Dispatches: The Great Ticket Scandal

by Rachael Anderson

I’ve always had a problem with ticket touts – walking along the road on the evening of a gig, getting pounced on by scruffy, usually fat, balding men shouting in your ear ‘buy or sell tickets’ or ‘do you need tickets love’. I choose to ignore them but have to bite my lip and resist the urge to say something, usually letting rip a few minutes later on Twitter or my poor friend that’s come with me.

Thursday evening saw Channel 4 air ‘Dispatches: The Great Ticket Scandal’ and little did I know, the ticket touts that stand outside Brixton Academy four nights a week aren’t the problem at all.  I wasn’t able to watch it live and follow what I’m sure was a very interesting Twitter debate but I knew it had been quite groundbreaking when I came out of the NME Awards tour to a number of texts telling me how angry I’d be when I watched it.

So when you put things into perspective Concert Promoters are just as bad, maybe even worse than the secondary outlets. They are the ones supplying the sites with the tickets in the first place, not to mention the fact that the promoter receives 90% of profit made leaving the ‘secondary ticketing’ site with the remaining 10%.

So, what exactly did the documentary reveal? Dispatches went undercover at two of the UK’s biggest ‘Secondary Ticket’ companies, and boy did they uncover some secrets. It turns out that they are in fact given an allocation to some of the UK’s biggest events before they go on sale to the general public. By who? The promoters.  The programme revealed that concert promoters  give Viagogo a large allocation of tickets to their biggest shows. Surprised? I was too.

Dispatches pinpointed a number of artists who’s shows had been targeted; Rihanna and Take That being two of them whilst the main focus was on Coldplay with the promoter having said to have given the secondary ticketing company 1000 tickets for each of their upcoming summer stadium shows. 1000 tickets!?

Wait, it gets better. In the incident of the secondary ticking company receiving no allocation from the promoters, they log on just like you or me on a Friday morning to buy the tickets themselves. How I hear you ask? Well the documentary showed a plastic wallet full of credit cards registered to the names and addresses of hundreds of their employees.

They’re really quite cheeky aren’t they?

When the programme finished I wasn’t as angry as I thought I’d be, I was more disappointed. (always worse isn’t it?) The thought that trusted companies operate like that on a daily basis had really shocked me; but where do we go from here? Surely the government has to do something, or bring some sort of legislation in because it’s just got out of hand now. 

MP Sharon Hodgson tried to pass a bill through parliament in January of last year but it was talked out by Conservative MPs. This hasn’t stopped her trying, she is even more determined than ever for the government to step up and take action. The bill she is proposing to pass through parliament would see event organisers prevent their tickets from being resold by unauthorised retailers for a price greater than 10% above the ticket’s face value.

I feel like I’ve been quite naïve in blaming the touts outside the venues when all along it was businesses that the public trust. People have said to me – I’m not surprised, why are you? Maybe I shouldn’t be. After all the music industry is a highly commercial business in which making money is becoming a lot harder to do. It’s great that a figure like Sharon Hodgson is getting involved and is actively trying to put legislation in place. My worry? That not enough people will listen to what she has to say and in five/ten years down the line nothing would have changed. But it’s about time we started to change for the better in this country, isn’t it?


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