Something happened yesterday that affects you as a live music fan.
The Government overturned the Lords amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill by 290 to 203, a majority of 87.
What’s the Consumer Rights Bill? How does this affect you?
Well, let’s start with the simple stuff. When you buy a ticket from a secondary ticketing site (Viagogo StubHub etc.) you know you’re going to be paying over the odds. I won’t go into details here, we’ve all heard the horror stories.
Labour’s Sharon Hodgson and Conservative Mike Weatherley first recommended this amendment in an all-party report on ticket abuse last year.
It would force secondary ticketing sites to reveal more details about who is selling the tickets, where in the venue or stadium seats will be, and the original terms and conditions of the ticket, i.e. is it allowed to be resold.
Essentially, it forces the secondary ticketing market into transparency.
But the Government has opposed this. So, why?
Well firstly, a lot of the tickets that end up on these secondary sites never saw the light of a primary point of sale. Chances are they were handed straight over to one of these resellers before you ever had a chance to buy them. Don’t believe me? Channel 4 made a documentary about it three years ago.
But we’re not just talking about music. This also concerns ticketing for sporting events, theatre, and the arts.
This weekend over 80 leading voices from all these industries wrote an open letter to the Government advising them to support this amendment. You can read the letter here, but here’s a few names you might agree carry some weight: Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Ed O'Brien (Radiohead), and Sandie Shaw, Co-Chairs, Featured Artists Coalition, Bullet For My Valentine, Freddie Fellowes, The Secret Garden Party, Gallows, Harvey Goldsmith CBE, Ian Ritchie, Rugby Football Union, John F. Smith, Musicians Union, Lisa Burger, National Theatre, Paul Bliss, Blissfields, Paul Reed, Association of Independent Festivals, and Rob Da Bank, Bestival/Camp Bestival.
Did our Government pay heed to these, I think we can all agree, experts?
I’ve just a couple more facts for you before we delve into the Government’s argument against. Last year Culture Secretary Sajid Javid praised ticket touts as, “classic entrepreneurs.” Yup. And two years ago a report by Operation Podium, the Metropolitan Police unit set up to tackle London Olympics-related crime, found that, “Due to the surreptitious way that large numbers of "primary” tickets are diverted straight on to secondary-ticket websites, members of the public have little choice but to try to source tickets on the secondary ticket market".
Leading figures in the industries of sport, music and theatre, and the Metropolitan police, not to mention MPs on both sides have called for reform.
So what was the Government’s argument against the amendment? Well, I have to be honest when I say it was pretty hard to tell.
It all seemed to boil down to two main points;
That if a ticket is sold against it’s original terms and conditions and the seat information published, said ticket could be declared void and the fan turned away at the point of entry.
That introducing this amendment hinders the ‘free market.’
Point one; of course it’s a risk. If it states on the ticket not for resale you can’t legitimately be expected to sell it on without consequence. We’re fine to accept these terms and conditions when it comes to travel (otherwise people would be buying and selling flights), but not in entertainment. But then we’re not really talking about fan-to-fan sales here, are we?
As a fan myself I understand the pain of not being able to see a band or artist you really love. And there have been times in the past when I’ve not been able to make a gig due to work, poorly organised travel plans, the usual stuff. Did I try and sell my ticket to another fan for seventy times the face value? Or course not, because the majority of us are actually quite nice people.
Most music fans I know would rather sell their ticket to another fan at face value, because we understand each other. We understand what it is to be a fan. Case in point, just see the #leaveoutthetout initiative Chvrches have taken on Twitter.
The second point, well this isn’t a free market. This is shady and duplicitous market of underhand deals that do not benefit the consumer, the fan. Deals that just go to serve the high profit margins of already large companies.
Conservative MP David Nuttall for Bury North in the House of Commons yesterday actually likened buying a ticket and reselling it on the secondary market to buying an item at a car boot sale and then taking it on Antiques Roadshow a few years later to find you could resell it for thousands more. I kid you not, that was his argument as to why these sites are fair.
He also alleged that One Direction mark their tickets at low prices so they can con fans into spending over the odds at the merchandise stall. He’s on Twitter too 1D fans. Just saying…
So what happens now? Well, the Consumer Rights Bill is now in a process called ‘ping pong’ where it goes back and forth between the House of Lords and the House of Commons until both Houses have come to an agreement. You see what they did there with the ‘ping pong’ bit? Clever girl.
When the bill does return to the Lords they can reinstate the amendment that MPs today rejected. According to Sharon Hodgson via Twitter, “Lords plan to reinstate the clause led cross party by Lords Stephenson, Moynihan, and Clement-Jones.” To help ensure this YOU can write to a Minister in Lords such as Baroness Neville-Rolfe, and any others who may show an interest in this issue. Here’s how you can write to a Lord.
We at DICE are firmly against an institutionalised secondary market that exploits fans, charges exorbitant prices, and doesn’t invest in the creative or sporting community. A world where fans don’t even get a chance to buy primary tickets. Join us in putting fans first.