There are plenty of people who have concerning figures on the effect of ticket touting. I could throw a load of stats at you like 'fanfairalliance.org estimate the reselling of tickets is worth £1 Billion’ but what does that mean for the fans? Today I want to tell you about the human cost.
I think ticket harvesting is a bit like holding your neighbour's dog to ransom. Ticket touts are people who deliberately buy tickets to make a profit and are doing so on the basis that there is someone who is emotionally invested enough to pay way above the initial cost. Our laws help us regulate our goalposts on morality. i.e. it’s not okay to hold your neighbours dog to ransom and yet the laws don’t quite seem tough enough on ticket touts. The Government have acted, in 2015 the Consumer Rights Act updated rules about ticket resales including that the use of bots to bulk buy tickets is now illegal but the effectiveness and enforcement of the CRA has already been called into question.
I know what it’s like to have something that a lot of people want. Once I gave away One Direction tickets on my radio show and the level of attention was insane. Also, it was difficult knowing that almost everyone contacting me wouldn’t be successful and as a result I did get a lot of backlash. I had people with wild accusations that it was a fix, that I’d cut them off, that I’d answered their phone call and then changed my mind but my situation was very different. I had one pair of tickets. At the O2 with a capacity of 20,000 with 2 nights of BTS performing, you have to ask how did so many genuine fans miss out when there were 40,000 tickets available? Surely there is more that can be done by ticketing businesses to make sure their customers have a pleasant experience rather than providing a rather pitiful shrug and implying it’s not their fault the way things are makes for an easy swindle.
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Imagine it’s 4am, you’re sat in the dark on your bed and you’ve got a lurching feeling in your stomach, you’ve been told not to stay up because you have school tomorrow but you have because the thing you want most in the world is finally happening. You can’t sleep anyway because you could never forgive yourself if you missed out. Your motivation to be up at this ungodly hour is a group of individuals who have managed to capture your frustration, desire and passion through their art and they are finally coming to your country. Something you couldn't imagine happening until about 8 months ago, when they started receiving world wide acclaim. They’ve beaten household names into second place, won awards, claimed outrageous records and ultimately, fulfilled their potential, which was all you ever wanted for them. For other people to see how good they are.
The white synthetic light from your phone, your Dad’s iPad, your laptop, your sister’s laptop are illuminating you as you wait patiently. Your friend on snapchat messaging you with a similar set up. 10 screens between the two of you. You imagine what it would be like to finally be in the room with them. See them and hear them and exist in a congregation of 20,000 people who feel like you. Screams, flashing purple beams of light and pure adrenaline. The price to be there, other than the the sleepless nights, is £120. It’s a lot of money but you’ve been careful since they announced the ticket prices and made sacrifices along the way. You have also worked your parents hard, begging and pleading that you’ll catch a train, make sure your phone is charged and go with sensible people.
You wait, tired, worried, desperate. You reassure yourself by imagining a member of the group noticing you in the crowd. Recognising you for who you are and what you represent and appreciating it.
5 hours later, your pilgrimage is denied, your eyes sore from crying and your parents a little relieved.
In the shadows online lurk a grim figure, boney fingers with long dirty finger nails outstretched from a hooded cloak which hides their face. They gesture for you to come closer and as you lean in, they reveal they have your glowing beacon of hope under their sodden cloak. They have stalked your desperation, pounced on your vulnerability and at this point in time, your dream is partially revived. However, just like every Disney villain you can imagine, they want something totally unreasonable and wild in return. The 2 tickets which originally cost £120 now cost £2000.
This is one of the many different scenarios which brought thousands of BTS fans around the globe to the same conclusion on Friday the 1st of June. Access Denied.
Sadly this sort of story is repeated for most popular artists. In a recent retaliation Ed Sheeran and his management decided to cancel 10,000 tickets bought through a re-sale ticketing website ViaGoGo in a brutal attempt to discourage fans from paying extortionate amounts and boosting the pay packet of people who have no skill other than clicking ‘buy’ faster than the average punter (or using the now illegal bot software). Brutal because of course, the people who receive the initial sting are the fans themselves who have forked out for the harvested tickets.
What’s really difficult to stomach is this is a band who have worked their butts off and always put their fans first, they’ve never had an outburst, they do hour long streams online to make sure their fans get contact time with them, they talk about politics and represent the underdogs. They give themselves to their audience entirely and I know how disappointed they and their management team BigHit would be to think about their fans denied access to a space specifically designed for them.
You can say that it’s part of life, you can’t go to every gig, you aren’t entitled to the experience but for me, that’s a cop out. These fans are playing by the rules and getting burned. They are being specifically targeted for their passion and it’s not just ‘some pop concert’. This is an industry worth billions of pounds to the UK economy. If people stop having faith that they won’t get scammed it could change the landscape of live music. The money ends up in the pockets of the touts rather than in the pockets of the music industry which stifles more live events. If we tackle the resale of tickets by putting our faces on them tickets the ticket might go to waste through change in circumstance. From the big implications, to the small every decision has an effect and I can't tell you a solution right now. However, all I see is heartbroken fans, time and time again.
In a world when people are constantly being encouraged to spend a little less time online and more in the real world, the law and ticketing companies should be doing everything in their power to facilitate that.
And not just for people who have a couple of grand lying around.