Nigel Adams: Get tough on ticket touts and it will be music to fans' ears

Difficulties obtaining tickets for a Green Day gig at the First Direct Arena have prompted MP Nigel Adams to call for changes to the law.Difficulties obtaining tickets for a Green Day gig at the First Direct Arena have prompted MP Nigel Adams to call for changes to the law.
Difficulties obtaining tickets for a Green Day gig at the First Direct Arena have prompted MP Nigel Adams to call for changes to the law.
A COUPLE of weeks ago, I tried to purchase tickets to a Green Day gig at Leeds Arena, logging on to the primary sale site as soon as they were released.

I was told I’d been allocated the tickets, and had them held for five minutes to enter my card details and complete the transaction – but on submitting my card details just over two minutes later, I was told the tickets were no longer available.

I was troubled to find tickets for the same concert available only minutes later on resale 
sites – for over double the
price – and my experience is not unique.

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When I talked about what happened I received similar stories back ten-fold – from other Green Day fans as well as fans who subsequently had similar problems with other popular gigs, including the Stone Roses and the Bros reunion, as well as music industry execs who have sent me case studies tracking how touts hoovered up tickets to previous tours by Iron Maiden and K.T. Tunstall before fans could even get a look in.

The traditional impression we have of ticket resale is of the honest fan who can no longer get to a gig and just wants to pass on his or her tickets and recoup their costs – but ticket touting has rocketed in the UK in recent years through secondary resale sites and, sadly, it is dominated by dedicated resellers who purchase as many tickets as they can without any intention of attending.

Some of the more sophisticated touting operations use computerised ‘bots’ to snap up hundreds of tickets, and I raised this issue during Prime Minister’s Questions this week. I have also tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to outlaw use of these bots.

As Prime Minister, Theresa May has made clear her intention is to get to grips with rogue businessmen. That’s exactly what touts are: rogues. They’re dishonest, often using a variety of credit cards and fake names to bypass limitations; they’re ripping off ordinary fans and powering a multi-million pound industry, without adding any value at all.

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In fact, many individual touts register as limited companies to obtain tax advantages. Being a keen music fan myself, I want to see comprehensive reform of the secondary ticket resale market to ensure live music and other events are affordable for a wide audience.

My amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, currently being considered by a Commons committee, proposes to take away one of the tools that touts use – automated ticket-harvesting bots that allow them to purchase large numbers of tickets very quickly, and under multiple names, before genuine fans have had a chance.

It’s not a silver bullet, as this is just one aspect, but it’s an opportunity to ameliorate the problem, make digital touting harder, and put some legal clout behind bands, fans, and honest ticket sellers struggling to stay one step ahead of increasingly savvy touts exploiting ever-improving technology.

It was inspired by a similar law recently passed by New York State, following a campaign by American artists who’d faced the same problems, and led by hip-hop composer Lin Manuel Miranda, who wrote the smash-hit musical Hamilton only to see a large proportion of each new ticket release gobbled up 
by touts.

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I understand that the US Congress may soon be considering a similar law too. Having discussed the idea with people such as Iron Maiden’s manager and the band You Me At Six, I found strong support for implementing this in the UK.

We must also work with resale websites in order to enforce the Consumer Rights Act and ensure that details such as the face value of the ticket, the seat number and any applicable restrictions are clearly published.

We must protect a performer’s right to set the prices for their own tickets. While genuine fans must be able to resell tickets they can’t use to recoup their outlay, there are ethical resellers in the market such as Twickets, and
no artist wants to perform to empty seats because touts snapped up tickets and jacked up prices.

It erodes the relationship between artists and fans when an artist tries to set accessible prices, rather than milking every possible penny, and then touts ruin this. As the music industry changes, we have to protect the ability of artists and their hard-working tour staff to receive the revenue from their performances – rather than parasitical touts who contribute nothing.

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I’ve also heard some encouraging stories: for example, Iron Maiden were thrilled with the improvements they saw after trialling a system in which fans’ payment cards helped authenticate their tickets, which they worked on with LiveNation.

If these innovative solutions exist, and bands are willing to try new ideas, we must encourage both more ticket sellers and law enforcement to get on board to ensure that consumers are protected.

Nigel Adams is the Conservative MP for Selby & Ainsty.