For anyone who’s attended a gig, this scenario will be all too familiar: walking towards the venue, you’re mobbed by people asking “anyone need a ticket for tonight?” or “I’ve got 4 tickets spare, anyone interested?”
Occasionally these people will be genuine – maybe they bought a ticket for a friend who cancelled, or they have an important meeting the next morning that cannot be missed. But more often than not, these people belong to that breed of human known as ticket touts.
Ticket touting, by definition, is where somebody (an individual or an organisation) buys tickets to live events, and then re-sells them later for much higher than their face value.
Now, on the face of it, sometimes people can benefit from touting. For example, I attended a gig a while ago and my friend decided at the last minute that she wanted to come along. Lo and behold, there was somebody outside selling a ticket. Even though it cost her double the face value, the ticket was genuine and she had an awesome time. In small doses, touting is probably harmless.
However, when large organisations purchase tens, or even hundreds, of tickets for gigs and then go on to re-sell at a much higher value, this is where things start to get dodgy.
As you may have seen on my Twitter earlier in the week, I picked up a ticket to see Foo Fighters on their Sonic Highways tour next year at Wembley Stadium. Exciting times! Thankfully we went through the venue’s pre-sale procedures on Wednesday morning, and we got the tickets at face value, £93.50 for Level 2 seating, plus booking fees and transaction fees.
As of the time of writing this blog, there are currently 791 tickets for the same date available on Get Me In!, and these are just from the presale! Currently the lowest price available there is £103.71, which doesn’t necessarily include transaction and delivery fees, but prices go up to a whopping £412.50.
Obviously, with general sales still to open, tickets at the higher end of the spectrum won’t be selling any time soon. However, if the venue sells out, desperate fans looking for tickets may have to consider these ridiculously inflated ticket prices.
Another example: my stepdad bought a ticket for him and my mum to see the Foo Fighters play at Wembley Stadium a few years back (our family are massive Foos fans, in case you couldn’t tell) for her birthday gift. Because he was too late to pick up tickets from the venue directly, he went through a ticket-touting website, and paid well over face value for them.
Skip to the night before the gig, and his tickets still hadn’t arrived. After doing a bit of online sleuthing, he found that the business he purchased the tickets from had gone into liquidation, and even if it hadn’t, the tickets were likely to have been part of a large-scale fake ticket scam. In the end, he and my mum had to leave it to chance and turned up at the venue, hoping that someone there would be able to sell them a pair of tickets. He paid yet another massive sum for legitimate tickets, but never got his money back for the faked ones. Whilst they enjoyed the gig, the experience was tainted by how much they had paid.
Ticket touting doesn’t necessarily hurt the venue, as they will be happy as long as they continue to sell tickets and make a profit. Even if their reputation is questioned for allowing touting to continue, venues are well aware that music fans will never simply stop attending gigs in protest.
However, touting does hurt bands – not economically, but imagine being told that your gig has sold out an entire arena, only to turn up on the night and see whole blocks of seats empty? That has to be disheartening, and wherever touting is involved there will usually be a significant number of tickets that never get resold, usually because the price they ask for is simply too high for most people to consider.
Of course, ticket touting has plagued the live music industry for decades, and even legislation hasn’t prevented its growth. Occasionally bands will take a stand and limit the amount of tickets purchased per sale to try and discourage touts, but this crime is extremely difficult to regulate and enforcing the law has not had much success.
However, I still live in hope that, some time in the not too distant future ticket touts will be shunned and prosecuted for the crimes they commit. Let’s hope, as well, that their practices do not kill the live music industry in the process.