The Fight Is On: Stormzy, Biffy Clyro, You Me At Six & More Talk Stopping Online Ticket Touts
Biffy Clyro: “It’s the fans that really lose out. It makes me sick when I see [it happen] to charity shows. It’s just really grim."
These days, touts aren’t just ‘dodgy blokes’ standing outside venues, yelling “Olly Murs ticket for a tenner,” although that does still happen. In the 21st century, most touts have moved online.
Now faceless, ticket touts use sophisticated software, known as "bots", to break into websites to get tickets. They then flaunt them on secondary ticketing sites, such as Viagogo, StubHub, Seatwave, Get Me In and more, for ridiculous hiked-up prices.
For example, Ed Sheeran’s Teenage Cancer Trust show was priced at £75 per ticket at face value, with all the money going to help teenagers battling cancer. Any guesses for what happened next?
Ticket touts bought a tonne of those tickets, and then flogged them for up to £2,300. None of that money will go to Teenage Cancer Trust. It’s scandalous.
Biffy Clyro have experienced similar problems. “We recently did shows for War Child for charity, and even at those shows, tickets [were] appearing on Viagogo. It’s abhorrent. It’s just a ridiculous state of affairs.”
The band continued: “That’s why, in out last UK tour, we’ve tried to do paperless tickets, so people had to bring ID. It’s definitely the way to go."
“It’s the fans that really lose out. It makes me sick when I see [it happen] to charity shows. It’s just really grim."
“I think it’s up to every band and every act to do what they can to cut it out. Don’t be lazy.”
Josh Franceschi, frontman of You Me At Six, has been campaigning against touts and secondary ticketing sites for months. He even addressed MPs from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the issue.
“Young people are growing up in a way where it’s impossible for them to go see their favourite artists,” Josh told MTV, “because the shows always sell out within minutes or seconds, and if they don't sell out straight away, then they're on these secondary websites.”
“[Then young people] go on these websites, and they're like 'right, that's how much tickets are, the tickets are £200'. Nobody's tickets are £200 - nobody's that greedy. But that's how it's being delivered to young people.”
As Josh told us, artists put a price on their own shows depending on the level of the act and the quality of the show you’re going to see. There’s no need for that price to be inflated further by touts. It restricts cultural access, particularly for cash-strapped young people.
Fortunately, politicians and figures within the music industry are taking a stand.
Thanks to music industry figures, the FanFairAlliance and MPs like Nigel Adams, Sharon Hodgson and Matt Hancock, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced just last week that the use of bots in buying and reselling tickets would be criminalised, with perpetrators facing "unlimited fines" as a consequence.
In simpler terms, when you hurl yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn to buy those coveted Drake tickets, you’ll no longer be competing against computer programs designed to hoover up tickets.
It’s fantastic news, and an important first step in the fight against modern ticket touts.
if someone’s bought something, why shouldn’t they be allowed to sell it on for more to make a profit?
Hello detached voice that asks questions in these articles. We understand the point, but take a look at this argument from Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive of the Music Managers Forum: “If I were to go into all the supermarkets in a town and buy up all the milk and then sell it back at an inflated price, would you say that is a free market or would you say that is a public question that should be addressed? We would say there are wider concerns here.”
It’s the same situation with live experiences right now.
“I hate secondary ticketing sites. I feel like, when an artist puts on a tour, it’s directly for their supporters,” Stormzy told MTV. “It’s nothing to do with anyone else. No one else has to be trying to get millions of tickets to try to make money. It’s not about making money or making a profit. It’s about giving supporters, the people who buy your music and listen to you, a chance of seeing you."
“So anything that lessens that chance, or makes that chance a bit smaller, or ruins that opportunity, is dead. I don’t want them anymore. It’s foul play.”
What about fan-to-fan resale?
As long as tickets are being sold at face value prices, fan-to-fan resale is not a problem. Twickets, which is partnered with major artists like Ed Sheeran and Stormzy, is a great platform you can use to buy and sell tickets to other fans at fair prices.
How do I stop myself from getting fleeced by touts?
Nigel Adams MP has been one of the key figures pushing back against online ticket touts and their use of bots. Adams has put the issue to Theresa May twice during Prime Minister's Questions, and went to meet with officials at Number 10 early last week (6 March) to discuss the issue.
“The Prime Minister is very keen to make sure that the ticketing market works for everyone," Adams told MTV, "not just the privileged few who can afford to pay inflated prices."
MTV gave Adams a call to hear his tips on how to avoid getting ripped-off by ticket touts’ hiked-up prices.
“The best place to start is the artist's website. Pre-register and become a member of their fan club."
“Always, always check the artist's website, where the official selling channel is, because if you just Google 'Drake tickets' - the chances are that you'll get sent to a secondary site [when] there may very well be tickets available on the primary site.”
Also, Josh Franceschi told MTV that an online guide, made by artists, will be published in the future. The hope is that this will help educate people on where they should and shouldn't buy tickets from.
Make sure to read the FanFairAlliance's excellent FAQs section on ticket touting, too.
Ok, so what’s the next step?
The use of bots is already outlawed in the US, so for the same to happen here in the UK is a good start. But the next step is to question the existence of secondary ticketing sites in the first place.
Furthermore, there are other ways touts get such large quantities of tickets up on secondary sites without the use of bots, and these need to be addressed. As Annabella Coldrick said to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, some touts employ young people (numbering in the twenties) to sit there, “not being paid huge amounts of money, buying and reselling tickets”. This shows how touts will find a way to work around the law, if laws are not properly enforced.
Following the news that touts could face "unlimited fines," as broken by The Guardian, Labour MP Sharon Hodgson said: “These measures will ensure that fans are protected, but there still remains work to do to make sure that these measures are enforced properly so touts do not circumvent them as this is going to very soon be the law of the land.”
Josh Franceschi argued that, following the penalties being placed on the use of bots; secondary ticketing sites - some of which, such as Get Me In and Seatwave, are owned by primary sites like Ticketmaster - should be made illegal.
“[Secondary ticketing sites] are only in that top space [after you use a search engine] because they pay for the advertising marketing space. We should make [that] illegal as well, so that [at] the top list [are] the top 5 or 10 primary websites," Josh said. "Make it a fair, level playing field. Give everyone cultural access.”
“Ultimately, the end game should be that secondary ticketing websites do not exist. What is the purpose of them?”