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The government should rid us of 'parasite' ticket touts

3 min read

Ahead of his Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 2nd May, Pete Wishart MP writes about ticket touting at music events for PoliticsHome. 

It should not be a difficult thing to do at all. You hear that your favourite band is coming to a nearby venue and the tickets go on sale this coming Friday. Nevertheless, getting a face value ticket for some gigs these days is more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack.

The ticketing market is totally broken and it is something which I am contacted about by constituents and, indeed by music fans across the country on a pretty regular basis. Coming from the music business before I entered parliament, I have maintained an interest in matters relating to the industry, including fans getting fair access to tickets. When I say that the market is broken, I really mean it. In 2010 the largest music promoter in the world, Live Nation, bought the largest ticket agency, Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster just so happens to own two of the biggest secondary sites where the online touts do their business. It is a vertically integrated model that works in perfect partnership whereby everybody gets their cut and the fans stump up the cash so that these sites get their commission.

Tickets go on sale on the primary market and are quickly hoovered up by touts and appear, as if by magic, on secondary sites owned by Live Nation. So Ticketmaster make their cut, the touts make theirs, the secondary site takes a further cut and the parent company laugh all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, primary market tickets often sell out quicker than they normally would and fans are priced out of the market. Add to this the fact that search engines are paid to promote secondary ticket sites ahead of the official ticket sellers and it would seem like this elegantly and exploitatively designed market was almost set up to rip off music lovers.

Of course, it is not just Live Nation and its related companies – StubHub, whom are owned by eBay and are the official partner to AEG who own The O2 and Wembley Arena have a very similar business model. The Competition and Markets Authority have put three of the major secondary ticketing websites (Seatwave, Get Me In! and StubHub) on notice. The biggest culprit, Viagogo, however has typically, and defiantly, failed to respond and they must now be taken to task for this.

Tough terms and conditions are now put on tickets by bands to try and keep them out of the secondary market and artists are looking at all sorts innovative solutions to protect their fans. But it shouldn’t be the responsibility of musicians to protect the public in consumer affairs. That is the job of government. And the government has been painfully slow to respond. They have now banned the use of the anonymous ‘bots’ that hoover up tickets and they have, at last, started to ensure that recalcitrant secondary companies comply with ‘existing’ law.

The touts, though, always remain one step ahead and with the cover of the promoters and others at the top of the music business tree the misery goes on. The FanFair Alliance has shown that fans are now voting with their feet and are no longer prepared to put up with this abuse. We have to reclaim the music for the sake of our bands, and our love of live music. The government can rid us of these parasites. I hope that my Westminster Hall debate this week will continue to shine a light on this industry and that the government will respond positively. Fans have had enough, it is time to act now.


Pete Wishart is SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire.

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