In a preview of how the ticketing world is attempting to ratchet down consumer freedom in resale overseas, fans holding tickets for BBC’s Radio 1 Big Weekend 2019 are being threatened with cancellation if they post tickets for sale anywhere besides Ticketmaster’s “Fan-to-Fan” resale website in the UK.
“Only tickets sold or resold through Big Weekend’s “official re-seller” – Ticketmaster – will be valid for Radio 1’s Big Weekend,” reads a story on Chroniclelive.co.uk about the cancellation threats. Those who missed out on the initial sale are warned that any tickets they purchase outside of the “fan-to-fan” product from Ticketmaster can be invalidated. According to Teesside Live, Ticketmaster is in the process of “reviewing all tickets” and “any purchases that break the terms and conditions will be cancelled.”
Additionally, those who hold tickets and can’t go are forced to choose between risking cancellations if they use any other marketplace, despite the fact that prices are capped at face value – meaning they will take a loss on the tickets while Ticketmaster profits twice on fees charged at both initial sale and resale.
The threats are a part of the weaponization of the ticketing terms of service, which treats the admission to the event as something completely under the control of the vendors at all times rather than something the consumer has purchased and owns. Despite ticket resale being (for the moment, at least) legal, promoters and venues are hoping to eliminate the competition free resale platforms bring by effectively eliminating any rights that consumers have once they purchase a ticket other than surrendering them at a loss.
All this, of course, flies in the face of basic economics. As the story points out, the event moved around 64,000 tickets in under two hours for the performance, which features Sam Fender, the 1975, and Little Mix, among others. With demand that high, the prices naturally would move up as those willing to pay a premium find available tickets on other marketplaces. But rather than let that occur on other sites where fans are covered by guarantees and refunds, promoters are hoping to lock everything to their preferred vendor, which until recently, participated freely in open market resale via its Seatwave and GetMeIn platforms.
As economist Dr. Stephen Davies pointed out in a post on the Institute of Economic Affairs website last spring, this new system “betrays astonishing economic illiteracy.”
“What will be the result of these changes? Well it certainly won’t be easier for people to obtain tickets to see popular stars like Ed Sheeran,” he wrote. “The available tickets will still sell out in a matter of minutes – except now, if you miss out, you will not be able to buy one no matter how much you are prepared to pay.”
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That seems to be bearing out in the early-going in this real-life example. The report on the threats points out that there are currently no tickets available for consumers on the fan-to-fan resale website. It also points out that some are risking cancellation by posting tickets on unauthorized resale platforms. Undoubtedly, this will lead to fans buying tickets on another legal resale platform – that isn’t Ticketmaster – in good faith, just to see them invalidated by the promoters at the show because they didn’t get their second cut of the fees.
This is precisely what happened throughout Ed Sheeran’s last UK tour, as his promoters set up tables outside entry inviting individuals who had purchased valid tickets on Viagogo to get them checked for validity, only to cancel them and make fans buy the same tickets back and seek a refund back from Viagogo. This contrasts starkly with his U.S. tour, where valid tickets were bought and sold through valid resale channels, and fans were able to get to the show even if they missed the initial sale or the multiple releases of held-back tickets as the show approached.
It doesn’t look like this trend of venues and promoters digging their heels in against the economics of reality when it challenges their profit margins. Just yesterday, British MPs issued a warning through the Commons culture, media and sport select committee that fans should avoid Viagogo altogether.
Viagogo, which sued Ed Sheeran’s management company over what it characterized as fraud in its cancellation booth system, has become the common target for overseas promoters and politicians backing their anti-resale crusade. It issued a statement that it was disappointed to have been singled out and that it has “been complying and will absolutely continue to work constructively with the CMA to make further amends where necessary.”
At this point, the question is more about how much this campaign will drive resale back into an unregulated black market scenario where fans no longer have protection against fraudulent operators because legal resale has been wiped off the board save for websites that pretend markets don’t exist and that a price capped system will work.