J.J Lee looks at the worsening controversy of ticket touting, with Stormzy tickets being the latest victim.
In recent months there have been quite a stellar series of concerts announced that will take place on our fair shores during the summer months. However, there is not an all-encompassing sense of euphoria that acts such as Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, U2 and others will be gracing various venues, rather it has raised a concerning issues. Quite dubious and murky business plans employed by ticket sellers, predominantly Ticketmaster, have been the source of widespread disappointment, indignation and calls for important changes to be made.
Concert prices have soared in recent times but this was to be expected. Musicians are now struggling more and more to make significant profit from the historically traditional methods of physical album and singles sales, rather refocusing on endorsements, sponsorships, merchandise and obviously concert revenue. It appears to be a vicious circle; acts raise prices to produce more cash, the people began to demand more bang for their buck (in the most literal sense) leading to more elaborate stage productions, pyrotechnics and road crew which again means more expense for the artist, and the circle begins again as the show becomes even pricier. It can lead to monstrous profits however; bear in mind Ed Sheeran entered the Sunday Times’ Musicians Rich List at number 49 after making a cool £25 million in 2015 and vintage hard rockers Guns N’ Roses are reported to have made nearly $5.5 Million per show during the US Leg of the Summer Reunion tour this year. Obviously neither of the aforementioned are nowhere near close to pocketing all of that cash, but they’ll still be earning a hefty sum.
This should in some way explain why tickets are now the general price they are, however the problem is confounded by ticket re-sellers. What absolutely baffles me, and the average punter, is the Ticketmaster/Seatwave situation. Seatwave is an online ticket re-seller, a place where, in theory, someone who could not attend a concert could re-sell their ticket and not lose any money. However, we do not live in a perfect world and people are viciously greedy so Seatwave has now become the bane of music lovers’ existence.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past number of months you’ll be aware that popular concerts generally sell out in less than 5 minutes. Soon, these already expensive tickets are appearing on Seatwave for absolutely astronomical prices. At the time of writing, a standing ticket to U2 in Croke Park would set you back roughly €600 on Seatwave. For fuck's sake lads. Oh, have I mentioned the rather minute detail that Seatwave is owned by Ticketmaster, the original ticket outlet. “That’s a gas joke there now JJ, g’way outta that would you” I hear you say, but no, it’s true. I don’t mean to sound like Jim Corr, but Ticketmaster could very well be holding back tickets from general sale to simply place them on Seatwave and earn massive money.
This is not a new controversy either; a 2007 Parliamentary Enquiry took place in the UK looking into these ticket re-sellers finding 12 Key benefits for consumers and 14 detrimental points of concern. Seatwave CEO Joe Cohen testified at the inquiry but the British Government were reluctant to pass legislation on the matter, rather they implored all of the major ticket re-sellers to work cohesively to form a code of principles. It’s now 10 years on and the problem has only worsened.
So, where do we go from here? In an industry already ravaged by gluttony and avarice, these “official” ticket touts seem to be destroying the experience for punters and musicians alike. Last week, London rapper Stomzy announced a show in Dublin’s Olympia theatre and tickets priced at €27, predictably sold out in minutes, then of course appeared on Seatwave at roughly €125. I’m unsure of a solution, perhaps government legislation is the only option. However, I will leave you with a quote from the great South London MC himself – “F**k all these secondary ticket websites, please don’t buy tickets for more than face value. Sorry there isn’t more I can do, they’re c***s." Well said Mr Stormzy, well said.