Did anyone else see this week's Dispatches on Channel Four? If not I recommend it if you're a fan of live music. It's on 4od catch-up now.
The show focussed on two major ticket reseller websites - viagogo and seatwave - exposing the huge, hidden industry of what essentially boils down to legitimised ticket touting, where the companies, posing as fans with tickets for shows they can no longer attend, sell large amounts of tickets for gigs at hyper inflated prices to desparate fans muscled out of the face-value sales.
Anyone who's been to a large gig will be familiar with the hell on earth that is Ticketmaster.com. It is, by far and away the most horrible way to spend money. But do you know what, I don't want to dwell on thinking about it. I'm kinda uptight just recalling the four-pronged pincer attack I staged with friends to secure tickets to see U2 in 2005.
On the whole done I've OK buying tickets for shows in recent years, but many thousands of people lose out, largely thanks to companies like the aforementioned (here on in referred to as vianono and seatlame), who according to the show basically buy up hundreds of tickets (or in many cases are spared the trouble and sent an allocation by the promoter) only to post them up for resale within minutes of the show "selling out" at massively hiked up prices.
And when I say hiked-up, in one case there were two seats for Coldplay at the O2 for over £2,000.
I guess I'm not surprised to hear that this stuff goes on in the industry. But I am sad about it. And I do wonder how the artists themselves react to news of this nature. About six months ago, me, Sanj and Tommy were in the studio trying to recall a beat from "Lessons...". After some poor attempts at jogging our memories, Tom reached for google and discovered for the first time in all of our experiences over a dozen download sites where you could get the album for free. It left a strange feeling that was about half anger (that people were stealing our work), and half pride (that our music was obviously considered worth stealing by all these unknown sites). Looking back I think in a way we felt like we'd just been through a little rite of passage - having our music ripped off was just one more step along the road, just like playing your first gig or getting your first radio play. But isn't that a sad state of affairs for the modern artist to feel like that?
But I can't believe this can be true for artists like Coldplay or U2. If I was them, I'd be seething that my fans were being so royally screwed over. (As an aside I'd also be many other things if I were Coldplay or U2 - but seething will do us for the purposes of this blog). Vianono's defence of their practice mentioned the fact that by returning the lion's share of the profit to the promoter, customers ought to be glad in the knowledge that the premium they paid would be going to the artist and not to a middle man. Because, lest we forget, gig promoters come from the same trusty breed of honest, transparent music industry executives as record labels, who can always be relied on to pay their artists fairly and in full, and not take any more than an appropriately minor commission for the relatively small role they play in the creation and development of their artists' work.
What gets me is how long this has taken to come out, and why there hasn't been more of a fuss made already by those who have a voice (ie the artists, their managers, fan associations and the government). There's something grossly naïve about the notion that only legitimate fans will make use of the opportunity to buy a ticket for £50 and then sell it for whatever the demand values it as. In those genuine cases where a fan can no longer make the show, why should they expect to get any more than what they paid originally? In what other scenario do you expect a refund of more than you paid?!
I'd really like to see some government legislation preventing the resale of tickets at more than a single figure percentage increase on the face value. And I'd really like to see artists makings fuss about this kind of thing more - come on, stop being so chilled out and speak up!
And if I ever hear of any of you lot buying tickets on vianono or seatlame...
Ps. Happier blog next time I promise!
Pps. Tommy eye's vid on YouTube racking up the hits. Keep em coming people!