Why Is It So Hard to Buy Concert Tickets at Face Value?

It’s possible to get tickets for a big show at face value, but it’s been getting harder and harder. Why? Which.Co, a UK website, takes a look at the problem.

Which? spent eight weeks monitoring four of the biggest secondary ticketing websites and found evidence that the market is failing fans.

Tickets for most events are sold through the venue or through primary ticket websites such as Ticketmaster and See Tickets. But once tickets from these sources sell out, fans either miss out or pay over the odds on the secondary market – sites where tickets are sold at a mark-up.

The secondary market was originally labelled as a fan-to-fan exchange where anyone can resell tickets, but these sites have attracted touts operating on an industrial scale. There are even signs that certain ticket sites may be acting like touts themselves.

From August to October 2015, Which? monitored the four big secondary ticketing sites – Seatwave, Viagogo StubHub! and Get Me In! – and found:

  • Tickets appearing on re-sale sites before they were even officially released: StubHub! had 364 tickets on sale for Rod Stewart’s UK tour the day before the presale began.
  • Tickets appearing simultaneously on primary and re-sale sites: For the same Rod Stewart tour, 450 tickets were available on Get Me In! the moment the presale began on the primary site and two days later this had risen to 2,305 tickets.
  • Suspicious ticket release patterns: For each of the 28 Riverdance tour dates, eight tickets were on sale on Get Me In! within a minute of an O2 Priority presale (where O2 customers get early access to tickets), each listing had exactly the same price structure.
  • Re-sale restrictions being ignored: Viagogo listed tickets for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, despite the venue imposing strict resale restrictions and asking for photo ID on the door. Tickets cost up to £1,500 (compared to an original face value of £62.50).


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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Why Is It So Hard to Buy Concert Tickets at Face Value?

  • November 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

    It is a colossal PITA. I used to be able to get great seats for most concerts, but in the last few years I’m lucky to get any to a lot of them. However, the first two points about tickets showing up on resale sites doesn’t necessarily mean those tickets exist. In a lot of cases, it’s ticket brokers advertising, and they don’t promise tickets right away because they still have to fill the orders. I sold 2 of my 3 tickets to a show a few years ago because friends couldn’t make it, and the guy who bought them turned out to be a broker filling orders. He didn’t realize when he lied to me about buying them “for his buddy in his band” that I was still using one, and the two guys who showed up in those 2 seats told me they had bought the tickets months before off of a broker site. For 3X what I sold them for.

  • November 17, 2015 at 11:49 am

    It’s obvious that the market will bear a much higher price for tickets than face value. The problem is that some middleman – and not the artist – collects the premium. I thought it would be interesting if some band initially offered all their tickets for a given concert for $5,000 apiece. Some fans would buy, most wouldn’t. Then, over time, they gradually reduce the price. (Some bright analyst could figure out what the optimal timing is for the price change, and by how much.) More tickets would be sold at each price point depending on what buyers are willing to pay. All the revenue goes to the band, and the middlemen are effectively cut out. That does mean that some concerts could be close to sold out with ticket prices still expensive, but that’s the way it goes – supply and demand. And it’s not really different from the situation we have now.

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