Have the ?1bn ticket touts finally met their match?

When Marie decided to take her 10-year-old daughter to her first ever concert – Little Mix in Durham last year – she knew it would be tricky to find tickets for their face value of ?50 just a couple of weeks in advance.
But after finding a pair on ticket resale site Viagogo she was still surprised when the total bill came in at a whopping ?371 after more than ?100 of fees were added at the checkout.
“I felt ripped off and deceived by the addition of the fee so late in the process” she said. But, having already told her daughter she had got tickets, she reluctantly coughed up anyway.
We’ve all grown up with these touts outside venues selling the odd ticket, but it was marginalBrian Message
Paying well over the odds has become a common experience for sports, music and comedy fans desperate to get their hands on tickets, thanks to a recent surge in professional touts buying up dozens of tickets and selling them on at inflated prices, usually via sites like Viagogo.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Government as well as promoters and artists themselves, who have all stepped up efforts to clamp down on unauthorised ticket sales.
But while there are signs touts are finally beginning to feel the squeeze – including Ticketmaster’s decision to close resale sites Seatwave and Get Me In! this week – with others more than willing to take up their slack and easily-tradable paper slips remaining the most common form of ticket, it seems likely fans will be paying over the odds for some time to come.
Have the ?1bn ticket touts finally met their match?

Little Mix are among the artists that have taken a stand against ticket touts 
“We’ve all grown up with these touts outside venues selling the odd ticket, but it was marginal,” says industry veteran Brian Message, who manages PJ Harvey and Nick Cave.
But now, thanks to the ease with which touts can buy dozens of tickets online with a few clicks and the proliferation of unofficial resale websites, the practice has become “industrial” in scale, he says. Some estimates put the UK figure for the so-called secondary ticketing market at around ?1bn.
Part of the problem, says Ed Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp, is that many fans don’t even realise when they go to resale sites Viagogo that they are buying second-hand tickets.
“I’ve had people pay literally hundreds over the odds for Ed Sheeran tickets and then complain to me about the exorbitant pricing – they literally didn’t realise they were buying from another party,” he says.
The frustration has inspired a backlash by some bands and promoters, most notably Sheeran, whose promoters cancelled more than 10,000 tickets for its latest tour after they were bought by known touts or found listed on resale sites.
Along with the likes of Adele and the Arctic Monkeys, he has also been encouraging fans that do have a spare ticket to sell to use Twickets, which limits prices to a ticket face value plus 10pc to cover booking fees and a further 10pc to 15pc for itself. “Many users enjoy selling at face value – they like the alternative approach of ensuring other fans get to go in their place,” says Twickets’ founder Andrew Davies. The site’s backers include Modest!, which represents the Arctic Monkeys, and former EMI chairman Steve Parish. Others such as Iron Maiden have partnered with Ticketmaster, the biggest “primary” ticket seller in the UK market, to introduce a paperless system with tickets linked to a fan’s credit card, making them impossible to sell on.
Touts haven’t escaped the eye of authorities, either. In 2015 the Government made it compulsory for resellers to display the face value of a ticket alongside the resale price and a ban on using bots to buy tickets came into force last month.
Reg Walker, an expert in ticket fraud who gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into the market in 2016, says touts have faced a “perfect storm” of problems that have paved the way for Ticketmaster’s decision to get out of secondary ticketing. But he doesn’t think the move will make a huge difference.
“It doesn’t address the issue of Stubhub and Viagogo, the two dominant players, and it doesn’t address the underlying issue that for years touts have had no trouble whatsoever in harvesting tickets in bulk from Ticketmaster itself and flipping them straight over to their own secondary sites.”
Ticketmaster boss Andrew Parsons insists the company has “long fought hard” to stop touts buying through its site, but in any case there are plenty of other agents for them to turn to.
Have the ?1bn ticket touts finally met their match?

Ed Sheeran cancelled more than 10,000 tickets for a recent tour after they were found on resale sites such as Viagogo
Among the resale sites, Viagogo has drawn the most ire. The UK-headquartered but Swiss-domiciled firm has picked up investment from backers including founder Brent Hoberman, venture capital firm Index Ventures and LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.
But it has faced years of criticism for opaque fees, frustrating complaints procedures and failing to prevent touts using its sites and was even singled out as “the worst” by digital minister Margot James, who called for a boycott in May. The closure of Seatwave and Get Me In! may prove to be a turning point in the battle against touts. But while there remain tickets available to be traded it seems unlikely the practice will die out any time soon.
“There are a whole host of other secondary platforms out there still in operations and from what I hear new entrants to the market are coming soon to the UK,” says Davies. “It’s a bit like whack-a-mole.”
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