The Darknet for Tickets

21. Sept. 2017 @ Schmidtchen (Klubhaus St. Pauli)

Speaker: Ursula Goebel (Head Of Communication, GEMA, Germany), Nicole Jacobsen (Managing Director,, Germany), Kiki Ressler (Managing Director, KKT - Kikis Kleiner Tourneeservice, Germany), Alex Richter (Managing Director, Four Artists , Germany)

Moderator: Ivana Dragila (Journalist, Freelance, Germany)

Go to the programme here.

Few topics spark debate in the international live music industry like secondary ticketing. After much discussion over the past few years, a consensus has emerged—nobody has an issue with individuals who cannot make it to a concert and want to resell their tickets. Even the touts hanging around in front of stadiums, trying to make a quick buck, are not the problem.

Instead, the panel The Darknet for Tickets focused on anonymous, commercial resellers, who bulk-buy huge ticket contingents with the help of technology and resell those tickets at inflated prices. It also touched upon cases in which concert promoters directly sell tickets to secondary resellers before the start of the official on-sale.

Taking part in the discussion, which was moderated by Ivana Dragila (journalist), were Ursula Goebel (Head Of Communication, GEMA), Nicole Jacobsen (MD, Kiki Ressler (MD Kikis Kleiner Tourneeservice), Alex Richter (MD Four Artists) and Dr. Johannes Ulbricht (Legal Advisor bdv).

According to current estimates, the secondary market for tickets is worth $8bn to $9bn annually, and counting. How did it get to this point? What had once been a black market is now a professional sector that’s supported by big companies, Ressler said.

The promoter explained why it’s “utterly absurd” to assume the market will regulate itself. This would only be the case if promoters always charged the maximum amount they could get away with for each ticket. However, particularly when working with German artists, promoters don’t ask themselves what’s the most they can charge, but rather what makes sense considering a given artist’s fan base.

Ressler recalled how tickets for his last tour with German rock band Die Toten Hosen had appeared on Viagogo prior to the official on-sale. This happens because some secondary agents engage in spec selling. In other words, they assume that tickets will be resold on those sites at some point down the line.

In Germany, Viagogo is by far the most aggressive reseller, said Ressler, who warns customers to not be deceived by the “official look” of such sites. “Customers have no guarantee of actually buying a valid ticket on there.”

In addition to spec selling, one could also find invalid tickets that were purchased using stolen credit card details on secondary sites, Jacobsen added.

Overpriced tickets mean that fans have less money to spend on additional concerts. This harms the entire industry in the long run, including and especially the small clubs.

Jacobsen believes in educating fans and personalizing tickets, with concert-goers entering their names on them and showing ID at the entrance. She also bans tickets that have been commercially resold in accordance with the promoter, which means that a number of people are regularly denied entry into concerts.

Richter pointed towards the additional expenses that came with personalizing tickets, which are costs that have to be paid by the promoter. His own company can’t afford the additional manpower required for such an endeavour, especially when there are increasing costs in all areas of the trade.

All panelists agreed that the state should be lobbied in order to achieve the criminal prosecution of ticket resellers, which prompted bdv’s legal advisor Ulbricht to disagree from the audience.

For one, he explained, making things illegal has always had a placebo effect. The real criminals operating on a grand scale are never interested in legal boundaries. Instead, there is a risk that private individuals selling regular VIP tickets or travel bundles would be suspected of selling overpriced tickets.

He thought it more effective to work towards an online framework which rules hosting websites to be liable for anything that users upload onto their platforms. He also said that Google has to be held accountable, as it deliberately places resale platforms on top of its search results and has even placed ads on their websites.

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