Live Music Exchange Blog

Shining a light on the ‘murky market’ of secondary ticketing – Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive of the Music Managers Forum


Annabella Coldrick is Chief Executive of the Music Managers Forum (MMF). She appeared before the UK Parliament’s Media Sport and Committee on 15 November when it discussed the issue of Ticket Touts. Here we publish an edited version of the notes which Annabella prepared for that meeting. Our thanks to Annabella for this.

Founded in 1992, the Music Managers Forum is the world’s largest professional community of music managers, with over 500 members in UK, many with global businesses, and a network of over 2,000 managers in the USA.  We’ve also backed the FanFair Alliance to tackle industrial ticket touting which rips off fans, removes value from the market, and destroys trust.

MMF is supportive of working markets; our members are hugely entrepreneurial and welcome new technologies and ways to help artists engage directly with fans.  But this is a distorted and dysfunctional market dominated by industrial ticket touting, not a fair and open one, which is why we helped set up FanFair.

Touts hoover up large volumes of tickets using bots, teams of minions and nefarious deals with promoters and venues; up to 70% of those on secondary sites was the figure cited by Live Nation in 2012 – it may now be more. They artificially create scarcity and panic and as a result lead to potential price inflation, ripping off consumers.  As the case of Julien Lavallee demonstrates, the Quebec tout who has been reselling Take That tickets, this additional value capture doesn’t go back to music or the UK economy. This is not an example of entrepreneurial trader, but swindlers sucking value out of live music.

It is clear that the large volume of trade in this market mostly comes from professional touts. Whilst StubHub said on the radio the other week that only 5% of sellers are brokers, our research suggests that these 5%, trade the vast majority of resale tickets and do so immediately they go on sale. That’s why this is a problem.

Consumers are confused and this will only get worse.   The public aim of TicketMaster – which owns two secondary sites: GetMeIn and Seatwave – is to introduce ‘integrated inventory conversion’, which brings down the barriers and muddies the water further.   TicketMaster constantly prioritises advertising of its own secondary sites before primary online and in the music press.  Michael Rapino, CEO of TicketMaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, again stated on 7 November 2016 that ‘we know that there is still hundreds of millions of dollars in secondary ticket’ as they saw 32% growth in the last quarter of the value returned to TicketMaster per ticket sold on their resale sites vs 12% of primary.

The Music Managers Forum and the FanFair campaign wants to see Parliament shine a light on this murky market to clean it up.  The law must be enforced.  The platforms are liable; they are not merely intermediaries helping individuals to connect, but responsible for and profit from those connections, so should ensure the rules are complied with.  eBay publicises information on its sellers, so does AirBnB, Amazon and other elements of the digital economy.  These sites do not operate in a vacuum and neither should the secondary sites.  Anything that makes it harder for touts to operate anonymously should be welcomed. MP Nigel Adams’ amendment on bots makes it clear it’s also for the sites that list tickets to ensure that those tickets have not got their tickets through such technology.  It’s not a silver bullet but an addition to the armoury to tackle this challenge.

Other countries have banned resale.  We are not opposed to resale in itself – if a fan genuinely can’t go they should be able to resell and we support sites that do this. But we don’t support those that create a black economy in tickets, push up prices and harm cultural access to music by making seats only available to the highest bidder.  The artist should be able to ensure that their fans can afford to buy tickets if they so wish and not see them exploited by touts.

We need transparency in the ticketing market to benefit fans, not just some people in the industry.  Many of our members are at the sharp end of fans’ anger when they can’t get tickets.  We support face value resale and exchange – something that’s very challenging to promote in the current market place which is dominated by the four resale sites.  With FanFair, we’ve recently published a guide for managers to help tackle ticket touting.  Prof Waterson asked the industry to step up to the plate and we have.

Please note that this is a forum for discussion, dialogue, and debate, and posts and comments on this blog represent only the author, not Live Music Exchange as a whole, or any other hosting or associated institutions.


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