Fan-to-Fan was our response to the problem. The take-up has been significant and a recent survey we ran showed that customers like the option to sell at a fair price and welcome the integrated nature of our solution within our site – it’s a couple of clicks to list at the market’s lowest fees.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing right now?

Nothing that is causing us to lose too much sleep. We cannot control the market but we feel we are in a great position to continue to evolve our position. We have a great mixture of team, full service, experience, technology, cash (no debt, funding rounds or other start-up negatives that should cause clients concern), marketing assets and ideas to remain more than relevant in the medium to long term.

Where do you see opportunities?

There are lots all over the place. I won’t lie, we are being highly aggressive towards the competition and if we feel we can offer a client (of a competitor) a better deal, better service and give their customers the same then we are not going to leave it alone.

You recently bought Flavorus from SFX – is the EDM market a key target for See?

The acquisition was not about EDM although we acquired a basket of contracts in the EDM sector. We needed some mass in the US as it was moving too slowly for us, so when the opportunity came up we took it and the business is developing well. We rebranded the business to See Tickets, put in our own management team and are using all of the attributes mentioned earlier to evolve our position. It’s a tough market but that’s OK with us. 

The last decade has seen an explosion in the number of ticket agencies. What are you doing to make sure See Tickets retains its strong position in the market?

Nothing different to be honest. There has been an explosion, yes, but an implosion too: Yplan, Songkick, being sold off for far less than went in as investment. And there will be more casualties and fire sales. It’s not easy to stay relevant but having the aforementioned experience, tech, marketing and cash makes us an easy option for clients. If you were a promoter would you put your revenue collection in a business that loses cash hand over fist and is heavily in debt? Good luck with that if you do.


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Nine in 10 Canadians support prison for touts

Nearly 90% of Canadians support prison terms for touts caught using ticket bots – and a third would do away with online ticketing altogether, new research reveals.

A survey by market research firm Insights West of Canadians who have attended a concert in the last three years shows that 87% would support legislation, similar to that introduced recently in New York, that allows for severe fines or jail time for touts making use automated ticket-buying software.

The company also found that 28% of those surveyed had recently attempted unsuccessfully to buy tickets through a primary ticket outlet, and comes shortly the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was forced to intervene in a controversy over the number of tickets for The Tragically Hip’s farewell tour that ended up on secondary sites.

Insights West Canadian concertgoers

More surprisingly, almost a third of Canadian concertgoers (32%) – and a massive 43% of Quebeckers – would prefer to make ticket touting an impossibility by turning back the clock to a time when those wanting to go to a gig had to physically queue up outside the box office.

“Canadians have always been respectful of the queue,” says Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs at Insights West. “The country’s concertgoers are definitely showing their frustration when they lose out to a machine and have to pay more than they should to attend a performance.”


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‘Release more tickets and watch touts disappear’

A for-profit secondary market for concert tickets exists only because they are under-priced and/or under-supplied, a leading economist has said.

Responding to an article in the Star Tribune which claims Minnesotans are “being shut out of the hottest concerts and ripped off by ticket scalpers” (touts), Mark J. Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan–Flint, says there are “only two conditions that can create a secondary market for concert tickets selling above their list price: the number of concert tickets being offered for sale is too low relative to the number of fans who want to attend the concerts of popular musicians, and/or concert tickets must be under-priced relative to their true market price”.

Writing for the American Enterprise Institute think tank, Dr Perry (pictured) says both conditions “are completely under the control of the artists, and their managers and promoters”, concluding that “musicians and their representatives are 100% responsible for the conditions that guarantee a secondary market where concert tickets […] are sold above their face value”.

“My message to Adele, Beyoncé and the music industry in general is this: stop under-supplying the number of tickets available for your concerts”

Dr Perry’s comments echo those made by Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino at the 28th International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March. Speaking to ILMC managing director Greg Parmley, Rapino said artists need to be braver in how they price the house, stating that on one hand acts are still quite scared to charge high sums for front-row seats and less for seats at the back – something that’s “generally not a good brand position”, he said – and on the other still be upset that secondary ticketing companies are profiting from it.

“My message to Adele, Beyoncé and the music industry in general is this: Stop under-supplying the number of tickets available for your concerts,” continues Dr Perry. ” Do a better job of satisfying the demand of your fans to see your live performances, and the secondary market will naturally evaporate. You’ll know you’ve supplied enough tickets to meet fan demand when your concerts have unsold seats. Until then, don’t blame natural market forces and ticket scalpers – blame yourselves for creating the market you so frequently complain about.”

While the libertarian professor may have found an ally in Rapino, there are many who would prefer to see ticket resale banned outright as a solution to the live industry’s touting problem. Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith, Twickets founder Richard Davies and DHP Family promotions director Anton Lockwood said they would support the criminalisation of touting following the release of the Waterson report into secondary ticketing, and The Ticket Factory managing director Stuart Cain expressed similar views writing for IQ last week.


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Touts force most expensive-ever Hamilton’s hand

Hamilton now has the most expensive premium seats on Broadway, as the producers of the Grammy Award-winning musical make efforts to combat the number of tickets finding their way into the hands of touts.

As IQ reported in May, at least US$30,000 from every show – that’s, based on eight shows per week, $240,000 a week or almost $12.5 million a year – was going to ticket resellers, and in response producers were reportedly considering doubling the cost of premium tickets to $995.

The New York Times reports that Hamilton has settled on an increased price of $849, giving it the distinction of having by far the most expensive ticket in Broadway history (the previous record, $477, was held by The Book of Mormon.)

Lead producer Jeffrey Seller said he got to $849 “by continually monitoring the secondary market and finding out where the average is. If I’m at $849, I think we may succeed in taking the motivation out of the scalpers to buy those tickets.”

“In some ways, we’re taking from the rich to give to the poor”

Producers are, however, also making 25 more seats available in the show’s ‘Ham4Ham’ lottery, which currently offers 21 seats for $10 in a same-day draw.

“In some ways, we’re taking from the rich to give to the poor,” lead producer Jeffrey Seller told the Times. “because there’s no question those premiums are subsidising those $10 tickets.”

Primary tickets for Hamilton – a hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, the Nevis-born founding father of the United States, currently running at New York’s Richard Rogers Theatre – are sold out until at least January 2017.

Seller told The New York Times Magazine in April that a broker had bought 20,000 tickets to the show using an automated ticket bot. New York attorney-general Eric Schneiderman announced later that month that he is to introduce harsher penalties for companies found to be snapping up hard-to-find tickets with the illegal software, and there are currently two pieces of sister legislation – the Boss Act and the Bots Act, the latter of which deals specifically with ticket bots – making their way through the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee.


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US’s biggest convention unveils anti-touting plan

New York Comic Con (NYCC), the largest fan convention in North America, has unveiled new anti-touting measures ahead of its 2016 event.

Anyone wanting to attend in October will be required to fill in a ‘fan verification’ profile before they can buy tickets, with each ticket individually assigned to that profile. Tickets will only be sold online, and while buyers can buy more than one pass, they will be limited to one ticket per person per day.

In a statement posted on its website, organiser ReedPOP explains:

“While supply and demand still means that some fans who want to attend New York Comic Con might not get tickets or might not get the ticket type that they want, it’s our mission to eliminate (let’s be honest – the goal is to completely annihilate) the amount of scalpers and resellers who end up with tickets. So this year NYCC will be changing the way tickets are sold and requiring fan verification.

“It’s our mission to eliminate the amount of scalpers and resellers who end up with tickets”

“What does fan verification mean? It means we are requiring anyone interested in attending NYCC to fill out a profile between 20 May and 13 June. We recognise that this is an extra step before buying your tickets and requires more commitment from you, but we also know that as true fans of the show, you won’t mind making it tough for the supervillains out there. It means you guys have to do a bit more work to get your ticket, but it will help make sure NYCC tickets get into the hands of fans. We truly thank you for your maximum effort (as our favourite merc with the mouth would say).” (That’s Deadpool, for the non-comic-reading among you.)

Last year’s NYCC at the Javits Center was attended by 167,000 people over four days.

In April rival comic-con organiser Wizard World announced the launch of a Grimes-headlined concert series as it seeks to plug a £4.3m hole in its finances.