For the launch of the FanFair campaign to remedy the working of the secondary ticketing market and make it fair for fans, Nigel Adams MP has written the following article in support:
The traditional impression we have of ticket resale is of the honest fan who can no longer make a gig and just wants to pass on his or her tickets and recoup their costs – but ticket touting has rocketed in the UK in recent years through secondary resale sites such as Get Me In and Seatwave, and unfortunately has become dominated by dedicated resellers who purchase as many tickets as they can – often using a variety of credit cards and fake names to bypass limitations – and who never had any interest in the event at all. Through meetings with industry experts and fans in my capacity as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, I have come to understand the scale of the problem which is ripping off fans and powering a multi-million pound industry – with many individual touts registering as limited companies. Being a keen music fan, I want to see comprehensive reform of the secondary ticket resale market to put fans first and to ensure live music and other events are affordable for a wide audience.
Only last week, I tried to purchase tickets to a Green Day concert for my family, logging on to the primary sale site as soon as they were released. I was told I’d been allocated the tickets, and had them held for five minutes to enter my card details and complete the transaction – but on submitting my card details just over two minutes later, I was told the tickets were no longer available. I was troubled to find tickets for the same concert available only minutes later on resale sites – for over double the price – and my experience is not unique.
This question seems to me to come down to an issue of basic fairness. I proposed in Parliament to amend to the Crime and Public Order Bill in order to ban flares and fireworks at music events – a legal protection that has long been afforded to fans at football matches (and a suggestion I am pleased that the Government has indicated it will accept and include in the Bill). Similarly, it is an offence for an unauthorised person to sell a ticket for a designated football match, and so yet again I think we should fully explore how we can give music fans similar protection.
Sometimes, however, sometimes where legal authority to ameliorate the problem already exists, enforcement powers simply aren’t used. I attended a football match at Wembley between Liverpool and Barcelona in August this year – apparently, the highest-attended match at the new Wembley Stadium ever. Yet in-person touting outside the stadium was on an industrial scale: I saw probably 30-50 touts in open operation. A family who had flown in from Spain to see the game were turned away as their tickets were invalid for entry, while a young Barcelona fan paid £170 for a ticket to the match which had a face value of just £26. Touts sold child tickets to adults – and you can bet they weren’t giving refunds when duped fans were denied at the gate. The match, as usual, had a huge police presence – yet they took no action to stop this touting, despite it being illegal and the local council, Brent Council, having the authority to intervene. I think this is shameful – the actions of these touts are basically fraud and are banned for a reason. Authorities need to enforce the law, and do so now.
We must also work with resale websites in order to enforce the Consumer Rights Act and ensure that details such as the face value of the ticket, the seat number and any applicable restrictions are clearly published. Resale websites can take up to 25% in commission, and indeed primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster frequently own resale websites, and therefore the industry currently has no incentive to prevent the lucrative trade. The Waterson report recommended a fine of £5000 for every ticket which does not comply with transparency regulation. The principle behind this suggestion deserves serious consideration.
It is of paramount importance that we protect performer’s rights to set the prices for their own tickets and make certain that we put fans first. While genuine fans must be enabled to resell tickets they can’t use to recoup their outlay, no artist wants to perform to empty seats because touts snapped up tickets and jacked up prices. It erodes the relationship between artists and fans when an artist tries to set accessible prices, rather than milking every possible penny, and then touts ruin this. As the music industry changes such that performance revenue is ever-more important to an artist being able to make a living, it is particularly important that we protect the ability of artists and their hard-working tour staff to receive the revenue from performances – rather than parasitical, commercial touts who add no value either to the event or in terms of providing a service. So I will be pleased to work with Parliamentary colleagues, industry experts, the FanFair campaign and others in order to make ticket sales fair for music lovers.