Leadership / 05.29.18
STAR’s Jonathan Brown Reacts to New Secondary Ticketing Alliance
It's no news flash that secondary ticket sellers have a bad reputation in many circles, chiefly among artists and their fans. However, a new group of secondary ticket sellers are banding together to change that perception.
A United Kingdom group, dubbed the Fair Ticketing Alliance, launched a crusade to improve their collective image and lobby for changes in U.K. law to give secondary operators the right to resell tickets. The organization also plans to push for greater legal clarity around existing laws that pertain to the secondary sector.
Fair Ticketing Alliance Chairman Stephen Lee, one of four main brokers behind the new group, recently said in an interview for Billboard, "For too long, the secondary ticketing industry has been in the shadows, suffering from a poor reputation [and] afraid to defend itself. We aim to change that."
The secondary ticketing industry has incurred a negative image in recent years largely due to the lack of transparency on secondary ticketing websites. Fans get confused easily, not knowing which tickets are primary, where event organizers control the ticket price, and secondary, the resell market. There’s also been a frustrating lack of regulation for the industry, which is a particularly hot topic at the moment in the U.K.
The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) has long been concerned with shedding light on shadowy areas of the U.K. ticketing industry. STAR is the representative body for the U.K. ticketing industry, promoting consumer confidence and excellent service through a strict code of practice. The organization offers general advice and information on ticket buying and has been at the forefront of cross-industry initiatives to improve consumer confidence, make ticket buying safer and combat ticket fraud. Sales through STAR members currently represent over 90 percent of U.K. theatre and music ticket sales — more than 1 million tickets per week.
To gain STAR’s perspective on secondary ticketing’s reputation and the Fair Ticketing Alliance, Access spoke with Jonathan Brown, STAR Chief Executive. First of all, Brown noted that secondary operators have brought a lot of the bad publicity on themselves. “People recognize the need for customers who can't use a ticket to be able to dispose of it,” he said. “But the buying up of large volumes of tickets to resell them when they could have been bought at the original price by someone who actually wants to attend the event raises moral objections."
"STAR has said for many years that if you don’t want your tickets to be resold, you need to put in place proper policies and systems that remove or at least reduce the opportunities for resale for profit,” Brown said. “However, you also need to ensure that customers who can’t use a ticket they've bought are offered a way of mitigating their potential loss — through returns, exchange, authorized resale or insurance."
Still, Brown and others in the industry are intrigued by the Fair Ticketing Alliance's stated mission and are curious to see the direction the new organization takes. Brown especially likes the Alliance's goal of bringing more transparency to the secondary ticketing market.
"The Fair Ticketing Alliance has talked about 'coming out of the shadows,' and I think that definitely has to be a good thing," he said. "However, the big question about resellers is whether they are actually viewed as being part of the ticketing industry or as feeding off other people's risk. Different people will have different views, and they will certainly have their work cut out in convincing people of their intentions."
Brown continued, "There's a challenge to us all in whether we listen or not. On the whole, those in the middle of primary ticketing have a close relationship to those taking the risk of putting on events, and they share that 'skin in the game.' Those who resell for profit are viewed as only having an interest in that profit, not as being involved in the organization of events or the important relationship between that event and the ticket buyer."
At present, Brown said STAR has no plans to work with the Fair Ticketing Alliance. The launch of this new organization comes at a time when the secondary ticketing sector is under fire in the U.K., with a number of government and regulatory reviews under way that focus on bad practices in the market. In April, the Advertising Standards Authority (or ASA) banned StubHub, Viagogo, and the Ticketmaster-operated GetMeIn! and Seatwave platforms — the U.K.'s four leading secondary sites — from using misleading pricing to sell tickets.
The movement isn't just U.K.-based. Late last year, Google announced new restrictions aimed at stopping the secondary ticketing market's excesses. As of the first of this year, those looking to sell tickets online via AdWords must be certified with Google so as to protect customers from potential scams. While the move has primarily targeted temporary websites selling fake tickets, it has meant that StubHub, Viagogo and others must signal that they are resellers and not primary ticketing agents.
Speaking on the situation in the U.K., Brown pointed out, "There's a desire here for a secondary ticket market that works well for consumers. This means a need for the 'heat' to be taken out of the impact when hundreds of tickets for a major event suddenly appear on resale platforms at higher prices than when that event first goes on sale. There are, of course, ways of explaining this from a commercial perspective, including the fact that there are some people with deeper pockets that might be happy for late availability at a higher price or missing the scramble of the initial on-sale. However, the general view is that too many tickets might be removed from general sale by touts when they could have been bought by 'genuine' customers at the original price."
He concluded, "Some may look at ways of taking on this dynamic by pricing their events better, ensuring that the uplift is earned by the event and not a reseller. But that, too, can attract criticism. I sense there will always be challenges and criticisms when you are dealing with something that is very often an emotionally driven purchase — especially when supply has been exhausted or is only available at an inflated price."
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Tags: Reselling , Regulations , News , Digital Marketing , Secondary Ticketing