Got any plans to go to a concert or see a play at Christmas? Whatever your musical tastes – whether you fancy watching Beyoncé on her latest world tour or want to catch Iron Maiden before they retire – you’ll have experienced the misery of trying to buy tickets online the moment they’re released: the site is instantly too busy to log you on, no matter how fast your computer mouse-technique, and then they’re sold out ten minutes later when your browser finally loads the screen. Even worse, the tickets are immediately available for three times the official price on a resale website, which is often owned and run by the same company that runs the website you couldn’t access in the first place.
It’s not just incredibly frustrating, it’s also completely unfair. Unfair to the customer purchasing tickets at inflated prices, and to the artists (singers, actors, musicians, playwrights, choreographers, etc) involved in making these events happens, because they only pocket the face value of the ticket rather than the amount you end up paying.
The culprits are computer ‘bots; little bits if software that flood the ticket websites automatically, and buy up everything faster than humans can work a computer mouse. They’re run by modern-day versions of ticket touts, the technology-savvy equivalents of the traditional dodgy geezers in loud suits who stand outside sports grounds offering to buy your spare tickets. Some are legal businesspeople, providing a useful service for punters who want to sell on tickets they no longer want. But others could be criminal gangs running the equivalent of a protection racket where they create a ticket shortage and then milk loyal fans who can’t buy tickets anywhere else.
So, as I hope you’d expect, the Government is looking at ways of helping both artists and the fans. My personal favourite is the system we used for the 2012 London Olympics, where punters had to provide ID when they bought tickets. That meant bots and touts couldn’t snatch tickets, because they wouldn’t be able to sell them on to anyone. People who used touts would be turned away at the door, because their photo wouldn’t match the one with the ticket. And punters who didn’t want tickets anymore could sell them back to the venues, so they could be resold at face value to genuine fans.
So if there are ways to make things fairer, why aren’t they used already? That’s exactly the question I asked in Parliament this week and, to be frank, nobody seemed very clear why. The entertainment and sports venues aren’t always keen for some reason, and have been dragging their feet. So Ministers have promised they’ll try to prod them into action, rather than having to pass new laws to deliver something which ought to be in everybody’s interest (apart from the techno-touts of course!). Either way, it sounds as though we’re getting some action at last!