Why is Mick Jagger so angry with Ticket Reselling Sites?

Since Channel 4 showed its documentary on inflated concert ticket prices and how this market can be manipulated by secondary ticket sellers and event promoters, many angry voices argue against aggravating ticket prices, and against resellers, whenever tickets go on sale for big concerts, music festivals and gigs. This is really putting the whole entertainment industry in a very bad light, especially well-known artists and event organisers. In fact, recently Mick Jagger went on record to defend the roles of the Rolling Stones regarding inflated prices for their sold out 50th year celebration concerts, mainly blaming reselling sites for all the chaos.

To be fair to the fans, it is really absolute rip-off when they buy tickets for their favourite artists and events at double or triple the list price.

So now the question is why are ticket prices so high? Is it really secondary sites who are pushing resellers to sell tickets at very high prices, or vice versa? If it is, why is the government not introducing regulation to curb this situation? Or is it simply a supply and demand situation where supply is comparatively lower than demand and therefore ticket resellers are cashing in? Or are ground zero list prices too low for organisers and not really covering their costs; therefore they are forced to allocate a large chunk of tickets directly to resellers to sell on at premium prices?

To find the exact reasons, we may have to look deeper into the ticketing industry and how it works. Ideally there are many layers between artists cash-strapped due to less music royalties and fans. These layers include music publishers, event promoters, venues, fan clubs, ticket resellers and corporate houses.

So the industry is a complex web of event commercialisation, where everyone wants to grab as big a chunk of pie as they can from highly emotional and impulsive fans, who are prepared to go the extra mile to see their favourite artists and events.

So for example an artist like Robbie Williams, whose publisher is EMI Music, can have a concert at The O2 Arena, London, promoted by AEG Live with tickets going on sale at Ticketmaster, and therefore all from EMI to The O2 Arena, to AEG Live, to Ticketmaster, can have an exclusive partnership or commitment with fan clubs or corporate houses like American Express, Barclaycard or O2 mobile customers, to provide some exclusive tickets on list price. This means not all tickets go on sale to general public. On top of that, the limited tickets for popular events go on sale very early, at least five or six months before the show date, and usually are sold out within day or two. In nutshell, it is very hard for a fan to get hold of tickets at list price because there is a very small selling window and a requirement to plan very early!

Considering this multifaceted ticketing system and early ticket sales, as well as sometimes the number of fans wanting tickets outnumbering the total ticket numbers that go on sale, the resellers take advantage. And there is no regulation around resellers putting tickets on sale at far higher prices than the list price.

So what are the ticket industry and regulators doing to help fans find their tickets on time at list price? To be honest there is no definite answer for this. Even if ticket sites like Ticketmaster and Eventim have a ticket alert service, to email fans when tickets go on sale, honestly how many of us open those alert emails?

Robbie Williams’ promoters this time issued e-tickets, with a requirement for a valid card holder to be present at venue, to avoid resellers grabbing tickets. A seemingly good idea, but what if parents bought tickets via credit card for their teenage kids? Do they have to tag along with them to the concert to get them entry? Recently Bon Jovi issued £12 tickets for their fans, but unfortunately 60 to 70% of those tickets were bought by resellers and resold at £45-£60.

Many independent interest groups are lobbying the government to completely stop ticket reselling in the UK, but what if a site setup outside the UK, providing tickets by next-day UPS and FedEx delivery, starts reselling tickets on far higher premium?

AXS.com is coming up an idea to enable fans to register their card with an event wish list, so that when favourite artists’ tickets go on sale, AXS will automatically reserve tickets for them; but what happens if between a fan registering their card and the tickets going on sale, their circumstances change and they don’t want to go, or can’t go, and they forgot to cancel registration at AXS.com? This would lead to unnecessary costs of cancelling tickets etc.

So what may be the solution to this problem? I think answer may lie in an out-of-the-box technology solution with no vested interest in the ticketing business, which can help us to develop a platform purely dedicated to tickets, where fans can easily find, compare and buy tickets for their favourite artists. A ticket portal might disrupt the ticketing industry in the same way that Kayak.com has done in the flight industry, bringing in price comparison and taking the middle man from between flight ticketing companies and flyers; or in the way that TripAdvisor, with its robust review system, has changed the way people book hotels; or Nectar cards, with refined customer data management technology, have changed the way businesses organise their customer retention. A platform where fans can feel safe, not ripped off, get a holistic view and reviews, get incentives for loyalty, be informed via the best possible, and non-spammed, way, and on top of all that find the best prices, can create a win-win situation for both promoters and fans.

I don’t think the solution lies in regulation, because resellers will find loopholes and make it more lucrative than before; and I don’t think concepts like pre-book or email alerts can reduce prices, due to their spamming issues and complicated processing structure.

Overall, due to high demand and complex ticket selling structures, it will always remain challenge for both promoters and fans to keep price in-check, at least in short run. However, if a highly sophisticated consumer driven technology solution evolves that can enable fans to find and buy tickets as they wish, with no hassle, whenever they go on sale – that might reduce some tension among fans and save promoters and artists from the wrath of their fans!

About Shashank Garg

Enjoy Product development such as Wireless water meter, @TikBuzz (Entertainment tickets price comparison engine) & @Tweepforce (Twitter CRM Tool). Sometimes, I blog my random thoughts too!

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