We've all done it: a big gig comes around that lots of people want to see, assuming you cannot get the time off work at short notice to go and queue for a ticket at the venue box office, you try to purchase the tickets online only to find that as soon as the tickets are officially on sale, the site crashes and by the time you get onto the site, all the tickets have sold out.If, like me, you've wondered why it is that within minutes of the concert selling out online, tickets magically appear on resale sites at inflated prices, you would be advised to watch the documentary shown on Channel 4 television on Thursday night. Investigators for 'Dispatches - The Great Ticket Scandal' went behind the scenes at two well-known 'secondary market' ticket sites, Viagogo and Seatwave. Working on the desks at the resellers' offices, what they found confirmed what many music fans have long suspected: ordinary fans are being pushed out of the way by 'professional resellers'.
At Viagogo, one reporter working there learned that some promoters actually allocated tickets to the agency, even though the site itself claims to be a 'fan-to-fan' market; i.e. it exists to allow fans to buy tickets from other fans who cannot attend the event in question. The agency then sells the tickets on at inflated prices. Worse followed when one agent working for Viagogo was seen actually purchasing tickets online from Ticketmaster, using a book filled with different credit cards for the purpose. Explaining that because Ticketmaster's policy forbids more than six tickets per address, we then learned that the staff were actually providing addresses for their own homes and those of relatives in order to circumvent the restrictions. When you think that there are teams of staff working at these places, all of whom hit the websites at once armed with bundles of credit cards, it becomes clear why it is ordinary fans are shut out of the game.
Another reporter who had taken a job at Seatwave learned that the company was in regular contact with 'professional resellers'; these are companies whose job it is to buy up tickets for large events in bulk and then sell them on to Seatwave. With teams of professionals and the so-called 'fan-to-fan' secondary market working in such close harmony, it is easy to see why that big event always sells out in moments and why it is that the tickets appear again so soon at huge markups in some cases.
Even if you are prepared to queue at the box office, it is not always a guarantee of a ticket. One lady queued overnight for a ticket to a major event, was first in the queue when the box office opened, only to find that she still could not get the front row. She discovered that the first few rows had been reserved for Viagogo, in spite of the fact that they claim not to own any tickets themselves.
As a music fan who enjoys live concerts and has endured many scrambles for tickets, the revelations in this documentary were both unsurprising and disappointing. Granted, my own musical taste is not always with the mainstream and so I'm unlikely to be in the hunt for, say, Coldplay, but even so, I've experienced many times when it's been difficult to obtain tickets.
In 2008 I queued up for several hours in order to get tickets to see AC/DC at Manchester's MEN Arena; the band themselves were attempting to combat scalpers and so restricted sales to just two per person - even so, their concerts sold out within minutes. Needless to say, they appeared online within the hour, with suitably increased prices. It is irrelevant what your musical taste is, all fans lose out when large companies work alongside 'professional resellers' to shut fans out of the ticket sales until they can sell them on at a huge profit.
The other thing that became clear to me was that all of this has little to do with the bands themselves - the promoters, agents and resellers all seem to be in this together. Interestingly, Viagogo attempted to obtain an injunction preventing this programme from being broadcast, which tells you all you need to know about their practices and how they would prefer the public not to know about them.
The Dispatches programme will be available to view soon on Channel 4's website (UK only);in the meantime you can read an article published last year by This Is Money makes similar allegations against Viagogo.
Perhaps the old way of applying by post was better after all!
Until a band makes a song about ticket scams, this oldie from Queen will have to do!