The problems with ticket touts/scalpers have been well documented – fans are getting ripped off and shady people are profiting big time. The government may be ‘investigating’ these companies and some acts may look like they’re trying to fight back but in reality things are getting worse, not better. The ‘Sold Out’ sign by a tour date is now utterly meaningless and everyone knows it.
What frustrates me most is that there is already a proven way to stop ticket touts/scalpers but NO ONE is willing to use it because the current system is the easiest and most profitable for both the ticket companies and the artist. As long as the tickets sell the artist benefits, sure there might be some empty seats but the money generated is the same. And now that companies like Ticketmaster own secondary sites they can almost instantly sell the same product back to the consumer at a higher price and get away with it.
The solution to this madness is staring us in the face and has been for over ten years. Glastonbury festival have eliminated ticket touts and secondary reselling, by overhauling their selling system to ensure that fans do not get ripped off. Emily Eavis herself has called for others to follow their lead. In my opinion this system should be adopted by all major artists and festivals to ensure fair and safe ticket buying for the consumer.
Here are the basics of Glastonbury’s system, with some thoughts on how it could work for other events.
1. All Buyers Must Register With The Ticket Agency
Before you can buy tickets for Glastonbury you must register, giving your personal details and also including a recent picture. This allows the festival to know how many people are interested in buying tickets before they are on sale. There is a time limit on registration – if you miss it then tough luck. Registration does not guarantee a ticket but it allows you the opportunity to purchase a ticket when they go on sale. Bruce Springsteen also used a registration system for his Broadway shows and actually added more shows when he could see the scale of demand.
This could easily be adopted by ticket companies so every customer registers with an agency and notes their interest in an event in advance of tickets going on sale. If an event does not sell out then the registration period can be extended up until even the day of the show. If a show does sell out then an artist can see if there’s enough demand to add another date. What’s important is that only real people are buying tickets for concerts they intend to attend.
2. You Can Only Buy Tickets For Other Registered Users
The main benefit of the Glastonbury ticket system is that you can’t just buy a random number of tickets for anyone. If you are buying more than one ticket you must have the registration details for every person you are buying for. This stops people being able to buy in bulk and then sell the tickets to anyone they like. Sure it involves a degree of planning and organising but it means that you have to be really committed to an event before you buy, which in turn means less wasted tickets that need to be resold.
3. All Tickets Go On Sale At One Time
Presales are another con since any potential benefits are completely obliterated by bots and professional touts accessing them anyway. Also when seats are being sold on presale that are actually further back than on the general sale then you know the whole thing is a complete waste of time.
The fairest thing is to have one date when all tickets go on sale for all fans. It should be first come, first served in terms of who gets the best ticket options (I also intend to discuss problems with ticket pricing and ‘VIP’ rip off packages in another post soon).
3. All Tickets Should Have Your Photo On Them
When you go into Glastonbury your ticket displays your photo and you are only asked for ID if the picture is suspected not to be you. This one act alone has eliminated reselling – it would take some brave idiot to chance getting in with a ticket that has the wrong picture on.
Every single ticket company and venue should commit themselves to this small change at the very least. It takes two seconds for the venue staff to glance at a ticket and check it is the right person. Printing costs could also be reduced by a move to eTickets. If necessary you could also be asked to produce the card tickets were purchased with as another level of protection.
4. Reselling Is Possible Through The Original Ticket Company Only
So this all sounds good in theory but in practice people’s lives and plans change. Glastonbury have thought about this and only charge a deposit for tickets up until a certain date. At this point you can decide not to go and your ticket is then offered for resale to previously registered buyers on a certain date. Then after this point you are charged in full.
Of course this system only works because tickets go on sale a long time before the event, the demand is so high and this event is guaranteed to sell out. So it might be doable for some of the bigger events and stadium/arena shows but how would it work for smaller gigs?
I still am of the belief that if you can’t go to an event you should be able to return your ticket to be resold at face value only. A way to make this financially fair for the artist and ticket company is to make the buyer liable for the full amount unless the ticket can be resold or perhaps charging consumers a small fee for reselling when a show isn’t sold out. This should also stop people from buying tickets for things they aren’t committed to attending.
Here is perhaps the only time where some consumers may suffer, if tickets can’t be resold. Still some people losing money seems a small price to pay for a fairer system.
If every artist and event chose to operate as Glastonbury have done, then there would be no opportunity for anyone to unfairly profit from reselling and no one would be ripped off. It’s a proven, successful system and it can be adapted to fit different events. Right now it’s the only viable option and if the big companies won’t change then it’s up to the artists themselves to take a stand and insist on its implementation.
If you have any other ideas on how to beat touts then let me know in the comments.