In preparation for tomorrow's Department of Media, Culture and Sport hearing into the selling on of tickets, interested parties have submitted evidence to the committee, in which those who want bans on people being able to sell tickets they have legitimately purchsed on in the same way they can sell on unwanted CDs, or their old fridge when they get a new one, have to demonstrate that it's a Bad Thing.
Ticketmaster, for example, are good on the apocalyptic vision:
(and don't you hate people who refer to this country as "UK PLC"? Reducing a nation and its citizens and history and culture to some sort of small business.)
Ticketmaster are also clear on what they want:
Got that? If you sell any ticket for more than face value, you'll be committing a criminal offence if Ticketmaster has its way. (Presumably you could always try arguing that the mark-up is, in fact, a booking fee, or to cover your administrative costs - it works for Ticketmaster, after all.) So, they're not just going after people flogging on three dozen Bon Jovi tickets - this is people just selling spares. Something, I'd guess, we've all done at some point. Criminalising a two quid mark-up alongside the five hundred quid profiteers.
So, what is the serious problem for which that this new crime is being proposed to stop? On that, Ticketmaster are a little less clear:
Well, yes. Although to be honest, loading up all the tickets onto a system, and then allowing them all to go in a burst of "first to get through without the server falling over on them" enthusiasm doesn't do much to guarantee an "equitable distribution of tickets" either, does it?
This sounds a little odd to us. Yes, people selling on tickets make money - but they have made an investment, when they bought the original ticket, and that cash goes to the promoter. Presumably the promoters have set the ticket price at a levelwhich would guarantee them a profit they felt worthwhile? So while, yes, a third party is making a profit on the backs of their event, it's not at their expense.
Likewise, the eyewash about opportunity cost is just bad economics - it's the same sleight of hand employed by the RIAA when they paint every quid spent on a pirate CD as a quid lost to the music industry, assuming that money spent on an unauthorised product would otherwise have been spent on an official one. This is even weaker when it's applied to sold-on gig tickets - if you buy a Prince ticket for 100 pounds off eBay, and they officially retailed for 25 quid, it's erroneous to assume that the 75 quid difference would have gone straight to the entertainment industry. Since it would be unlikely the purchaser would have bought four tickets instead of one, that can't account for this strange "opportunity cost"; perhaps, our theoritical figure would decide not to buy a tshirt, and a programme, and a hotdog while at the gig because they had spent over the odds on the ticket. But equally, they're just as likely to have redirected the cash from money they might have spent on computer games, or put into national savings, or donated to help sick donkeys.
Ticketmaster love the equality of access of the internet, but, ooh, it's a worry:
...although, of course, selling all the tickets online in a single burst disqualifies those who don't have access to the internet, or credit cards, or the ability to log on at precisely 9.00am on day of sale.
Ticketmaster go on to curse the gift of the internet for offering a way in for people like getmetickets to buy in bulk, and for individuals to buy up extra tickets to flog on for some spare cash.
Which is true, but surely Ticketmaster could do something about this without the need for legislation? They do admit in their submission they need to look to doing something about it; and they could try to work with outlets like eBay to come up with an effective solution instead of demanding a massive catch-all law.
The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers have been debating new rules with the Office of Fair Trading; their evidence shows they're not happy that the OFT appears to have changed its mind and only wants a ban for business-based reselling:
So, if we understand that right, the OFT offered to allow the ticket agencies to draw up a list of events on which secondary sales could be forbidden - a kind of blacklist to protect the most popular events - but STAR say it would be, oh, too difficult. What an onerous task it would be, when adding details of a new event, to spend thirty seconds weighing up if it should be restricted.
But, of course, if you have a voluntary scheme, there wouldn't been need for legislation, and the ticket industry couldn't have a law of its own to play with.
STAR do make a strong point, though, that if you buy a twenty quid ticket for forty, and the event goes down, you're only going to get face value back. Perhaps, if there must be legislation, that's where it should be focused: protecting the consumer, rather than criminalising the reseller.