For many music enthusiasts, seeing your favourite artist play live is a big deal; the goal of any fan. As such, live gigs are in high demand and increasingly expensive. The popularity of big names and venue sizes means that tickets can enter into secondary and more expensive sales within minutes of being released. There’s something quite demoralising about waiting in an hour long queue online to then be met with £70 tickets in the back row with a restricted view or a link to a different website.
Missing out on the official websites ultimately means turning to secondary, ‘ticket touting’ websites such as Get Me In, StubHub, and Viagogo. In particular, GetMeIn is often trusted more than others, simply because it is of the same company that operates Ticketmaster, the most popular ‘official’ ticket site. The association can easily make it seem that you’re in good, trustworthy hands, but it’s not quite so black and white. No matter what forum it is through, though, ticket touting means you are almost guaranteed to be getting ripped off, and occasionally, it could even mean trouble getting into the gig.
The reasoning behind the resale of tickets is interesting. Someone might simply not be able to attend the event and would rather have a refund while someone else can enjoy the night. A thoughtful idea, but it can be hard to think of it like this when they slap on an extra few quid because they can. This is seen a lot on Viagogo, the most controversial of the sites. In one particular case, the site made profits in the thousands from tickets for an Ed Sheeran concert for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and were accused of ‘moral repugnance’ as none of these profits went to the charity. The Trust went to huge lengths to avoid this, asking for photo ID at the door, but the control of a massive crowd is never going to be easy, nor is trying to control the internet. Similarly, tickets for the year’s biggest musical, Hamilton, appeared on touting websites for £3000+ within days of being released, despite lengthy measures to prevent exactly that.
The government have taken some action against the re-sale of tickets. In fact, bulk buying for resale is explicitly illegal (although the resale for profit is not). Recently the House of Lords put forwards amendments to the Digital Economy Bill that it is suggested would help reduce much of the resale industry, including plans to make it illegal for touts to resell without direct permission of the event organisers. Websites themselves are also going to lengths to ensure people aren’t being ripped off (too much) and will be allowed into gigs with the pricey tickets. Artists themselves, such as Josh Franceschi of You Me At Six, have spoken out about fair treatment for ‘genuine fans’.
All of this is good progress, and committees like FanFair – an organisation of the fair sale of event tickets – are pushing for more. While the new amendments could mean the end to the worst of it, it’s unavoidable that people will sell and resell as long as there is demand, and when it comes to live music, there most definitely is. The experience of the gig has been commodified in itself; a ‘must have’ entity that rounds off the fan interaction with the music and artist. Looking at it in this sense, it’s not entirely surprising it’s so expensive. £400 to see Beyoncé becomes the equivalent of a pair of designer jeans. In the way that value is added to products, the demand and popularity of artists becomes the way in which value is added to the experience they sell. Thus we get extortionate tickets, and people willing to pay even more as soon as they become limited edition.
It’s not just online bots that are guilty of it. I’ve resold tickets for profit, and I’m sure many of my fellow students have. St Andrews becomes a ticket touting hotspot around the time of Opening Ball and the fashion shows. The popular events become a commodity, and as popularity increases so does people’s willingness to pay.
The endeavors of secondary websites like Viagogo are easy to moan about, but the use of a third party makes it easy to forget it’s another person that you’re ripping off. It detaches the seller from the buyer, and so people get away with far more exploitation that they would to one another’s face. In St Andrews, Facebook does exactly the same thing; it becomes our GetMeIn. It’s worth bearing in mind next time you think about adding another twenty quid to an Opening Ball ticket.
There’s nothing like live music. In the words of Marcus Mumford: ‘A lot of the time it feels like… music is some sort of excuse to be a human. It’s kind of like people need that excuse to go and put their arms in the air and sing their hearts out.’ The bulk buying of tickets mean a lot of deserving fans miss out, but equally can mean opportunity for those who simply aren’t in the right place at the right time – it’s a tricky balance to meet. For now, we must be content with the Ticketmaster queues to spend a few hours in a sweaty hall with our favorite bands. Official and secondary ticketing both have their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s worth remembering, before you rip someone off, that their popularity is down to everyone wanting this same chance at being human.