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Scalping, touting crooks: Government needs to stop turning a blind eye to criminals undermining the music industry

by Andrew Teacher

If you believed the badly knitted spin reported by The Times in London yesterday, you would think second hand ticket websites were doing a public service. Stopping fans buying from rip-off sites apparently “poses huge risks in pushing them on to the street where there are no consumer protections” said a spokeswoman for, you guessed it, StubHub.

Anyone would think these people were buying crack – not tickets to watch Adele.

In a land not too far away, there was a time when everything didn’t sell out in an hour. When you didn’t have to be in hugging your computer at 9.00am, tirelessly hammering your web browser’s refresh button like a madman just to buy tickets to see some anonymous Finnish metal band playing at your local pub.

This, ironically, was around the time when the UK government made the re-selling of football tickets illegal. Yet when it comes to gigs and concerts nothing has been done. Websites like Viagogo and StubHub rip-off consumers and artists alike.

Even after an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme proved that promoters for tours by artists such as Coldplay, Rihanna and Take That sold tickets directly to secondary ticket websites – meaning that fans did not have a chance to buy them at face value – nothing was done. Ticket monopolies such as Ticketmaster routinely con customers into paying over-inflated prices for tickets by advertising secondary ones alongside regular ones; customers often don’t realise what they’re buying.

Back in days before I could afford to go on holiday, while working as a journalist and photographer across various music publications, it was routine practice to sell on unwanted promo records once a month. You’d get some useful beer money selling on a numbered vinyl for some ‘band of the moment’ to one of the bustling music cauldrons in Berwick Street, Soho. What I’d never do was sell on unwanted tickets.

I distinctly remember a chilly winter’s evening in Brighton watching Muse supported by Elbow touring their third album. We’d been given some passes by the management and had a spare pair of press tickets we therefore didn’t need. I popped out the front to see these two girls about to hand over a wad of cash to a tout. Before they realized what was happening I handed them the tickets and, being speedier on my feet than I am now, made away before the tout could take a swipe at me.

Let’s be clear: these are the individuals who are currently being protected. Just because they operate behind large companies, employ big PR firms or rent fancy offices makes them no different from the rusty looking toe-rags you go out of your way to avoid coming out of Kentish Town station on a Thursday night.

Now, at long last, major artists like Coldplay, Adele, Elton John and Mumford & Sons have come out vocally against this shambles of consumer protection. Better late than never. Perhaps they genuinely care? Or perhaps, a cynic could argue, their managers have realised other parties are coining it off their stooges’ backs? Either way, this weight should go some way to moving the dial.
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