As the nights draw in, the heavens open, and members of the public plod to the polls, 2019 comes to an end. We’ve seen a lot this year: Brexit dominated headlines, Extinction Rebellion brought the capital to a standstill, England won the Cricket World Cup, England nearly won the Rugby World Cup, Britain came last in Eurovision, Tiger Roll won the Grand National, Prince Andrew gave an interview, and most importantly of all, Greggs gave us the vegan sausage roll.
But 2019 has also been a big year for the ticketing industry. As we wave goodbye to another year, we at the UK Fans’ Trust thought this a great opportunity to take a look back at some of the biggest ticketing moments of the last 12 months, from big-player buyouts to careless controversies, and everything else in between.
It’s been a busy year for entertainment company Live Nation as the California-based firm has looked to expand its business around the world. They’ve bought up companies in Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Spain. They even acquired the aptly named ‘Tons of Rock’ festival in Norway, which this year played host to Kiss, Def Leppard and Deep Purple, all giants of the rock genre.
But Live Nation were not the only ones playing the Monopoly board of global acquisition. Ticketmaster bought Moshtix, the leading secondary sellers in Australia and New Zealand back in February. They also announced an unusual corporate partnership with Hertz Australia, the car rental company, providing Hertz customers with deals on tickets, and Ticketmaster customers deals on cars. It also means that artists playing at Ticketmaster gigs are now driven to their shows in Hertz cars!
But of course, we can’t fail to mention the biggest one of all. Towards the end of November, eBay announced it would be selling StubHub to Viagogo for $4 billion in a deal that looks to be completed early next year, provided the relevant competition authorities give the thumbs up. The news means that Viagogo’s founder Eric Baker will be reunited with his first brainchild, having co-founded StubHub whilst he was still at university!
But it’s not all been plain sailing for any of the industry’s big players, by any stretch of the imagination. Google suspended Viagogo ads from appearing on their search engine in July, only for them to be reinstated four months later in November. And Ticketmaster have been busy in court, settling a $4.5 million lawsuit in Canada just two months after a $6.5 million class action lawsuit was filed against them in the UK.
2019 was also the year Ed Sheeran, the man who can do no wrong, did something wrong. His promotion company, Kilimanjaro, decided that they had had enough of ticket touts, and so invalidated any tickets that were bought on secondary sites. A designated fan-to-fan resale site was launched for those that could no longer make the gig, where people could sell their tickets at the fixed price of face value, plus a 10% fee. The only problem was that the gig hadn’t sold out, so nobody bought their tickets from the resale site, and leaving hundreds stranded with tickets to a gig they couldn’t go to.
The Black Keys were another act that manage to land themselves in hot water. Promoters for the duo’s first gig in five years decided to switch to Ticketmaster’s ‘Safetix’ system at the last minute, which refreshes a ticket’s barcode every so often to prevent people taking a screenshot and sending it on. However, because the decision was only made after hundreds had already purchased tickets through secondary resale sites, door staff were forced to turn away around half of all fans that turned up to the show.
( Photo CBS2)
But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Steps have been taken to modernise the industry, and new technologies are being introduced that will hopefully make it cheaper and easier for fans to buy and sell their tickets.
StubHub has been at the forefront of this innovation. In the US they became an early adopter of Apply Pay, allowing customers to use it for both mobile browsers and iOS devices. This may seem trivial, but Apple Pay is often a far more secure method of payment, as the technology giant secures each transaction with multiple protection measures.
They also rolled out two new features in August, Price Assistant and Sell it Now. Price Assistant is a brilliant way for sellers to match demand with value. The optional feature allows people to use StubHub’s dynamic pricing algorithms in order to set the price tag of their ticket, pushing it up or down based on demand. Much like how flights are valued, this guarantees both buyers and sellers get a fair deal.
Sell it Now takes its lead from the likes of webuyanycar.com, where customers have the option of selling their ticket directly to StubHub, rather than waiting for another fan to take your ticket off you. Just like with webuyanycar.com, you probably won’t get the same price as you would selling directly to someone else, but at least fans now have a hassle-free option where they can recoup some of their money.
Ticketmaster also made it easier for disabled fans to buy tickets by allowing them to make profiles of their disability, so they don’t have to enter the same information every time they want to buy a ticket.
And at the 2019 Music Week Awards in May, Twickets took home the gong for ‘Best Ticketing Company’.
It’s been a big year in every sense of the word, and 2020 looks set to be just as action packed. January marks UFT’s one-year anniversary, and we’re more determined than ever to advocate for good ticketing practice throughout the industry.
The UK Fans’ Trust was borne out of personal frustration over the apparent incompetence of the ticketing industry. But as the year went on, we heard more and more stories of despair from like-minded fans, and we realised that this issue was far bigger than just being kicked out of online queues. All the problems we experience as fans are symptomatic of a broken industry. Like an addict who can’t see they’ve got a problem, the primary ticketing industry refuses to change. In a few weeks’ time, we’ll be entering a new decade. Let’s hope change is right around the corner.