All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music Slams Secondary Ticketing

APPG on Music to write to select committees about secondary ticketing.

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27.06.2013: The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music will begin to pressure influential select committees to re-examine legislative measures outlawing secondary ticketing following a parliamentary meeting where the practice was described as both “shady” and “profiteering”. 

Sharon Hodgson MP told the APPG meeting in the House of Commons last night that secondary ticketing needed to be stamped out because it lacked transparency and – in some cases – blocked access to events.

The Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West told the group, chaired by John Robertson MP, that the estimated £1bn secondary market was “bad for fans, bad for the music business and lacking in transparency.  I believe touting is a shady business.  The Government also obviously sees it as big business because they put resources around (protecting) Olympic tickets. The Olympics showed you can act against touts.”

WeGotTickets co-founder Dave Newton agreed there was a lack of transparency in the secondary market, which he said meant that customers often didn’t know the true value of a ticket. Newton said part of the problem was that the industry doesn’t have a universal redemption service where all ticket companies and venues are plugged into a closed system where tickets can be returned and resold safely and not at inflated prices.  He described the current system as being akin to the banking sector decades ago when a bank customer could only use a cash point card at a branch of their bank.  “The problem is everyone is protective of the way they do things,” he said, adding that the music industry doesn’t appear to have the appetite to resolve it.  “I’m sure that if the banks, which are a lot more complicated, managed to develop systems where everyone can use any bank then so could the ticketing companies.”

Newton also suggested that if the ownership of a ticket could be more tightly defined, then there could be more control of the market.  “A ticket is a contract between the event organiser and the customer.  If one makes it clear the ticket is owned by the event organiser and it is at their discretion who sells it, then it becomes clear who is putting tickets into the secondary market,” said Newton.  “If you clarify ownership of a ticket then I think the industry could sort out 90% of the problem.”

Kilimanjaro CEO Stuart Galbraith was also scathing of secondary ticketing.  He told the meeting of MPs, including the APPG co chair Mike Weatherley and Lord Clement Jones, that no governing body supported the practice, which he described as “all about profiteering.  It is about making money from other people’s good endeavours.”

Galbraith also claimed secondary ticketing jeopardised music events.

Although technology exists to remove secondary ticketing – notably this week’s Glastonbury Festival totally bypasses the secondary market – Hodgson said it could not always be relied on and she believed touts will always find a way to outsmart a system.  Galbraith also said technological solutions break down when events are not a “slam dunk sell out” and promoters have to maximise sales through multiple outlets.  He added, “The only solution is legislation.”

Weatherley suggested one route would be to approach a handful of select committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee and those within the Treasury and Department for Business Innovation and Skills, which might be interested in investigating the taxation implications of allowing the secondary market and also the business models employed by secondary ticketing operators.

Hodgson suggested another route to legislation could be to draft measures into the forthcoming Consumer Rights Bill, which she said could be used to protect consumers from “unfair practices”.

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