Stop ticket rip-offs says festival boss

July 6, 2012

A leading festival boss has called for the UK’s secondary ticket market for music events to be regulated the same way as sporting transactions.

Melvin Benn of Festival Republic – behind the Reading and Leeds events among others – argues the current state of play leaves the door wide open for touts to rip off fans and organisers alike.

He wants an end to practices where touts can buy passes at face value then sell them on for many times that figure, leading to fans paying more, organisers losing out on profits and lost tax revenue.

And he wants to know why Olympic Games tickets are subject to laws which keep prices low – while similar legislation doesn’t offer protection for the music industry.

Benn writes in The Independent: “If I have tickets for the Olympics that I want to resell, there’s a law in place that dictates I can only sell them at face value with permission through the resale scheme, or give them to friends if I’m contactable on the day of the event. Ticket touting is also illegal for football matches.

“However, for live music events I can resell tickets for whatever I like.

“The government brushed off concerns by claiming touts are an irritant from which people can walk away. This ignores the fact that the longer the secondary ticket market stays unregulated, the more we’ll see the emergence of a two-speed economy in the arts and culture.

“I also believe it’s unfair that the profits made on secondary ticket sales go not to the organisations that take on the risk of mounting events, nor to the charities we work with. Instead, they go straight into the pockets of touts, who in turn pay no tax on their profits.”

Benn says it’s been suggested that the music industry should self-regulate sales with the introduction of measures such as photo ticketing. But he argues: “While these might work from a technical perspective, I can’t help but think they risk taking away a great deal of the fun and spontaneity that’s an integral part of going to a gig or a festival.

“As soon as we start expecting people to provide biometric information before they can buy tickets, live music stops being fun and starts feeling like applying to the government for permission to party.

“If legislations has worked for the Olympics in terms of making events affordable and accessible, it can work for festival and music promoters too.”

He’s one of the people behind a new industry body called FanFair Alliance to be launched later this year. He believes the partnership will “demonstrate it can be just that for the fans: fair.”

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