Feb 23, 2024 3 min read

Ticketmaster incentivised TQ Tickets' touting operation, says former employee in fraud trial

The fraud trial of former employees at ticket touting company TQ Tickets continues, with one defendant insisting that Ticketmaster knew about the firm’s operations, because they were using resale platforms then owned by the Live Nation ticketing company

Ticketmaster incentivised TQ Tickets' touting operation, says former employee in fraud trial

One of the people facing charges of fraudulent trading in relation to ticket touting company TQ Tickets has claimed that Live Nation's Ticketmaster was aware of and even incentivised the firm's operations because it was a top seller on the resale platforms that the ticketing giant used to own. 

Lynda Chenery - who worked as a bookkeeper for the ticket touting business, which was run by her sister and husband - is on trial in Leeds Crown Court. Asked by her legal representative if "Ticketmaster knew what was going on" when TQ bought tickets from the primary ticketing platform in the mid-2010s in order to resell them at a mark-up, she said "I have no doubt in my mind about that". 

"It was clear from conversations I have had in the office and with [her sister] Maria that they were definitely aware", she continued, according to the BBC. And, as she understood it, because TQ used Ticketmaster's Seatwave and Get Me In! platforms to resell tickets, they were "incentivised" by Ticketmaster because TQ was "classed as a top seller or broker".

As online ticket touting started to build in the 2000s, and industrial level touts started to emerge who hoovered up tickets for in-demand shows to resell for profit, there were calls from the UK music industry to regulate the resale platforms. When those calls didn't result in much change, some in the industry - including some promoters and ticketing companies - took an "if you can't beat them, join them" approach. 

Some formed official alliances with the big resale platforms, plus there were plenty of allegations that some managers and promoters were colluding directly with the touts. When a new round of campaigning against touting then began in the mid-2010s, that put those in the industry working with the secondary market - officially or behind the scenes - in a tricky position. 

Live Nation's Ticketmaster acquired resale sites Get Me In! in 2008 and Seatwave in 2014. Which meant that - when the music industry's campaign against touting gained new momentum in the mid-2010s - Live Nation often found itself sitting alongside StubHub and Viagogo on the opposing side of the debate from the artists, managers, agents and promoters that it works with. 

Then, in August 2018, Live Nation dramatically announced it was shutting down all of its secondary ticketing operations in Europe, although it still owns resale sites in the US. 

Throughout the anti-touting campaigns, the resale platforms have argued that they exist to primarily allow fans who buy tickets for an event but then can't attend to get their money back by selling them on to another fan. 

But a significant portion of trade on the touting sites comes from tickets being sold by professional resellers, who often operate under the radar until laws force more transparency on the platforms. Some platforms have also been accused of encouraging and supporting the professional touts through schemes that incentivise top sellers, like the one alluded to by Chenery.   

It remains to be seen if any more allegations or revelations about the music industry at large come out during this trial, even if they relate to a previous era of ticket touting. Prosecutors claim that TQ Tickets broke the law by using dodgy schemes to access tickets, circumventing restrictions put in place by official sellers. Its touting operation made around £6.5 million between June 2015 and December 2017.

Four people connected to TQ Tickets were charged following an investigation by National Trading Standards. The two main people - Chenery's sister and husband, Maria Chenery-Woods and Paul Douglas - pleaded guilty as the trial got underway last month. 

The fourth defendant is Mark Woods, husband of Maria Chenery-Woods, who argued in court earlier this week that, although he was listed as a director of his wife's company, he had no active involvement in running it.

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