Thursday 5 December 2019

U2 ticket fiasco is why music has to be saved from touts

The €1,000 ticket reselling fiasco is not fair to either the band or to the true music fans, writes Catherine Martin

Adam Clayton (left) and The Edge from U2 playing at Croke Park in Dublin in 2008 Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Adam Clayton (left) and The Edge from U2 playing at Croke Park in Dublin in 2008 Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Catherine Martin

In the diverse, exciting and ever-changing field of popular music, Irish people support new and developing artists. While the major record labels are credited with bringing some of these artists to the global market, it should be remembered that those artists were nurtured by local music scenes all over the country.

On Dublin's Grafton Street, Eyre Square in Galway, the streets of Cork and in local halls and schools, and yes, even in kitchens and bedrooms, emerging artists generally found their first applause at home. Local music goers, the fans, are the true heartbeat of the industry and it is they who provide the nurturing springboard for budding artists. They are the incubators of talent.

We all enjoy and take great pride in supporting musicians as they take their first tentative steps on to the performing stage. Irish music lovers deserve to be proud of how they support music talent and they deserve to be able to see their favourite artists at affordable prices.

Recently a large amount of U2 tickets for their upcoming Croke Park gig appeared on resale websites at prices of more that €1,000 each within hours of being 'sold out' in regular ticket agencies.

The many hundreds of thousands of Irish music fans must be treated with basic respect and fairness. As the current unfair situation with U2's tickets for Croke Park demonstrates, this is simply not happening.

In the 1800s, the infamous American promoter and businessman PT Barnum created publicity through public events for the Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind, such as auctioning off tickets to her concerts, which drove up the price from an average of $6.38 per ticket to more than $200 for Lind's New York debut.

We do not want a return to this greed-filled practice where tickets for in-demand acts are auctioned to the highest bidder. That practice belongs in the past; we must not let it happen again. In fact, we love music too much in this country even to contemplate that happening again.

One of the most liberating aspects of the eclectic music world is that it is there to be enjoyed by all and music followers are treated with basic fairness and respect. This is not happening at present.

Touts have always existed but the internet has made it easier for them and people are being fooled into buying tickets that don't even exist.

There are possible solutions to ticket touting as first demonstrated at Glastonbury 10 years ago when it went down in history as the first fully tout-free festival. Festival-goers filled in registration forms with photo IDs in advance of tickets going on sale and the event organisers then sent back a registration number linked to the ticket buyer's personal facial image. So people register, upload a photo and then that photo gets assigned to your ticket. And this photo ID system is relatively cheap to run.

A simple solution. And for those who change their minds about going to the concert, or find themselves unable to attend, they notify Glastonbury and the festival organisers then put these cancelled tickets on sale again at face value.

Last week's ticket fiasco was not fair to U2 and certainly was not fair to the fans, true music fans. They are the lifeblood of the music industry and should not be 'priced out' of the market.

It is not only sad or regrettable, it is wrong, when tickets for a concert by your favourite band are unavailable to you at face value, yet are available for inflated prices at secondary ticketing agencies.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has begun an investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in relation to the provision of tickets and the operation of ticketing services for live events.

While this is to be welcomed and may provide some answers, the investigation will not provide a solution. But concert promoters can, by genuinely engaging with the problem here in a similar way to Glastonbury and implementing that tried and tested solution. But will they?

Influential music artists who care and who have in the past demonstrated great leadership skills and initiative in challenging important issues, could bring their considerable influence to bear. Although it may be novel, it would be helpful if they too found their voice.

Why can't it be the right of a performing artist to state that tickets cannot be sold for more than face value? They could then go to internet auction sites and say "this is against our terms and conditions".

This would prevent incidents like last week's ticket extortion reoccurring.

This music heist should not be tolerated. If a verifiable solution is not found, then the legislature must step in to protect something so intrinsically integral to our culture.

Music fans have found their voice and are saying enough is enough. Last week's ticket debacle was a watershed moment for music lovers in Ireland.

Catherine Martin is deputy leader of the Green Party and TD in Dublin Rathdown

Sunday Independent

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