West End's 'ticket tout' websites are fleecing public, says playwright
Rob Hastings is Deputy News Editor at The Independent. He has served on the news desk since 2010, and also writes travel articles, music reviews and features. In 2015 he shortlisted for the Washington Post’s Laurence Stern Fellowship for a series on reportage features from Iran.
Friday 30 March 2012
Audiences are being ripped off and theatre companies harmed by agencies running "legal ticket touting" websites, the writer of the acclaimed One Man, Two Guvnors said yesterday.
Richard Bean, whose hit play has recently transferred to London's Theatre Royal Haymarket with Owain Arthur replacing James Corden in the lead role, said efforts by theatres to provide cheaper tickets "to appeal to a broad audience" were being "undermined by secondary ticket touting". Touting is illegal for football matches but lawful for other events.
Decrying the fact that tickets being re-sold online were often "twice the price of what they should be", Bean told The Independent: "There might be the odd person who can't go to a show that they have bought tickets for, but we all know the truth is that people are making money out of it and doing it as a job.
"If people unconsciously start to think that tickets to a West End show are expensive and therefore stop thinking about going, then obviously it's a threat," he added, saying that theatregoers "shouldn't be happy to pay more" for tickets for in-demand shows.
"What they're basically saying is they're endorsing secondary ticket sales, and it's people who have more money than sense and are quite happy to pay £200 for a ticket. That's not what we wrote this show for."
Sarah Hunt, the marketing manager at the National Theatre – who has been known to personally police the queue for last-minute tickets to ensure they are not immediately touted at inflated prices – backed Bean's comments.
"Our head of box office is having to act like a detective quite often," she said. "We had one case when One Man, Two Guvnors transferred to the Adelphi Theatre where we caught about £70,000 of tickets that were about to be sold on to audiences."
Ms Hunt appealed for people to return unwanted tickets to the theatre for re-sale, rather than using third-party websites.
However, Joe Cohen, the chairman and chief executive of Seatwave, disputed Bean's argument. "I'd love to know these people who are making lots of money selling theatre tickets, because I don't know who they are," he said.
He added: "The West End has never been good at pricing its product. The average West End ticket sells for about 18 per cent below its face value. What we offer is a flexible price mechanism whereby the price can go up or down based on the market value of that ticket."
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