Our Reading resident writer tackles touts...
This blog takes a gracious sidestep from Reading Festival to look at a larger problem affecting me and you. No, not the worry that downloading mass amounts of “stuff” will get us thrown off the internet, but the plague that is touting.
Before I answer the question, let’s talk about live music. It’s safe to presume that there’s a good chance you’ve come across sex, drugs and touts if you have ever been to a gig or a festival unless you are a celibate straight edger who doesn’t use any of their 5 senses until they get inside a venue (let’s call this person Frank).
Sex And Drugs
Sure, it won’t be as blatant as some Rammstein video directed by Ron Jeremy starring Jenna Jameson but it’s happened. As enjoyable as it can be, the dangers that come with it can be insanely horrific. We still do it though.
A large percentage of people attending live music events have dabbled in some form of drug, be it alcohol or the devil’s lettuce (unless you’re Frank). Yes, legal drugs can be awe inspiringly amazing but then again they can lead to bad things. We still do it though.
Imagine if you’ve missed out on a ticket to a gig, and you buy a legit ticket from a tout for less than you would have paid going via official means. You should be well happy, until the point where you can’t get in because you’ve been screwed over with fake tickets.
Ok, let’s presume you made it in just fine. Is this going to work for every gig you go to? What if you do end up buying fake tickets one day? What about if there are fewer tickets available than you need for your group? What if tickets are actually going double for what they were originally? What if you accidentally bought tickets to the wrong gig? We still do it.
What’s going on?
There are many reasons why touts exist and these are pointed out in a government report on ticket touts (page 170). In addition, Trent Reznor wrote a good piece on the area of secondary ticket sellers which is worth a read. Essentially a tout is someone who buys tickets to an event in order to resell them at a profit.
Legally, they’re doing nothing wrong aren’t they? There is discussion going on with regards to whether the average street tout actually pays tax on their earnings. Failure to do so is illegal. Also, it is an offence to sell items on the street corner without a street trading license but cracking down on teenagers smoking weed is going to cure global terrorism, so that’s where the efforts of the police are put. Let’s face it, would you rather tackle a stoned teen or a steroid laden nutcase?
Under the terms and conditions printed on the back of a ticket, concert promoters could choose to bring a civil prosecution against anyone reselling a ticket, but that is unlikely to happen. Great stuff.
So what, it’s a free market, it’s no different from any other business. A business will pay tax remember and hopefully put the customer first. Can you see touts doing that? It wouldn’t be so bad if they offered nectar points on all purchases but they don’t even give a 30 day money back guarantee or a damn receipt so we can claim expenses.
It all comes down to a question of ethics and morality but even then, how are touts (even the ones that pay tax) any different from petrol stations over charging on fuel or holiday companies upping prices in peak season? How’s it different from clothing companies having a 2000% mark-up on clothes stitched together by child slave labour who don’t see the light of day for 6 days out the week?
A reason you’ll often hear is that “it’s not right” but then again, in the society we live in today, not many things are and we plod along slowly accepting it like a web developer can expect not to get laid. We’ve grown to accept things but why oh why is the issue of ticket touting still a hotly debated topic?
Cabbage and cider are nice. The supermarket is where I spend my cash each week to pay for such luxuries as cabbage and cider. I know it’s more expensive that supermarkets more local to me but I prefer spending that little bit extra for quality and for actually having onions in stock when I need to make goulash. I don’t mind paying where I think it’s warranted.
So they’re doing nothing wrong really are they? The trouble with touting is that any profit that touts make is not warranted. Naturally you may think it works on a “first come first served” basis but I guarantee if you ever need onions for a goulash, only to find that someone bought the store out of onions and is selling them at inflated prices, you will not be best pleased. Yeah, I can go to another store but their mate has done the same there. Naturally I don’t think footballers deserve £100k a week for running around, acting tough and kissing but that’s a discussion for another time and place.
So what’s the problem?
The real problem is that the record companies won't care about touts as long as they buy the tickets, which means the record companies and the artist can take their cut. If they took a hard line stance on touting as opposed to trying to stop piracy then maybe something productive could be done about it. It is just a question of ethics, throttling the supply of tickets in order to drive up demand is a standard business practice though, that's the shame of it all.
Football has done it, why can’t the music industry? This is where it gets interesting. Under anti-hooligan measures, it is illegal to sell tickets outside a football ground and a tout can be fined up to £5,000 if caught outside one. However clubs can choose to sell tickets in a secondary market via official partners. Clubs such as Chelsea and Man Utd are signed up to the deal, and let’s face it; they aren’t the most moral of football clubs. In simple terms, touts can sell tickets on official secondary ticket reseller sites. It still raises the question why the hell it’s been done for football and not the music industry.
Surely official resellers are better than street touts?
You want to buy a 50” LCD television. You’re on the way to the store (haven’t people heard of online shopping?) and know it’ll cost £750 but on the way you meet a stranger. He has the same television in the back of his motor for £500. Where do you go? Unless you have the IQ of a dead camel, you’ll pop along to the store. You will pay more for an item knowing it came from an official and trusted source. Touts know this as well. So rather than sell a ticket to you on the street, in the cold and rain for £50 profit, they’ll do in from the comfort of their caravan and make £100 profit instead.
Don’t official reseller sites at least guarantee tickets? There have been 101 horror stories about people buying from www.youwillnevergetyourticket.ru or buying off a seller named UBscammed666 on eBay so a guarantee does sound nice. The thing is, they will rarely 100% guarantee anything. How can they? They haven’t seen the ticket. After pursuing this point with many secondary ticket sellers, none were able to 100% guarantee that the person buying or selling the ticket would not lose out. Remember, if you buy from eBay with your credit card, you’re guaranteed a refund anyway if the transaction is fraudulent.
Sorry, you’ve bored me, what were you saying?
Music is a grass roots industry originally, the artists want FANS to attend their gigs, they don't want the tickets to go to touts who then rip off those fans. Think about it, would you, as an artist, prefer fans to spend money on you/themselves/beer rather than a tout? The industry could be seen in a libertarian view as a completely unnecessary middle man taking a cut which in essence it doesn't really deserve since all it does is distribute and advertise the tickets. The company should be paid for distributing and advertising tickets, but it shouldn't be able to drive up profit at the expense of fans because it's not doing anything extra for the fans or for the artists to justify it, it's just manipulating the market to exploit increase profit at the expense of genuine music fans, that's why it's a sore point among genuine music fans, we live under a socialist government yet we're screwed over by the free market and there's nothing we can do about it, we need to regulate it.
99% of the time they (hypothetically) sodomise consumers. They buy up loads of tickets and then sell them on at higher than the face value. Touts, by their nature seek to dry up the well to increase demand and therefore increase the value of the tickets they hold – lowering the value for money on a product. Touts decrease the availability of a product just to increase its value. There is no avoiding touts if you are looking to buy a ticket for an event that they have helped make unavailable. We are the ones being robbed of the chance to buy a product in the first place when certain companies buy up 300 tickets on a 1000 capacity gig. I think this is wrong and they claim to be person to person sales, but everyone knows that is poop. They do not contribute anything to the extra they put on to the price other than the right to go to a gig that they took away in the first place.
So what was the answer? Oh yeah. If you mess around with any of them, sooner or later, you’ll be fucked.
In the next article, I’ll be looking at what can be done get rid of all touts, official or not.
This blog is dedicated to Tom.