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Scottish politicians try to put touting back on the agenda

By | Published on Tuesday 9 November 2010

Concerns regarding the rise of online ticketing touting have been much more quietly expressed in recent years, in the UK at least, in contrast to that period of louder moaning from various quarters that occurred when the number of websites enabling the resale of gig tickets shot up a few years back.

For a time there were loud calls, from inside and outside the music industry, for the resale of tickets to be regulated, though, despite some support in the political community for the anti-tout brigade, that never really happened.

But political types north of the border are now trying to get the issue back on the agenda, and have called on the UK government to look into the rights and wrongs of touts being able to snap up tickets for in-demand events so that they can resell them at a marked up prices to real fans on eBay or a specialist secondary ticketing website.

They have framed their call for action around the news that thousands of tickets for next year’s Take That concerts (one report in Scottish tabloid the Sunday Mail reckoned up to 50,000) have arrived on ticket touting websites, most asking for at least double the face value of the ticket, and some going for up to £2100 a time.

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, a former culture minister, said both the live sector and live music fans had been hit by the growth of touting in the last ten years. She told reporters: “It’s about protecting the interests of the fans who lose out. We need to find a way to crack down on it. There needs to be some discussion now about how to prevent further injustice for fans”.

Meanwhile another Scottish political type, former Runrig member Peter Wishart, an SNP MP in the Westminster parliament, also issued a statement, saying: “Touting has become rife for all major entertainment events while at the same time threatening the viability of the whole live music sector. The UK government must now take action to protect fans who are being ripped-off and let down”.

Noting the Take That news report, he added: “Given what we have discovered about the scale of the problem government must consider all options to tackle this, including making the secondary selling of concert tickets illegal – similar to what happens for major sporting events”.

The government is yet to respond. The last government urged the live music industry itself to take measures to restrict ticketing touting, threatening to legislate if they didn’t. But when the live sector said there wasn’t much it could do and that it would welcome new legislation in this area, the politicians went quiet.

Various efforts to persuade ticket touting websites, which take a commission on each sale, to pay a levy into the live industry failed. Meanwhile, some in the live sector have formed commercial alliances with said websites, others have chosen to ignore them, while others still lobby behind the scenes for new touting rules to be introduced. Others reckon that if and when mobile ticketing becomes the norm, the logistics of touting will become harder and will possibly reduce the number of tickets being resold as a result.