Op-Ed: Tickets should be viewed as a licence, not a commodity
While the vitriol surrounding scalping and the secondary market is at an all-time high, perhaps a reeducation is needed about what a ticket means in the current music industry landscape, and more importantly, what it should mean.
In the below opinion piece, Danny Hannaford, Managing Director at fan-to-fan resale platform Twickets Australia, delves into one of the major issues affecting the music industry right now.
What is a ticket? It might seem like an odd question, but recently, it has been increasingly bandied about amongst the live business across the globe, particularly in reference to the secondary ticketing debate. It is easy to get bogged down in the legal definitions and arguments that discuss commodities versus licences, but broadly, a ticket is the mechanism that allows you to demonstrate your entitlement to access to an event, like a concert, and/or a specific area, like a seat. For too long, industry and fans alike have thought of a ticket like a product that can be traded, just because of its paper tangibility.
When we purchase a straight-up commodity, say an apple, we are free to eat it, sell it or do whatever we so choose with it. However, when we purchase a ticket, we are inherently entering into a contract and agreeing to abide by terms and conditions. Our entitlement to attend our favourite band’s concert is governed by whether or not we follow the small print on the back of our ticket, or at the bottom of a long confirmation email.
This is not news to us. As consumers, we will happily click a box accepting a 45 page document of terms and conditions which we haven’t read if it means we get the next iOS update or a fun new app.
In ticketing, the problem lies in the fact that most tickets remain the property of the event organiser, granting the purchaser a non-transferable contract to attend their event. T&Cs often forbid the resale of tickets, and sometimes state that the lead booker’s ID is required to enter. By their very nature, going against T&Cs revokes the ticket holder’s right to attend the gig. So, what can a buyer do when they can no longer attend a gig? Currently the options are limited and profiteering secondary sites actively promote hiking the price up. Event organisers should be offering a face value resale option for people who can no longer attend events.
As secondary ticketing has been brought to the forefront, it has been great to see more and more artists, promoters, venues and fans start to act on the T&Cs pertaining to the ticket itself. Fans are becoming increasingly aware that tickets have to be resold in a certain way or that they need to bring ID along, even if there’s still a long way to go in educating audiences on what is an extremely confusing marketplace.
Danny Hannaford, Managing Director, Twickets Australia.
As Choice highlighted last month in its consumer study of more than 1000 ticket buyers across Australia, New Zealand and the UK, a massive 76% who bought tickets through a Google search, thought they were purchasing from an official primary site, when in fact it was a secondary seller.
The business is ever changing and as an industry we have failed to keep up with the technology that scalpers are using. ID-ing ticket holders is great step forward in stopping scalpers, but the live business needs to make sure it’s not taking two steps back. Appointing an official resale provider is the only way to offer a route for those that can legitimately no longer attend an event for which they bought tickets for, in some cases, up to two years in advance. These resellers can then either reissue tickets, or make sure new ticket holder names are on the door.
However, despite escalating pressure on for-profit secondaries, they continue to flout the terms and conditions of ticket resale, offering tickets to fans who risk being turned away at the door, often with ridiculous price mark-ups. Gig-goers’ finite pots of money are ending up in scalpers’ back pockets, and the industry is being damaged across the board – money is being siphoned off what could’ve gone behind the bar, at the merch stand, on the artist’s next record, or towards a later tour. Misleading and unfair practices like this must be addressed.
The business has to change when we have fans, disillusioned with a confusing marketplace, paying over the odds for a ticket and then getting pushed back at the door.
Promoters, venues, and primary ticket agents need to stand by their T&Cs and provide their customers with an official and face-value channel for resale. It’s a two-step programme to better ticketing and restoring customers’ faith.
Better for fans, better for artists, and better for the industry as a whole. Sold.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.