Friday, 24 February 2012

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Channel 4's excellent Dispatches programme promised to lift the lid on the shady world of ticket reselling. And, boy oh boy, it certainly did.

But while it should come as no surprise to anybody that companies such as Seatwave and Viagogo make a killing from huge mark-ups over face value prices, what DID come as a shock was the 'industrial level' of the corruption. Specifically, this country's biggest concert promoters are alleged to be complicit in large-scale ticket touting.

You would think SJM, Metropolis, MCD and Live Nation would be keen to stamp out such scalping activities. But undercover reporters discovered that an incredible 29,000 Take That tickets were allocated to Viagogo by tour promoters SJM in 2011.

The same company, together with Metropolis and MCD, allocated 4,500 V Festival tickets to Viagogo last year. And 9,000 tickets for the upcoming Coldplay tour were allocated by SJM and Metropolis to Viagogo for sale at premium rate.

This stinks, of course - for a number of reasons. The tickets sent to Viagogo could and should have gone on general sale to genuine fans. Instead, they were offered for vastly inflated prices (£539 was quoted for a Coldplay ticket, for instance) through the secondary agent. According to the programme, 90 per cent of this marked-up ticket price is handed back to the promoters, with Viagogo taking ten per cent and their booking fee.

Promoters negotiate with agents to book artists for a certain price - and a ticket price is generally established within such an agreement. If 9,000 Coldplay tickets are sold out of the back door for a hugely inflated price, then who is being ripped off? Are the agents kept in the dark over this? Are the band and their management? Or are they taking a slice from it too?

Channel 4 should be commended for an excellent piece of whistle-blowing. And Live Nation, Metropolis, MCD, SJM and other promoters should be held to account for their actions. They didn't use their right to reply on the programme itself: Channel 4 was only able to obtain a quote from umbrella organisation, the Concert Promoters Association, which missed - or avoided - the point in hand by commenting instead on the security of booking tickets through an established secondary agency.

The fans are being ripped off - of this there is no doubt. But if the allegations in the C4 programme are found to be true, and the people who promote our concerts and tours are deliberately touting their own tickets at a higher price to illicitly obtain a greater revenue for themselves, then they need to explain how - on God's green earth - they can possibly consider this as acceptable.

Andy Barding

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