/ Travel & Leisure

Paperless tickets – a solution to ticket touts?

Music fans have been plagued by ticket touting, and now they’re being hit with inflated prices on ticket reselling sites. So are paperless tickets, which come with many restrictions, the answer?

Event tickets are often seen as a murky world. You used to just see a few guys standing outside concerts trying to sell you tickets at inflated prices. Then it was the likes of eBay selling sold-out tickets from other fans who were unable to attend.

It wasn’t long before this whole operation turned professional with international websites such as Viagogo and Seatwave muscling in on the act.

Tickets now seem to sell out incredibly quickly, only to immediately appear on secondary sites such as Viagogo for inflated prices. But although the prices seem very high, surely it’s just supply and demand? And surely you’re just buying from another fan who has a couple of spare tickets for sale? Maybe not.

Back in February, Channel 4 dropped a number of bombshells on ticket reselling. Firstly, it was claimed that some concert promoters were secretly allocating tickets directly to these ‘resale’ sites and pocketing the profits. Secondly, it was even claimed that staff from some of these sites, including Viagogo, were buying tickets and selling them at inflated prices. Finally, professional resellers were said to be using software to buy huge numbers of tickets to resell.

A step too far?

Some acts in the music industry have taken it upon themselves to clean up this problem. I wrote recently about Radiohead’s efforts: fans who bought tickets from the official fan club had the option to resell unwanted tickets, only at face value, through a special website. It seemed a great solution for those lucky enough to get fan club tickets.

However, the rest of the tickets were sold on Ticketmaster as paperless tickets – a hugely restrictive type of ticket that intends to prevent ticket reselling, but often at the expense of genuine fans.

Paperless tickets can only be collected at the venue by the credit card holder who purchased the tickets. They must also present ID upon entry, and they personally must attend the gig. So you couldn’t buy the tickets as a gift, or give them to a friend if you were unable to go. With paperless tickets, Ticketmaster is the exclusive ticket seller which means you couldn’t even shop around if you wanted to.

Many Radiohead fans have expressed their frustration at the restrictions. For example, the doctor Richa Manwani told the Guardian:

‘I have found out that I am on call that day and am unable to make the event. Only I can redeem the tickets on the night of the event with my credit card and photo ID. This means I have no way of selling them on for face value. Ticketmaster offers a no-refunds policy, which means I have lost my money.’

It might sound a bit restrictive and unfair, but on the other hand, professional ticket touting feels unfair too. So where do we go from here?

Are paperless tickets too restrictive, or are they justified given the threat of ticket touting? Do you think there’s another solution?


Airlines realised many years ago that paper tickets were a waste of time and paper, and moved to paperless tickets. However, the advantage that airlines have is that the customer always has to present a form of identity for reasons other than preventing the transfer of tickets. If the entertainment industry similarly demanded identification upon entry, it could enjoy the same lack of touting that the airline industry enjoys.

I wouldn’t want to take any form of ID (passport/driving licence) to a gig just so that I could get in. 5 minutes in the pit and it’d be ruined, or stolen, joy

Jason says:
8 October 2012

Or if you need a ticket god the festival route and get tickets with (uploaded) photographic ID printed on them – that way they cannot be resold either!