As the dust slowly began to settle after last week’s horrendous terrorist atrocity in Manchester, a longstanding bogeyman for the live music industry reared its head once more.
More so now than ever, the issue of ticket touting remains at the forefront of consumer minds when it comes to booking for prominent events, and the perennially awkward relationship between ticketing companies and customers came to a particularly ugly head last week in the wake of the attack at Manchester Arena.
Anybody who had attended the original Ariana Grande concert on May 22nd was entitled to free admission to the One Love Manchester show at the Lancashire County Cricket Ground this past Sunday. However, reports were widespread of gig-goers who’d bought their tickets for the Arena concert second hand being unable to avail of the offer, on the grounds that they didn’t have the original booking details. Given that it was revealed after the fact that in excess of 10,000 people applied for complimentary passes without having been at the original gig, you can understand why the likes of Ticketmaster were reluctant to issue new passes without concrete proof.
The thing is, though, that incidents like these make you wonder why it seems to be such an ordeal for ticket agents to take simple measures to make sure that customers aren’t ripped off. After all, it’s not like there isn’t already hard evidence of bands having managed such an approach in the past. The last handful of Radiohead shows in the UK outside of London in 2012 are a case in point; there were no paper tickets issued, and instead, you simply turned up at the venue with proof of identity and were issued with a wristband.
“What if I booked on somebody else’s card, or if I bought it form a friend who could no longer make it?” was the typical cry. No problem – all you had to do was transfer your tickets ahead of time via the band’s W.A.S.T.E. website. Why should similar systems prove so hard for everybody else?
The unfortunate answer to that question is that, whether consumers like it or not, the major ticketing companies saw an opportunity a few years ago. They had a choice to make; they could have implemented Radiohead-style paperless systems across all major shows (i.e. those likely to sell out immediately and therefore be subject to further demand) or, instead, they could have preyed upon the uncertainty of the secondary market, which at the time was based mainly on eBay.
That’s why the likes of Seatwave, Viagogo and StubHub guarantee your money back if you don’t get your tickets; they saw a way to take advantage of spiked, black market prices, but were able to offer the sort of security that Joe Bloggs on the street (or auction site) couldn’t. The major ticketing companies had their chance to look after their customers, and they turned it down with both eyes on their bottom line. Events like last month’s flag up what an unethical choice that was.