The time has come for ministers to stop standing up for their interests, and to put ordinary fans first.
Sharon Hodgson is Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and shadow minister for women and equalities
The sight of £25 tickets to one of the Monty Python comeback shows going for a minimum of £150 on secondary sites (plus a huge 15 per cent buyer fee, £10 postage and VAT on top) is the latest to attract the attention of the press.
The touting of Wimbledon, Albert Hall and Chelsea Flower Show tickets always elicits a few headlines as well, as do the odd over-subscribed exhibition (David Bowie’s bein the most recent).
But these spikes in interest mask the fact that fans are losing out to touts every single week for gigs and shows up and down the country.
Ticket touting is self-evidently bad for fans with limited means, pricing them out of many events, and squeezing their bank account when they absolutely have to go at all costs.
But ticket touting is bad for event holders as well.
Every young fan priced out of going to see the next up and coming band is a potential lost fan.
Every fan who pays four times face value for one ticket is a fan who probably won’t go to more gigs until they’ve saved up again, and won’t feel like spending on merchandise on the night or afterwards.
And every family priced out of a rugby match means one or more children who aren’t inspired by seeing professionals play up close, and therefore may not develop a love of the game and go on to play or patronise it throughout their life.
That’s why event holders price their tickets below the level they know they could go far on the secondary market – they want to foster and develop relationships with fans new and old.
For some it’s purely for the economic reasons – for others, it’s the romantic idea that art and cultural activities should be accessible to as many people as possible. Either way, those who are holding an event should be able to ensure that touts don’t undermine their efforts.
The lack of transparency in the secondary market also means that it can often be used as a front for criminal activity. The Metropolitan Police highlighted the problem earlier this year, while advocating for the government to take action to regulate the market, and just months later it emerged that large scale ticket fraud had been allowed to be perpetrated through the major secondary websites.
The Police also found links between touting and organised criminal networks; understandable given that it provides such a profitable method of laundering money. If for no other reason, the government needs to act to choke off this source of finance for gangs involved in much more harmful crimes.
The upcoming Consumer Rights Bill provides the perfect opportunity for the government to bring about the transparency and regulation the market so desperately needs, and I’ll be campaigning with colleagues from across the House for them to do so.
But ministers have had the perfect opportunity before, when I tabled my Bill in 2010, and they could have done it at any time since then. That they haven’t shows they still don’t get the extent to which this practice is damaging to the creative sector, even after the Police have told them as much.
The secondary websites all have slick PR operations and a united voice in championing their own interests. We need the music and live event industry to be equally united in pushing for protection for their fans, and for that matter their own intellectual property.
Last year, France passed a very similar law to the one I’ve been campaigning for.
Their legislators did this, in large part, because Prodiss, the French association of live event promoters and venues, spearheaded a strong public campaign, which culminated in 100 artists co-signing a call for action which was published as a full-page advert in every newspaper.
A similar campaign here – led by household names rather than a handful of MPs – could hopefully convince more MPs, and maybe even eventually the government, that protecting ordinary fans from being ripped off was the right thing to do.
Ticket touts are parasites who contribute nothing to the development of culture in the UK, yet in many cases make more money out of one ticket than an artist or event organiser does.
The time has come for ministers to stop standing up for their interests, and to put ordinary fans first.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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