The organizers of the British Grand Prix issued a rare apology this month, responding to massive complaints over the messy ticket sale and surged “dynamic” ticket prices for the 2023 race. Tickets for the 2023 British GP, the lone Formula 1 race in England, went on sale September 15, and fans reported major issues completing purchases, plus outrageous price surges fueled by the ongoing use of “dynamic” pricing systems by event operators seeking to monetize fear of missing out at moments of peak demand.
“I am extremely sorry for the frustration, upset, disappointment and anger this has caused,” says Stuart Pringle, managing director of Silverstone, which hosts the race. “We are going to do a root and branch review on all of this. I am not closing the door on doing anything differently next year, we will consider anything and everything. Nothing is off the table. We have learned a lot of lessons and we can’t have a repeat of this year.”
He placed blame for the issues on a third-party ticketing provider, Secutix, being unable to cope with the demand during the sales period and suffering numerous issues on account of it. The dynamic pricing was in place for the first time at the race, which has traditionally offered its lowest prices at the initial sale period, increasing prices over time as the race date approaches. Dynamic pricing systems typically reverse that entirely, ratcheting up prices as high as consumers would consider paying at the initial moment tickets are put on offer, then scaling back the prices as time goes on – in effect maximizing the price the most engaged fans will pay, and discounting the late-comers who could take or leave the event unless it comes at a good price.
Demand at the initial sale period was unexpected by the organizers, which caused the surges to be particularly high for those consumers hitting the website on the first day of the sale, according to Pringle.
“Not long ago the issue was whether we could stay in business. To reach a point where we are suddenly into Adele, Coldplay-scale of demand is just unimaginable,” he said. “In light of what we know now, can we use our historic model given the current popularity of F1? We have to look at that. It’s wonderful we have had such a demand but it is utterly regrettable that our fans have been subject to these challenges. We have to sort it out and we will sort it out.”
Fans vented their frustrations over the pricing scheme and issues securing tickets before the surge too place.
One fan told The Guardian that tickets advertised for £419 were surged to £489 after he waited in an online queue for a full eight hours to buy them. Another reported being knocked out of the queue after six hours, only to see the ticket price bumped up by £50 upon his return.
“We are being priced out of attending and this will be our last year,” says Phil Morris, who had been a regular attendee at Silverstone events since 2014. “There’s no reward for loyalty and pure marketing towards making as much money as possible.”
The fan frustrations have been a familiar refrain this year as ticketing companies like Ticketmaster (which is owned by Live Nation, which has Liberty Media as a primary shareholder, which is the new owner of Formula 1) have increasingly convinced event operators to put dynamic pricing systems in place for their events. They are marketed as capturing revenue that would otherwise be going to those who purchase tickets with the sole purpose of reselling them, but in practice they just inflate the ticket prices for everyone hoping to attend an event, often out of any reasonable price range.
In the United States, Ticketmaster recently responded to a letter from Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) demanding answers regarding the price surging tactics with a defense of the practice.
“This is an important shift necessary to maintaining the vibrancy and creativity of the live music industry as artists and their crews become more and more reliant on touring,” the company says. “Like sports teams, artist representatives and promoters recognize the benefit of pricing tickets closer to market value.”
Meanwhile, Live Nation has reported record-shattering earnings for several quarters, fueled largely by the increased adoption of dynamic ticket pricing by event operators.
Last Updated on September 30, 2022