Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Italy to consider ticket tout ban

By | Published on Tuesday 15 November 2016

Ticket touts

Lawmakers in Italy are set to consider proposals that would outlaw the “selling on of tickets by persons other than concert organisers” following an interview on Italian TV where the boss of Live Nation in the country admitted his company had issued some tickets to certain shows directly to secondary ticketing sites.

As previously reported, in much the same way secondary ticketing is back on the agenda big time in the UK music community, concert promoters in Italy recently spoke out about the growth in online touting, with trade group Assomusica recently calling on the country’s competition regulator to investigate the ticket resale market.

Live Nation Italy MD Roberto de Luca recently appeared on Italian TV show ‘Le Iene’ as part of a feature on secondary ticketing, in which an investigation followed the journey of a single ticket as it went through the resale system, its price increasing from 50 to 1050 euros in the process. The programme’s investigation was in part informed by an employee at one of the companies involved in the resale of the ticket and another anonymous source.

Having initially denied that Live Nation had a direct relationship with any of the secondary ticketing platforms, de Luca then reportedly said: “I want to be clear that, to your question if Live Nation issued tickets on secondary sites and I answered no… in fact we issue some tickets, a very limited number of tickets on other sites, in this case Viagogo”.

“I must make clear that Live Nation sells around two million tickets every year and the tickets that we issue on the secondary sites are equal to 0.20% of our tickets sales”, he continued. “We are not talking about tens of thousands of tickets, but hundreds of tickets for a concert”.

In a statement to Billboard, Live Nation again insisted de Luca was talking about a small number of tickets for shows involving international, ie not Italian, acts.

The involvement of some players within the music industry in the secondary ticketing market is no secret, though it has been at times controversial, particularly when others in the music community are seeking regulation to constrain if not obliterate widespread online ticket touting.

Some artists, promoters, venues, agents and managers do tout tickets to their own shows, usually anonymously, while there have been accusations that some in the industry feed both the secondary sites directly or the industrial-level touts that trade via the resale market with a steady supply of tickets to be resold with a high mark up.

Some of those in the industry who tout their own tickets justify doing so by saying that regulation of the secondary market has failed, and “if you can’t beat them, join them”, because “it’s better the mark up go to the artist/promoter/venue” than some shady tout. Though some have also found involvement in the touting game a useful extra revenue stream, or a good way to reduce the risks involved in staging shows.

Live Nation, of course, is overtly in the secondary ticketing game, in that through Ticketmaster it owns some of the leading ticket resale sites, including Seatwave and Get Me In! in the UK. And links between Live Nation’s primary and secondary ticketing sites have been controversial at times, especially in the US.

Either way, the ‘Le Iene’ expose and de Luca’s admission has angered some in the Italian music community. So much so, one of the country’s biggest music stars, Vasco Rossi, has announced he has cut all ties with Live Nation.

A statement on the singer’s website from his management said: “After hearing from the television programme ‘Le Iene’ about the possible involvement of Live Nation in the re-selling of secondary tickets for concerts in Italy, Giamaica management wishes to let it be known that we have currently suspended all commercial dealings with Live Nation and we reserve the right to take legal action as we have no connection whatever with what has emerged from the journalists’ programme”.

The note continued: “Giamaica believes that the highly speculative activity of secondary ticketing has long been recognised as harmful not only to the public but also to the artists who, unbeknownst to them and against their wishes, find themselves involved by mistake”.

On the back of all that, Italy’s culture ministry last week proposed legislation that seeks to tackle the “intolerable phenomenon” of secondary ticketing. The proposed new law would “forbid the activity of selling on tickets by persons other than concert organisers”, or those officially authorised to do so, with fines of up to 180,000 euros for anyone who breaks the rules.

Of course, if promoters pass tickets to resellers, then that wouldn’t be covered by this law, given the touts would then be authorised to resell, though a wider crack down on secondary ticketing might result in an end to that practice too.

Meanwhile, in addition to the political developments, Italian consumer association Codacons called on the public prosecutor in Milan to investigate Live Nation’s involvement in secondary ticketing in Italy.

Its president, Marco Maria Donzelli said: “We are asking the investigating magistrates to sequester the television programme ‘Le Iene’ transmitted last Tuesday, in which the MD of Live Nation Italy is alleged to have admitted the existence of a commercial relationship between the company and secondary ticket platforms which sell tickets at astronomic prices”.

He went on: “This is a necessary step to start up investigations concerning Live Nation … And if this gets to a court case, all those who have bought tickets for concerts on secondary ticket sites and at inflated prices will be able to seek action to be compensated for the damages that they have suffered”.

So that’s all fun. Meanwhile, as we write, the culture select committee in the UK parliament is talking all things ticket touting. More on that tomorrow.