Out with the touts

Published

Oisín Kealy

The Concert Promoters Association have recently unveiled a new anti-ticket tout website in an effort to protect concert goers from the dangers of the trade.

Using a strict system of registered ticket numbers and addresses, officialboxoffice.com is setting itself up to attract touts away from sites like Seatwave or eBay where fans can pay for tickets that then fail to materialize: All very benevolent of them, then.

Maybe not. Unlike others, they let sellers list their tickets at no charge, and have the buyer pick up the tab through a 12.5% service charge — this comes to an extra £175 if you purchase a pair of Madonna tickets that are currently listed there. As much as this could be seen as a taste tax (a third row view of her ageing yet thrusting crotch would be price enough, personally), it certainly seems to fly in the face of the pro-fan/anti-tout sentiment they are peddling to advertise the venture. In fairness, the stricter measures do guarantee fans that their tickets are genuine, but coming after years of lobbying against the second-hand market, it throws their motives in a different light.

I don’t think it is overly cynical to look at this as an attempt to muscle in on the lucrative enterprise. Concert promoters share their profits from the tickets with the acts, touts don’t. If the tickets sell for only fifty percent more than face value, they are often still making more money than the promoters have on the same ticket. Using the front of benevolent giants they can benefit and attempt to deflect any judgment, like watching Hollyoaks ironically.

It’s going to take legislation to make any real difference, and that is not going to be passed anytime soon going by recent reports, the government preferring a free market place. A surprising amount of people share this view, praising the activity for its capitalist opportunism and seeing it as beautiful market forces at work.

These people are rarely music fans. These people have never set their alarm for half eight on a Sunday morning in an attempt to procure tickets on release, only to see them sold out before they can type whatever non-word (“weftage”?) is demanded as verification. Writers in favour of touting are also, unsurprisingly, generally solvent enough to afford the inflation.

I might be a bit harsh, holding the opinion myself that ticket touts are the haemorrhoids on the rear-end of the music business, erupting in dubious niches to irritate and distress. Unlike haemorrhoids, however, It will take more than a warm bath to get rid of them. Music is not a commodity, it is something ineffable, and the most deserving investment will always be emotional, not financial.