Great rock'n'roll swindlers are still cashing in
It's time to ban ticket touts at festivals, says Latitude founder Melvin Benn
Earlier this year, the government decided that, when it comes to ticket sales, it would be happy to accept the International Olympic Committee's rule regulating the secondary sale of London 2012 Olympics tickets, but not extend it to every sports, arts and cultural organisation in the country.
Say I have tickets for the Velodrome that I no longer need and want to resell, there's a law in place that dictates I can only sell them at face value with permission from LOCOG through the ticket resale scheme or give them to friends and family members if I am contactable on the day of the event. Ticket touting is also illegal for football matches; however, the market for secondary ticket sales for live music events is, at present, unregulated and I can resell tickets for whatever I like.
The government brushed off concerns by claiming that ticket touts are an irritant from which people can walk away. Yet this ignores the fact that the longer the secondary ticket market stays unregulated, the more we'll see the emergence of a two-speed economy in the arts and culture.
Here at Festival Republic we organise large-scale festivals such as Latitude, Reading and Leeds. Our whole business is geared around providing thousands of people with the opportunity to see their favourite artists and take in a selection of entertainment from across the arts, all for one ticket price that we believe is fair and affordable. I don't, unlike ticket touts, want to see ordinary people priced out of going to see concerts, plays or matches in a time of austerity.
I also believe it's very unfair that the profits made on secondary ticket sales go not to the organisations that take on the risk of mounting cultural events like Latitude, which brings together hundreds of bands, theatre companies, writers and artists, nor to the charities we work with. Instead, they go straight into the pockets of touts, who in turn then pay no tax on their profits.
Some people, including the Culture Secretary himself, have suggested that this is a problem the industry can solve for itself by introducing new security measures like photo ticketing. While these might work from a technical perspective, I can't help but think that they risk taking away a great deal of the fun and spontaneity that's an integral part of the experience of going to a gig or festival.
As soon as we start expecting people to provide biometric information before they can buy tickets to see Bon Iver or Lana Del Rey play this summer, live music stops being fun and starts feeling like applying to the government for permission to party. For festivals to continue be a success, and attract capacity audiences of 35,000 people at a time to places like Latitude, we have to do everything we can to keep live music fun and spontaneous.
The time has come for the secondary market to be regulated, and a 10 per cent profit cap to go on the resale of tickets as called for by Sharon Hodgson MP. If legislation has worked for the Olympics in terms of making its events affordable and accessible, it can work for festival and music promoters too. Hodgson and Mike Weatherley MP have created an alliance with a number of executives and major artists in the music industry that will be launched later this year called FanFair Alliance to demonstrate that it can be just that for the fans: fair!
Melvin Benn is managing director of Festival Republic and founder and creator of Latitude festival.
Latitude takes place at Henham Park in Suffolk from 12 to 15 July
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