Channel 4′s Dispatches programme defeated an injunction in the High Court yesterday (Wed 22 Feb) and have revealed an important public interest investigation into how real fans are paying the price for hidden practices used by live event promoters and a major ‘fan-to-fan ticket exchange’ online portals.
Dispatches, which will air tonight on Channel 4 (Thursday 23 February) at 9PM, went undercover inside one of the UK’s biggest ticket reselling websites – viagogo – and found that major promoters allocate hundreds or even thousands of tickets to be sold through their website at well above the face value.
Tickets for recent gigs and tours by Coldplay, Rihanna, Westlife, Take That, and the V Festival have been allocated by the promoters in this way.
The application for an injunction was brought by viagogo on the grounds of ‘breach of confidence’ and it was dismissed on all counts at the High Court yesterday. Below is the full transcript from the Channel 4 website.
A Channel 4 spokesperson says: “We are pleased that we can now broadcast in full a programme of important public interest. It is disappointing that having provided viagogo with a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations uncovered by our investigation several weeks ago, they chose instead to seek an injunction which would have effectively stopped the broadcast of our programme.”
In contrast viagogo still say they are websites where “real fans” can resell tickets they can no longer use.
However, ‘The Great Ticket Scandal: Dispatches’ which airs tonight (Thu 23 Feb) at 9pm on Channel 4 reveals that:
•The majority of tickets offered for sale through viagogo are not from individual fans but from large scale professional ticket resellers or tickets allocated by promoters to viagogo.
•viagogo staff compete directly with real fans to buy tickets from primary ticket sellers, like Ticketmaster, for in demand events as soon as they go on sale. To get around systems put in place to prevent bulk buying of tickets, viagogo staff use multiple credit cards registered to different addresses.
•viagogo has a special team dealing with large scale professional ticket resellers – known as “power sellers”, or “brokers” who account for a significant percentage of overall ticket sales on their exchange.
•Large-scale ticket reselling has spread beyond the traditional rock and pop gigs. Dispatches found tickets offered for resale way above face value on ‘fan to fan’ exchanges for England’s 6 Nations rugby games; Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor live tours; West End shows; National Gallery’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibition; and even The Last Night of the Proms.
•Secondary websites like viagogo have obligations to be honest to the public under consumer legislation and a leading expert says that some viagogo practices contravene legislation.
Many fans are infuriated by the reselling of tickets at inflated prices on “secondary ticket websites” minutes after gigs have sold out.
To find why, Dispatches went undercover inside one of the UK’s biggest ticket reselling websites – viagogo.
viagogo says it’s Europe’s largest ticket exchange, selling tens of million pounds worth of tickets a year. Over a hundred employees work in its London offices
viagogo staff reveals that many tickets on sale on viagogo are not coming from other fans, but allocated directly from the major live events promoters. Staff were repeatedly told that this information should not be passed on when dealing with the public.
“We have allocations for example, for very big events, Rihanna, Westlife, Take That, we are getting allocations from the promoter, so we are allowed to sell them on our website, with our internal accounts, so on these ones, the seller is basically us”, the viagogo Manager says.
“I mean it is really important that we never communicate to anyone that these accounts exist and that we do have tickets, because that is something internal that they are not supposed to know, and as far as we are concerned we are a ticket exchange and we don’t own any tickets.”
This isn’t how the public have been lead to believe by the industry that the ticket system works. Promoters for a big tour distribute tickets through what are known as allocations to so-called “primary” ticket agents, like Ticketmaster, to be sold at face value.
Dispatches has discovered that at least 29,000 tickets were allocated to viagogo for the 2011 Take That tour – promoted by SJM Concerts
4,500 tickets for the 2011 V Festival – promoted by SJM Concerts, Metropolis Music and MCD
Dispatches has also seen a document that shows that viagogo has been allocated nearly 50,000 tickets, for 50 well known acts, music events, sporting occasions mostly for 2012 including:
•9,000 tickets for Coldplay’s up coming Stadium tour – promoted by SJM Concerts, and Metropolis Music.
•Over 3,000 for Westlife’s 2012 tour – promoted by Live Nation
•2,200 tickets for Rihanna’s UK tour – promoted Live Nation
•800 tickets for the live show of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing – promoted by Phil McIntyre Entertainment and Stage Entertainment UK
•800 tickets for the live tour of the X Factor – promoted by 3A Entertainment
There is no indication that any of the artists involved were aware of these allocations.
viagogo claim that the prices on their website are not determined by them, but by the seller, but a manager says it’s viagogo managers who are setting the prices for thousands of tickets.
“On the on-sale we just mark-up [tickets] to a ridiculous extent because people panic on the on-sale, things are sold out immediately, so they are like, just buy, buy……
So whenever they come through as sales, I get the emails, so that I know that if they are selling well, so raise the prices”.
When asked if the artists and the venues know about these practices, the manager says: “No, well certainly like, I would say maybe 50% of the venues know about it but then a lot of the time we have to keep it secret and not tell them because it is really f***ing shady, we are making a lot more money than we ever should on this.”
Dispatches approached viagogo for their response to our findings
They told us: “viagogo exists to provide a safe, secure marketplace for the buying and selling of live event tickets. viagogo is an open marketplace, and while the majority of sellers are individuals we do not disallow larger sellers, including event organisers, from selling on our platform. Above all we provide a guarantee that buyers will get the tickets they have paid for which has helped dramatically reduce ticket fraud and scams in the UK.”
Live Nation, SJM Concerts, Metropolis Music, MCD and 3A Entertainment are members of the Concert Promoters Association
The Association told us it was concerned about the fraudulent listing of non-existent tickets online. It said that promoters putting tickets onto the secondary market brought prices down while ensuring that some of the tickets in that market were genuine.
It said: “in this respect the secondary market is effectively being used as a premium price primary market for those fans who wish to use it for convenience”
It said those fans would: ” be happier that the premium went to the artist via the promoter rather than went to a tout”
What are your thoughts upon these kinds of ticket reselling practises? Where ticket mark ups and promoter mass selling can seemingly hijack so called ‘fan-to-fan ticket exchange’ websites in a bid to make even more of a profit?!
The Great Ticket Scandal: Dispatches airs Thu 23 Feb at 9pm on Channel 4
Join in the discussion on Twitter using #TicketScandal and follow @C4Dispatches