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Review of the DCMS ‘Live Music’ enquiry of the primary market

Yesterday was the first day of the Culture, Media and Sport enquiry into ‘Live Music’.

Here at the FTA we were looking forward to this enquiry as it is a great chance to get to the bottom of the issues that consumers face every time they log onto their computers to try and get a ticket on Fridays at 9am.

We believe there are many reasons for the lack of availability, which lead to so many frustrations for consumers.

We were hoping for a balanced argument that considers all of the factors to account for the issues consumers are facing, this is why we were disappointed to see the following headline from DCMS.

How is it possible to have a balanced argument and create solutions when the people running the enquiry are already displaying a pre-conceived agenda?

It is important to have a balanced argument and to go into the enquiry with an open mind if the objective is to find a solution. Otherwise the danger is that the enquiry will end up getting caught in the same old cycle of asking the same people, the same old questions and then wonder why they get the same answers and no solutions.

 

First up in the hot seat were the primary players, they were Stuart Galbraith from Kilimanjaro, Andrew Parsons from TM UK, Adam Webb from FanFair Alliance and Lucinda Brown from Islington Assembly Hall.

They all shared their views on the current state and the future of ticketing, pretty much all agreeing that technology was the solution but it wasn’t quite there yet. It can possibly work well for smaller venues like Islington Assembly Hall, but it would be more difficult for larger venues to take it on at the moment.

The FTA has always been an advocate of technology being used to make the buying experience easier and safer for consumers, the only issue we would have is the free transferability of tickets with no restrictions. Technology could be of great benefit if it is used in the best interest of consumers and not just a means to control tickets.

There was also mention of the need for the CMA to step up its enforcement of the Consumer Rights Act. To put further pressure on resale sites to make sure that people listing on their sites are compliant, for example listing seat details, face value, business details etc.

We are completely in agreement with that and we have been pushing for it from the very start, we know that in order for consumers to have the best buying experience they need to have all the necessary information. However, we do believe that all resale sites need to adhere to this not just the big four.

There has been a lot of talk of non-compliant secondary sites and that is something that the CMA needs to address, there are also a lot of fan to fan resale businesses operating today that are also not CMA compliant, these businesses are just as much of a concern for consumers as any other resale sites. In order for resale to work properly they all have to play by the same rules.

The FTA and its members are bound by our code to conduct business in a responsible way, putting fans at the forefront of the decisions we make, without them no part of this industry has a future. This is an important point to remember, which is why we always strive to fight for fans rights. We only work with compliant resale sites because we believe consumers need to be protected by the U.K laws when making ticket purchases. We recognise that there are brokers and secondary sites that don’t adhere to the laws, and it is our mission to make sure the secondary market is cleaned up so that doesn’t continue to happen.

The issue of selling tickets for restricted events was also mentioned, and it was repeatedly said that if a ticket was listed correctly in accordance to CMA guidelines with seat details, then it would make it easier to cancel tickets so that the issue of resale could be dealt with.

This approach is very concerning, as consumers have the right to resell tickets in accordance to the CMA CRA 2015 guidelines. The CMA made it very clear that primary ticket sellers can’t take away a consumer right to resell a ticket. Promoters/artists/primary ticket agents would be in breach of CRA 2015 if they cancel consumers tickets just because they have been listed for resale. No one in the committee addressed this point and the FTA feel they let consumers rights down here, they were too quick to try and protect promoter/artist rights that they forgot about the consumers rights.

The issue of bots also got brought up and there was a lot of talk of how best to deal with the issue, it was mentioned that bots are a global issue, which makes it hard to control and police.

The FTA has always been against the use of bots, we welcomed the recent legislation which made the use of them illegal in the UK. We have also said that because the internet is global unfortunately the bot law will do little to combat anything that happens overseas.

It was disappointing that there were few questions about Ticketmaster’s Platinum, as the way they have conducted it recently with their drip feeding of tickets and high prices we feel it isn’t very consumer friendly.

It was good to see that Damian Collins saw through the so called altruistic reason why TM announced the closure of GetMeIn and Seatwave. He said that the main reason to close them down was financial rather than in the best interest for fans. GetMeIn and Seatwave were loss making businesses. Damian Collins also highlighted the fact that TM are only shutting down their resale in the UK and Europe, so it can’t be for a moral reason if they are happy to keep it going in the U.S.

Overall the enquiry into the primary side of the music industry was pretty much the same as it has always been, there were still the same questions of how to stop ‘touts’, bots and the ‘rip off’ prices. And unfortunately, less questions about what primary can do to make sure fans know what chances they have to get a ticket, transparency on where all the ticket allocations are going, what is being done to keep business competition within the sector to help keep prices competitive for consumers and what is the benefit of TM Platinum to consumers?

We just feel that this was a real chance to get at the heart of the issues that consumers face, for too long all eyes have been focused on the secondary market and no one has stopped to think, why is it there in the first place? Our answer to that is the primary market doesn’t cater for all consumers needs, it assumes that all fans are the same but this is far from what everyone who has a role in the secondary market has seen over the years. The secondary market underpins all of the shortfalls of the primary and that is why it is so vital to so many consumers.