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Are Ticket ID Restrictions Good Or Bad For Music Fans? (Paperless Ticketing Feature)

Saturday, 30 July 2011 Written by Dave Ball
Are Ticket ID Restrictions Good Or Bad For Music Fans?

Red Hot Chili Peppers promoters AEG and its subsidiary Kilimanjaro Live announced this week that tickets for RHCP's hotly anticipated UK tour would have very strict restrictions on entry. What this means is that those purchasing tickets for the UK tour this November must enter the venue in a group with the credit card used to purchase the tickets, along with the ticket receipt to gain entry. Additionally the tickets are non-transferrable. The reason cited for these unusual measures was to prevent touts from "profiteering" and driving up the prices on the secondary market. But did it have the desired effect? Although a free market for ticket resale and exchange is not ideal for everyone, and can initially be detrimental to music fans for sold out events on the day of sale, when demand is at its highest, it does also offer many more benefits to the ticket buyer than a restricted event.

The promoters and agencies for the tour issued the following statement:

    "Over 14's Only – Under 16's must be accompanied by an adult. In order to stop tickets being re-sold at higher than face value prices through secondary markets and ticket touts, entry on the night will only be given to ticket holders who have the original payment card used to make the booking along with the confirmation/receipt containing the same corresponding payment cardholders details. All tickets purchased together on one payment card must arrive at venue together with the cardholder. The cardholder must enter the venue also – tickets are non-transferable."

A gig ticket is not like a flight ticket. There are no security risks with the named purchaser having to enter the event. A ticket for a concert, theatre or sporting event, is a luxury item, a commodity owned by the purchaser to do with as they wish. They are often given as gifts for birthdays or Christmas, which this would not allow as the booker would have to attend the event themselves.

Now, this is an issue we’ve addressed on Stereoboard in the past. Most recently after the problems and chaos caused to fans entering London’s Royal Albert Hall for Alicia Keys’ June performance and the first issue to address is the problems that arose then. Demanding every fan who enters shows a credit card and confirmation along with their ticket for a venue which holds over 20,000 people is quite simply unworkable. Even if every person purchased several tickets it would take hours for security to get everybody into the building which is unacceptable for fans paying over £50 per ticket. Can you really see every person entering the O2 for these gigs being put through this type of interrogation? Of course not, security have better things to do than bother people who have paid good money to see their favourite band play live.

This leads directly into the issues you face if one of your group is late out of work, gets stuck in traffic, has public transport difficulties or any other number of potential delays. You can’t go in without them or they can’t get in so you’re left with the dilemma of leaving your friend outside and having them miss the gig or waiting and possibly missing part of the set yourself.

Many people if they get ill or are unable to attend due to personal reasons at the last minute would usually sell or give their ticket to a friend, again this is ruled out altogether if you were the booker of tickets, as the promoters state the tickets are "non-transferrable".

The reaction of fans has generally been against these measures despite the facts that almost every music fan would agree that there are issues with secondary sales of tickets. A poster on music website Get To The Front with the username ‘deathtoallbutmetal’ had these points to raise:

    ‘I've been critical of the ticket selling strategy, but really like the Chilli Peppers ... There are plenty of ways that the promoters could ensure that people can get face value tickets which include being able to give them away / get refunds if they can't make it. - They could have SAID they'd sell in staggered batches as the event approaches - and it would even have been acceptable to charge MORE closer to take account of the financing costs involved. - They could limit to TWO per credit card, and accept letters of authorisation. - They could offer a refund policy. Would be the first time, but it needs to happen ... The big thing though, is not being able to transfer tickets...that is wrong, and is border line illegal as well.’

Some very valid comments and sensible suggestions in there and they’re dead right that it’s farcical that refunds on tickets are still almost universally unavailable, despite the restrictions. I particularly like the idea of staggered sales. We already see pre-sales for many events and festivals often give fans a ‘buy at last years’ price’ early bird option. A backwards version of this could work where tickets would retail at say £50 on launch for 75% of the tickets with the other 25% going on sale a month before the gig at £60.

Fans already have the option for most events, particularly the larger tours to sign up for pre-sales through fan clubs, registrations to newsletters for bands or venues or if you've bought tickets for that band before. By extending the volume of tickets available through these and perhaps limiting to two tickets per fan, promoters could limit the number of tickets available to touts at the main launch date.

If restrictions are supposed to be a good thing for fans then why are so many fans against measures such as these? Most people would agree the situation we have now isn’t perfect but I’m yet to hear a better solution than secondary sales websites which are self-regulated and safe for consumers, guaranteeing genuine tickets even if they are sold at over (and sometimes under) face value.

Speaking with TicketNews, Graham Burns, Chairman of UK based Association of Secondary Ticket Agents (ASTA) had a warning for Kilimanjaro Live, other promoters, agents and artists, thinking of imposing strict conditions on the resale of tickets could have unintended consequences on the dynamic of the live music industry.

    "Nobody's buying them (Red Hot Chili Peppers) because the public knows they can't resell those tickets because it's too much of a hassle," Burns said. "These artists and promoters think paperless tickets are the answer, but if you wish for paperless tickets you better be careful. You lose the hype and the advertising that the secondary market can give. That's what drives sales, just look at last year and Take That sales, which were huge. But, when you try to cut out the secondary market, you don't generate any buzz. Kilimanjaro tried to control the distribution of tickets using this scheme, and they've done so to such an extent that nobody wants to buy them"

    "The whole thing is turning into a mess," he said, also stating he believes that for every £1 that a promoter spends on advertising, and promotion, for a tour, the secondary market and it's affiliates combined spends in excess of £8.

This leads us neatly to another of the problems we’ve addressed in the past. We hear plenty of companies and artists claiming they’re against the secondary resale market, however most run their own secondary sale sites or are involved in shifting premium tickets onto the secondary market. Reading & Leeds festival even offers a ‘preferred’ supplier of secondary tickets. Managers’ often claim they don’t want fans to be ripped off yet ticket prices have risen massively ahead of the level of inflation for the past 15 years.

Prices are a bug bear of mine, being old enough to remember when £20 was an expensive gig and only the biggest bands could get away with charging such a price but I understand this is simply a case of supply and demand. Take That sold out hundreds of thousands of tickets starting at around £60 for their recent arena tour. If people are willing to pay that and I’m their promoter of course I’ll charge as much as I can.

Secondary sites, essentially do the same thing. If I offer up one ticket for RHCP today at £700 no-one’s likely to pay that so I would set my price at a level someone is going to be willing to pay. If prices are over-inflated they’ll be forced to drop which is where we regularly see tickets on secondary sites sell for under face value. It's the law of supply and demand. There have been numerous reports of fans buying weekend tickets for this years’ Reading & Leeds festivals at well under face value when they didn’t sell out as quickly as expected.

It would be interesting to have seen the reaction of promoters if this tour hadn’t sold as quickly as they would have expected. Had they been left with 50% of tickets un-sold with a month to go until the tour would restrictions have been lifted if it was clear the fear of losing your cash, if you couldn’t attend, had put people off buying? Would Kilimanjaro Live have used the secondary market to shift these unwanted tickets? They are, but that's a story for another time.

I don’t want it to seem I’m totally against restrictions on ticket sales. I, like most people have been frustrated when I’ve been unable to get hold of tickets for a band I want to see and would prefer more ‘genuine fans’ and less bedroom touts get hold of tickets for big tours. However, unless a good deal of thought is put into options for people who genuinely can’t attend after buying a ticket I’ll stand against them. Some sort of refund / transfer policy must be implemented for these types of restrictions to truly be successful. Promoters must also carefully consider the market dynamics of the secondary market, and whether they can afford, in the long term, to cherry pick which events are restricted for resale, while relying on the ticket brokers and exchanges to shift tickets for less popular than expected events.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly secondary re-sale sites offer fans a choice, which surely is the vital part of all of this. No-one has to buy tickets from a secondary resale site for five times the face value. People do have a choice on what they are willing to pay. If you were unfortunate enough to be unable to get online at ticket release time, usually 9am on a Friday morning, you can wait for prices to hopefully drop or make your own choice of what value being at the gig has to you. Some fans may even decide to forego the live experience if other fans are willing to pay more than them to attend the event. Surely that is a choice for them to make not the promoter, or artist.

Scamming is rife with search engines full of un-safe and un-regulated sites every time a big tour goes on sale. Thousands of innocent people were left ticketless and heavily out of pocket after the Take That tour saw scam sites appearing all over the dark corners of web space. Whether you like websites such as GetMeIn, Seatwave, Viagogo and the rest or not, it is an indisputable fact that they offer genuine tickets so, no matter what you pay you do know you have an actual ticket for the gig you’ve been waiting for.

For fans that can’t get the tickets they want, such as standing or lower levels for this tour, who don’t know about resale restrictions - they are left completely exposed to scam sites. Many people are unaware of the level of ticket scamming and will perform a Google search without realising the likelihood of ending up being ripped off because there is no open secondary marketplace for tickets when these restrictions are in place.

Remember, every ticket seller we work with is safe and reputable so please, don’t put yourself in a situation where you could be scammed. Always buy your tickets through Stereoboard.com and be safe in the knowledge you have genuine tickets.

If you have suggestions on how promoters could protect fans against touts and scammers we’d love to hear from you in our comments section below.

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