/ Travel & Leisure

Will Radiohead’s ethical ticketing change the resale record?

Radiohead tickets went on sale to the general public this morning. The band has pulled out all the stops to prevent their tickets from being resold at inflated prices. It’s music to our ears, but is it the right solution?

Radiohead’s latest UK tour is its first in four years, and the band is determined to ensure that fans are able to buy tickets at face value.

Pre-sale tickets were available on Wednesday exclusively to Radiohead’s fan club members. These tickets were limited to two per transaction with both attendees’ names being required when booking. Fans will need ID in order to enter the venue – if your name isn’t on the ticket, you won’t be allowed in.

No named ticket, no entry

Sounds hugely restrictive doesn’t it? Yet there’s a silver lining – fan club tickets can be resold through The Ticket Trust. This website only allows tickets to be resold at face value. So if you can’t attend the gig you can still get your money back – you just can’t make a profit.

Seems like a pretty good solution? And it answers the concerns we’ve raised about reselling tickets before on Which? Conversation. So why aren’t more tickets being sold in this way?

Viagogo and Get Me In! ticket resales

If tickets to see your favourite band are sold out, it may be possible to find second-hand tickets listed on ‘secondary’ ticket sites such as Viagogo and Get Me In!.

It’s generally assumed that most tickets listed on ‘secondary’ sites are sold by other fans. Prices are set by the seller and are often priced above the face value of the ticket.

However, Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary made some damning revelations. The documentary revealed that some promoters are apparently allocating a portion of tickets to be sold directly through secondary ticket sites and pocketing up to 90% of the profits.

Dispatches also filmed staff members at secondary sites, such as Viagogo, apparently buying large numbers of tickets from ‘primary ticket agents’ with multiple credit cards and then reselling them through for large profits.

Should the government intervene in ticket resales?

The Concert Promoters Association (CPA) responded to the documentary claiming that its members are forced to use secondary sites because the government has failed to outlaw ticket reselling. With promoters selling genuine tickets on these sites, the CPA argues, prices are brought down and touts are combated.

So what’s the solution to this ticketing fiasco? For many, big gig tickets go on sale at 9am and demand is high. It’s hard enough to get tickets when you’re up against professional touts, but now there are even less tickets available in that 9am rush.

If parts of the industry say they won’t change unless the government intervenes, then might this be the only way forward? MP Sharon Hodgson is campaigning to prevent tickets being resold for a profit greater than 10% of face value. Do you think this would be a good solution? How do you think the sale of tickets could be made fairer for music fans?

Chris Gordon says:
9 March 2012

I was trying about 2 weeks after tickets released to get a ticket for the Springsteen concert in July. There are plenty around but the prices for a £60 ticket start at well over £100, plus £45 free and about £10 postal fees. Reselling in this manner should be outlawed. So cheapest ticket now about £160 and rising daily, up to £600…the maximum price on some sites.

Paul Fisher says:
10 March 2012

Supply and demand is the reason, while there are people foolish enough to pay the rediculous prices the rogue traders will always get their profits.

Get a lesson from the airlines. Make a rule to show the credit card that the ticket is purchased with at the gate. End of story. No bulk sales, individual cards, maximum 2 x tickets.

>>> MP Sharon Hodgson is campaigning to prevent tickets being resold for a profit greater than 10% of face value. Do you think this would be a good solution? <<<

Yes, it's a great idea, but why ANY markup? That's just muddle-headed thinking.

A 10% margine would still let the parasites operate, albeit not as profitably as today. If it's meant to cover expenses, it doesn't work. The cost of reselling a single £10 standup is exactly the same as a pair of £100 front row seats. On the other hand, the prospect of a £20 profit on a sellout concert is enticing enough to keep these rogues operating.

If a genuine fan has bought tickets to a concert and finds they can't go, they should be perfectly willing to accept up to face value from the purchaser to help mitigate their loss. After all, it is their problem if they can't go, so why should they expect to make any profit from it?

I've lost the entire face value of a concert I couldn't get to because of snow. On the other hand, I was lucky enought to find 3 premium seats on the theatre website to see one of Alfie Boe's last performances of Les Mis, only 24 hours before the sell-out show. So take the rough with the smooth – nobody needs these touts spoiling the fun.

It’s not just secondary ticket websites that are at it. I recently visited the Live Nation website to buy tickets for Madonna’s Hyde Park concert this summer.

If you want standard tickets, they’re a flat £75. But if you want to stand in the ‘gold’ area at the front, Live Nation was itself selling tickets with a face value of £125 for a whopping £360 each. Apparently it’s dynamic pricing, similar to the ‘deals’ operated by cheapo airlines like Ryanair. The more demand there is, the more the promoter jacks up its prices. If the concert organiser is complicit, they can’t really complain about sales on the black market, can they?

And don’t get me started on unavoidable ‘booking fees’…

The Radiohead move is an interesting one and is very much in line with the way many sports event tickets at club level are distributed. Football clubs quite rightly give their season ticket holders priority access to tickets – and sell them at face value.

The other thing that the music industry could learn from football clubs is that selling tickets face-to-face at venues is a good old-school way to stop tickets being ‘sold out’ in seconds online, with real fans getting no chance to buy them. Not everyone will want to/ can queue up, but many hardcore fans would prefer this system to the current farce.

Buying tickets at face value prices is becoming a nightmare for some big Rugby Union games. I’ve found it impossible to buy tickets in the UK at face-value prices for British and Irish Lions rugby tours to the southern hemisphere. The Australian, New Zealand and South African Rugby Unions make tickets available to the tour organising company, who in the past have had arrangements with official agents to distribute in the UK and Ireland.

Tickets are then bundled together with flights and or holiday packages leaving rugby supporters who don’t fancy, or can’t afford, fully escorted package tours struggling to get hold of tickets.

When the Lions played the New Zealand All Blacks in 2005, rugby supporters in New Zealand entered a ballot for test match tickets. If they were selected from the ballot, test match tickets were sold for about £50. Face value tickets were never made available for British and Irish supporters who instead had to buy escorted tours, flight, hotel and ticket packages or flight and ticket deals.
Where it was possible to buy ticket-only deals, tickets were sold by officially appointed agents for hundreds of pounds, from memory, about £300 per match.

I don’t see this kind of thing happening for the Rugby World Cup where tickets were sold through a ballot, and then directly through the RWC site. So if there’s a reason why British and Irish rugby supporters have to pay through the nose for Lions tickets, I’d love to hear about it.

RowanB says:
13 September 2012


This is in reply to your reply to Paul Fisher’s comment.
My brother bought me 2 tickets for this Radiohead gig (9th Oct) for my birthday. At first I was hoping I’d just be able to bring his credit card (the one used) with me to get in. Upon reading the T&C in more detail I noticed he’d have to be present with photo ID which – although hugely inconvenient, extremely over the top and, in my opinion, adding no more effect against touts and resellers – was still doable.

However I’ve just received an email from ticketmaster with which not states “The cardholder must be present at the time of entry into the event and must be attending the event.”

This effectively means I can’t go with my friend as planned, and that even if my brother comes with me, with HIS credit card, HIS photo ID, proving his approval of purchase, the tickets cannot be valid for our entry as he won’t be attending, despite the fact that there will be no way these tickets aren’t completely legitimate.

This is surely completely and utterly ridiculous. Can this really be enforced? Might those in charge of ticket sales be reminded that few people under the age of 18 own credit/debit cards – these insane rules mean parents cannot buy tickets for their children.

In light of this, it seems Viagogo’s cautionary instruction (which you quoted above) of “Buyers of tickets for this event will be accompanied into the venue by the seller. Sellers of tickets for this event please note that you will be required to accompany the buyer into the venue” is pointless anyway, as “The cardholder…must be attending the event”.

LucyV says:
10 October 2012

Security update: it was all a load of hype. NO ID cheques at the O2 at either concert. NO tickets were for sale on Tickettrust.

RowanB says:
10 October 2012

They checked my ID, mostly to see whether its name matched with the credit card, but even the credit was just to check the name (I didn’t see it “swiped”). Nobody checked to see if my face matched the ID (it didn’t), either because it wasn’t worth the waste of time considering how many people were in the queue, or because even though it wasn’t my ID or credit card, it clearly couldn’t have been related to illegal ticket reselling as no tout would give their credit card and driving licence to a random customer.

Interesting that not many checks were made. We have a new Convo about this if you’d like to join the debate there: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/paperless-tickets-a-solution-to-ticket-touts/

Well, it doesn’t seem to be quite as smooth for Radiohead this time. Their tickets for their new Roundhouse dates are sold out and appearing on secondary sites: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/mar/18/radiohead-tickets-roundhouse-london?CMP=twt_a-music_b-gdnmusic

Thom Yorke isn’t happy about it: https://twitter.com/thomyorke/status/708053526845513728