November 15, 2018

Time To Shine a Light on How the Ticketing Industry Really Works

Wayne Grierson, managing director at StubHub's northern EMEA division.

Have you ever sat at your computer waiting for event tickets to go on sale, only to find them sold out suspiciously quickly?

Or have you ever had an extra ticket that you’ve wanted to transfer to someone or re-sell, but were stopped by restrictive technology or terms and conditions?

It’s a common experience for many fans and often leads to frustration.

The secondary ticketing market has received a lot of attention in recent years, but the secondary market is only a part of the broader ticketing industry.

In order to see tangible change for fans, it's time for a closer examination of the whole ticketing industry – and how it can be made better.

First and foremost, information is key. Yet, the allocation and distribution of tickets on the primary market has traditionally been a closely held secret.

Primary sellers do not tend to make every ticket available to an event. Tickets are often held back for artists, venues, teams, sponsors, fan clubs, and pre-sales. There may be legitimate reasons for this, yet fans have little insight into how many tickets are actually available.

According to a 2016 report by the New York State Attorney General, an average of only 46 per cent of tickets were made available to the public. The remaining 54 per cent were held back.

For top shows, the average proportion of tickets that went on sale to the general public fell to 25 per cent. The percentage for some shows fell as low as 12 per cent.

This needs to change, and consumers are hungry for that change. Indeed, over 67 per cent of people surveyed in a Censuswide poll commissioned by StubHub agree that event organisers or ticket issuers should be required to post online the proportion of tickets actually being made available to the general public.

Additionally, in the same poll when respondents were asked about the most stressful part of buying a ticket, the most frequent response was that tickets were not available.

Secondly, the use of bots to procure tickets provides an unfair advantage over the average fan. StubHub applauded the UK government when it took action to prohibit their use – now that law needs to be enforced.

Primary ticket issuers are best placed to identify bots usage. It is therefore critical that they share information with enforcement agencies so that action can be taken against bad actors.

Finally, fans are facing more and more restrictions on their ticket purchases. Technology and terms and conditions are being unfairly utilised to dictate how consumers can use, transfer, donate or resell their tickets.

For example, “nominative ticketing” (where the ticket can only be used by the person who’s name is printed on it), and credit-card entry (where entry is granted only with the credit card used to purchase the original ticket) are inconvenient for fans who can no longer attend an event, or have purchased tickets as gifts, or for a group that’s arriving at a venue at different times.

Ticket issuers frequently argue that these restrictions are in fans’ best interests – but StubHub respectfully disagrees.

In many cases, we believe that these restrictions are intended to serve to establish control of the entire ticket market – eliminating consumer choice and stifling competitors. And when a fan buys a ticket, it's theirs.

According to a UK Live Music Census 2017 study, 44 per cent of respondents needed to resell a ticket to a live music event in the 12 months prior.

Fans should have the flexibility to use, transfer, donate, or resell their tickets the way they would other items.

Would anyone accept terms and conditions on other purchases that so limited consumer choice? Imagine being restricted to only selling your house through the estate agent you bought it from?

Fans benefit from flexibility and choice in the market. It’s time for the entire ticket market to put fans first, through a shared commitment to transparency, enforcing bots laws, consumer protections, and flexibility.

This article was originally published on www.cityam.com