A musician has gone viral for calling out secondary ticketing sites, after learning they were selling tickets to his concerts for up to three times the original price.
Jamie Webster, a singer-songwriter from Liverpool, shared a video to his social media accounts in which he expressed his dismay upon learning about the inflated ticket prices.
In the clip, which had received over 400,000 views across Twitter and Instagram at the time of writing, Webster explained that he noticed tickets were listed for resale after his two shows at Liverpool’s Cavern Club sold out within 15 seconds.
“I found out a couple of hours later that they were back on sale on resale sites like Viagogo for up to £143,” he said. “That’s more than three times as much as the original ticket price.”
Webster said he’d learnt that a bill was blocked in 2014 that would have prevented secondary ticketing sites from selling tickets for more than 10 per cent of the original value. Retailers who infringed on that rule would have faced hefty fines.
Among the MPs to oppose the bill was then-culture secretary Sajid Javid, who claimed that secondary ticketing sites were providing a service that “deserves to be rewarded”. In 2011, he described them as “classic entrepreneurs”.
Webster then pointed out that American businessman Eric Baker, former StubHub CEO and founder and CEO of Viagogo, bought his third mansion in Beverly Hills for $39m (£28.6m) in 2020.
“So if you’re wondering where all the money goes when you’re buying tickets for stupid prices – you’re just buying this fella another house!” he said. “Politics is well and truly entwined within the music industry, and if we don’t speak out against it, nothing will change.”
“My first concern is always with my fans; my priorities lie with them,” Webster told The Independent. “After seeing my tickets sell out for a special show at the Cavern in just 15 seconds I was blown away, then it was just disheartening to see these pictures of them back on sale for £150 each and fans being gutted about it. I wanted to do a little video to get people talking about it.”
FanFair, which campaigns against industrial-scale online ticket touting, has helped encourage artists to include terminology in their T&Cs for ticket sales that discourages touts from re-selling tickets.
“It's really heartening to see a young artist like Jamie speaking up on this issue,” FanFair campaign manager Adam Webb told The Independent. “Obviously everyone in live music has been devastated by the impacts of the pandemic, audiences included, and the last thing anyone wants to see is a return of the parasitical practises promoted by websites like Viagogo.
He added: “It would also be massively helpful if Google stopped allowing these rip-off websites to buy themselves to the top search results, and instead actually helped guide fans to authorised ticket outlets.”
Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) proposed that sales of tickets on platforms such as Viagogo and StubHub should be subject to tighter rules.
The CMA said the value of secondary tickets sold via online platforms was around £350m in 2020.
Most tickets sold by StubHub and Viagogo – which control around 90 per cent of the market – are sold at more than a 50 per cent mark-up.
“It is shameful that just as the industry is starting to recover, after two years of devastation, we are seeing industrial scale touting sites spring up again,” Greg Parmley, CEO of umbrella organisation LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), said. “These sites rip off fans and take vital money from freelancers, artists and venues.
“We always encourage fans to buy only from primary ticketing sites but much more needs to be done to protect fans from businesses that exist simply to exploit peoples’ love of live music.”
“Viagogo is a regulated and secure resale marketplace, where sellers set the price. The right to resell tickets in the UK is governed by the CMA and viagogo strictly complies with all regulations,” a spokesperson for the company told The Independent.
“Much of the criticism of the secondary ticketing market comes from a misunderstanding of resale and a desire by some to control the wider events industry and ticketing processes. The reality is, there will always be people wanting to resell their tickets and there will always be fans willing to pay a price they deem fair. Our platform offers some of the strongest consumer protections in the industry, and all our tickets are covered by the Viagogo guarantee.
“We strongly feel that for the live events industry to recover from the pandemic there needs to be less restrictive ticketing practices enforced on fans and more flexibility in the buying and reselling process. This will ensure more seats are filled, and more events are financially successful.”
Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who proposed the original bill in 2014, commented: “I am pleased to see artists like Jamie Webster so passionate about the abuse of the secondary market and their tickets.
“It’s only when artists join with campaigners such as me and FanFair Alliance that we may finally see some justice on this issue that has gone on for far too long. Artists have a huge loyal fan base with enormous reach and that obviously politicians and campaigners just don’t have, so I encourage Jamie to join FanFair Alliance and the All Party Parliamentary Group, and let’s work together to put fans first and put Viagogo in the wilderness where they belong.“
Jeff Smith, Shadow Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Music, also said Webster was right to speak out against secondary ticketing sites.
“The practice of secondary ticketing websites allowing tickets bought by bots to be resold at extortionate prices is unfair on musical artists and terrible for the fans being ripped off,” he told The Independent.
“The government has had multiple opportunities to address this over the years but have chosen to prioritise ticketing resale websites over music fans. This should be a wake-up call for them to act.”
A government spokesperson told The Independent that “we are committed to cracking down on unacceptable behaviour in the ticketing market and improving people’s chances of buying tickets at a reasonable price”.
They added: “That is why we have strengthened the law on ticketing information requirements and introduced a criminal offence of using automated software to buy more tickets online than allowed.
“Ticketing sites can help fans buy and resell tickets, but they must comply with the law and should never be used as a platform for breaking it.”
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