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Tackling the Touts

At every gig I’ve attended, there’s been that one infuriating social media enthusiast determined to record the entire show regardless of how it affected everyone else. Much like these heinous individuals (‘come on Barbara, are you ever going to watch that video again?’) ticket touting in the music industry seems to be an inescapable problem.

There are four main ticket resellers – Viagogo, Stubhub, Seatwave and GetMeIn, the latter two of which are owned by Ticketmaster. Despite rising campaigns from musical stars, their managers, and fans, those eager to see their icons are sometimes being forced to dig deep into their pockets in order to cope with the extortionate, and seemingly limitless, increase in ticket fees.

These secondary sites do little to protect honest fans. As per Rob Davies of The Guardian, account managers running the likes of GetMeIn will ensure the tout’s happiness so that they will continue to use their platform. Touts are often rewarded with payments in advance to ease and facilitate their business instead of being reprimanded. Others are offered “broker tools” – software that enables touts to manage their inventory.

And while in the UK, HM Revenue and Customs and The Competition and Markets Authority have launched enquiries and investigations in the past year into the legality of the tout business, this has had little impact on stopping fans of the world’s biggest musical stars from falling victim to the one of the industry’s darkest and deepest issues.

For example, consider Ed Sheeran’s string of Irish dates. 300,000 tickets were released across seven dates to in Cork, Dublin and Galway, and his fervent supporters were willing to part with close to €100 per ticket for the pleasure of seeing the English singer-songwriter live. The concerts were seemingly sold out in minutes. Inevitably however, tickets in excess of €1200 were found circulating on Viagogo and Ebay – despite Sheeran’s management team taking precautions to ensure photo ID would be required upon entry.

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN tour, coming to Dublin in February of next year, encountered similar issues with touts. Those who were on the Three mobile network prior to the Compton rapper’s Irish show being announced were informed they could avail of the pre-sale tickets available through 3Plus, but following app crashes, the same tickets were found on Seatwave for €180, two days before the general sale of the standard €77 entry passes. It was an alarming portrayal of how serious the problem of ticket touting has become.

David Bennett worked as on one the aforementioned secondary sites before his resignation. His function was to ensure the touts could access tickets smoothly in order to massively boost profit margins. Speaking to The Guardian in a 2016 report on the touting issue, he said “some of these guys set up companies with eight or 10 employees using multiple credit cards to buy tickets. I once went to meet a guy in a hotel who took out a stack of credit cards, there must have been 20 or 30 of them, to show how serious he was.” He left after one client starting using his daughter’s cards after a primary website had blocked his own.

There are steps being taken in the right direction. Bands like Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons and Little Mix are big enforcers in encouraging their fans to boycott secondary ticketing sites, and the FanFair Alliance, a music fans group set up to tackle touts, have been guiding fans on how to beat an unjust system and avoid supplementing these power sellers with their hard-earned cash. They have also attacked Ticketmaster and LiveNation, the company which owns Ticketmaster and subsequently Seatwave and GetMeIn, for failing to act against touts.

Some touts have taken to rebranding in the light of being faced with investigations. In the last year, TicketWiz has become BZZ, 1st Choice Tickets changed its name to WRT Services, and Andrew Newman, one of the UK’s most successful touts, switched his Newman Corporation company name to North Financial Group. Julian Lavallee, arguably the world’s best-known tout, has set up an offshore account in the Isle of Man to avoid UK tax on the hundreds of tickets he had purchased in recent times.  This cannot continue. It is instrumental that we, as music lovers, stop these individuals from preying and profiteering on desperate music fans.

For now, please support the important work being done in the fight against the touts. Companies have been established in the UK such as Twickets, Scarlet Mist and Vibe Tickets to offer genuine fans a platform where tickets are strictly sold and purchased for face value or less. We can hope that these services will reach Irish shores in the foreseeable future, but in the meantime, let’s put an end to what should be an illegal activity, and say no to ticket touts.