Will Ticketmaster decision turn the tide in fight against online touts?

Ticketmaster's decision to close down two controversial resale websites is leading to fresh hopes that the tide is turning against ticket touts. Chris Burn reports.

Ed Sheeran cancelled thousands of tickets to his tour that were being resold online.

For years, it has been a grimly familiar experience for fans of live music and comedy; logging on to official sales outlets to book seats only to see shows “sell out” within minutes or even seconds - with the very same tickets then listed almost instantaneously on resale sites with huge mark-ups in price.

But there is a rising belief that a corner is being turned in the battle against online touts after Ticketmaster announced it is closing its controversial secondary ticketing websites Seatwave and Get Me In following a Government crackdown on so-called “professional sellers” who hoover up tickets for gigs and concerts they have no intention of attending to sell them on at inflated sums.

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A blog post by Ticketmaster explained that no new events will be listed on Seatwave and Get Me In, with a new “fan-to-fan exchange” allowing people to buy and sell tickets at face value or less launching from October.

The statement said: “We’ve listened and we hear you: secondary sites just don’t cut it anymore and you’re tired of seeing others snap up tickets just to resell for a profit. All we want is you, the fan, to be able to safely buy tickets to the events you love.”

Research by The Yorkshire Post earlier this year showed how resale sites were offering tickets to sold-out concerts in Yorkshire with 700 per cent mark-ups. When Black Sabbath announced a seven-date UK tour in 2017, including one show at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, 11,695 tickets for the national tour were listed for resale within minutes of the general sale going live.

News of Ticketmaster’s decision has been welcomed by the FanFair Alliance, a pressure group set up in 2016 by managers of artists including Arctic Monkeys, One Direction and Iron Maiden. The organisation has previously estimated that secondary ticketing in the UK – based on resales from four platforms; Viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In and Seatwave – is worth more than £1bn a year.

Earlier this year, Seatwave, Get Me In and StubHub formally committed to ensuring better information will be given about tickets being resold through their platforms, including details about whether there is a risk a customer might be turned away. But the Competition and Markets Authority said Viagogo had failed to agree to the changes and may face legal action.

Adam Webb, campaign manager from the FanFair Alliance, says: “After a long campaign to change the UK ticketing market and to put power into the hands of artists and their fans, the Fanfair Alliance warmly welcomes this move by Ticketmaster.

“While enforcement action is still urgently required to clamp down on rogue operators such as Viagogo, we are now much closer to a genuine transformation of the secondary market - where large-scale online touts are locked out, where innovation can flourish, and the resale of tickets is made straightforward, transparent and consumer-friendly. We look forward to the roll out from October this year and seeing how these changes work in practice.”

Bands like Iron Maiden have adopted practices like paperless ticketing, in which concertgoers present photographic ID and their debit or credit cards at the doors of a venue in a bid to cut down on unscrupulous reselling, while Ed Sheeran went as far as cancelling 10,000 tickets for his gigs that were being sold on such resale sites to allow them to go back on official sale.

The likes of Sheeran have used existing fan-to-fan exchanges such as Twickets as official resale partners for their tours - a market Ticketmaster now intends to move into. Whatever the outcome of that battle, it seems genuine fans may finally be getting the upper hand over the touts.