Aggressive pricing could help live music's ticket resale problem

As ticket touts continue to prosper, Live Nation's CEO says promoters should introduce more dynamic pricing.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 24 May 2016

Ticket touts have never been the most popular individuals (although Sajid Javid who famously dubbed them ‘classic entrepreneurs’ might disagree), but cracking down on their antics across sites such as StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave has proved difficult.

Now the CEO of concert promoter Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, has offered his thoughts on the current state of affairs. But consumers probably won’t like it. Michael Rapino claimed artists were missing out on billions of dollars by underpricing tickets that are snapped up by touts at face value and then resold for a profit.

‘We have to start pricing the house to match the market,’ he said. ‘We’re only scratching the surface of the opportunity for the artist.’ 

On the one hand, maybe consumers would feel a little less aggrieved at the high price they pay for tickets going towards the artist themselves than to a nameless tout. More likely though, fans would feel pretty horrified at apparent price gouging – which could be damaging for artists' relationships with their fans.

Rapino's suggestion is that a tour could have a variety of different ticket tiers from twenty odd quid to a few thousand depending on the day of the show and type of date. Charging that much more for the best seats could, Rapino feels, allow artists to charge lower prices for less appealing ones which might have gone unsold.

Read more: Luke Johnson: Sky-high fees need to fall

But before going down that route, current regulations could be better enforced and more restrictive frameworks set for touts to operate within. An independent review into ticket resales is due in May – possibly slightly late to the party considering it’s now an $8bn (£5.6bn) a year secondary market and many of the main resale sites regularly carry listings that breach the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (not providing seat row and number details or face value).

There's also scope for the sites themselves to ask more from buyers to combat touts. Glastonbury, for example, has been stringent with measures introduced way back in 2007. Festival goers register their details in advance including a photo which gets printed on the ticket – they’re non-transferable and so far have deterred touts pretty effectively.

But it's not hugely surprising the likes of Live Nation haven't totally backed that approach. Ticketmaster's fastest-growing business is allowing people to resell tickets above face value through secondary sites. The Glastonbury model could also be difficult for customers if rolled out universally, as its way of keeping out touts can be inflexible for consumers who might want to pass on a ticket to friends.

So it could be a while yet before we see any dent made in what's turning out to be a very successful business for touts indeed. One particularly optimistic (or soulless depending on your view) individual was reported to be charging £24,840 for a ticket to Adele’s O2 concert this month. Classic entrepreneurs indeed.

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