During a discussion I was recently involved in, a promoter was ranting about secondary market operators and touts. As far as he was concerned, firms like Seatwave and Viagogo were parasites that were ripping off customers and should be outlawed through legislation. Leaving aside that they just provide the platform for the trade and don’t set the prices, I’d heard this argument many times before, so responded that secondary markets were an important part of making the primary market, in my “City” world.
He responded that firms such as Ticketmaster were providing mechanisms for customers to trade in their tickets but had to concede that such services meant the customer always lost money once initial and trade-in charges had been taken account of.
I enquired why the promoters didn’t offer their own exchange policy, but knew that they don’t want to take the added risk of being unable to resell them. I also mentioned that selling tickets above face value often meant simply trying to recoup booking charges, and as an aside, why didn’t promoters simply charge a high face value and pay the ticket fulfilment firms out of this?
Anyway, I asked him if I could provide the industry with a sure-fire way to kill-off the secondary market that didn’t require legislation, what would the industry pay for this miracle cure? And no, I wasn’t suggesting that bands auction off their tickets and scalp the public themselves.
I felt the solution was simple : e-ticketing.
The reason is simple – most people wouldn’t have confidence to part with money for a hard-copy of an email; when there is no barrier to many copies being made on a cheap printer, who could be sure that the ticket was a valid one, except for the original purchaser from the primary issuer. For someone buying a second-hand ticket, you would only know it was valid when you got to the venue to have your e-ticket scanned. Would you take the risk?
Of course, if you had bought the ticket from a friend, you might trust them. But from a stranger or on a secondary market? No chance.
Whilst there is an one-off cost of setting up venues with hand-held scanners (relative cheap) etc, this would be a pittance for an industry determined to be rid of touts. Moreover, e-ticketing is cheaper than printed tickets (security paper, postage). And the larger venues are normally the most affected by touts.
E-tickets are in use but aren’t widespread yet, partly because customers like the “feel of a ticket” – if the industry is serious, perhaps it should act to make them so and kill off its’ “enemy”.