We’ve all been there. 8:59am: various ticket sites open in different tabs on several electronic devices. One eye on the clock, the other on the refresh button, cursor hovering for the final second.
Then it’s a final scramble, with fingers working in overtime to grab the tickets needed and a touch-down on the ‘best available’. Heart racing as the circle spins in the middle of the screen searching for the remaining tickets before your eyes scan over in a half-trusted confirmation. Clicking all of the boxes that ‘include images of public transport’ before entering bank details against the clock, the Countdown theme tune humming in your head, to see the final confirmation. With a sigh of relief, you read over the order and hopefully, squeal with excitement.
Though, not everybody is so lucky. Recently, fans of Ed Sheeran, Paramore and Harry Styles have suffered the blow. Perhaps it’s due to the closure of venues, yet Sheeran embarked on a mammoth arena tour, or maybe it’s our over the top tendencies to invest so intimately in musicians themselves. Either way, music and consequent music fandom acts as a comfort blanket and where it always has, arguably this has been intensified by our touch sensitive world of social media and audio/visual immersion. Therefore, the thought of breathing the same air, and sharing the same couple of hundred metre radius of the person who owns the voice, is something lured after with urgently.
As we seek for this gratification, it’s incredibly scary to think how often so many others are wanting the same. It’s the crushing reality that the song isn’t exclusively for you, that performance not yours for sure. As artists grow, there’s only so many people who will not only be able to pay for and attend a show, but be able to fit into the venues.
Ticketing has become more of a competition. When there was a rise of online market sites like eBay, punters recognised the opportunity to buy for predicted sell-outs in mass and sell them on to desperate buyers for triple the price. To stop that, the security tests were created. But bots over-rode them. Secondary sites began to open; those like Stubhub and Getmein – owned by the major ticket sellers. Despite the charade, they’re essentially, the same as the first, but with an authorised tick. It’s an unfair game, where those with money saved up can prey on fans clutching at straws to get just one.
Last year, You Me At Six front-man, Josh Franceschi, launched a campaign to make it illegal for professional touts to use computer software to obtain tickets. Following a similar system that operates in New York, the penalty would see offenders facing up to 51 weeks in prison and/or a fine of £5000. Despite being a step up in the fight, thus far nothing has been put into action, yet the campaign helped to spread awareness and hopefully dust off some morals.
Yet, the game intensifies when you throw in the cheat code; pre-ordering an album for pre-sale ticket access. Whilst the incentive helps to keep physical music sales alive, the smart move capitalises on the fear of missing out that fans so wholly feel. On paper, it’s fair. Those who invest have a higher chance of access, yet it isn’t a guarantee nor is it accessible for all fans.
For those who rely on others to buy their tickets; perhaps as a gift, or that they’re too young to have a credit card, it becomes problematic and nothing to do with the ‘fan wars’. With this, I’ve noticed a new trend in ticket buying policies, first at Catfish and the Bottlemen’s tour and more recently in the Harry Styles ticket sale. The trend sees that ticket buyers may only buy two tickets, and that the cardholder must be one of them, and must have the card and ID on entry to the show. This means that tickets can’t be resold, yes. But it also means that there’s pressure on groups to all secure tickets – heightened if the shows are seated to be together, and also younger fans without debit cards have some persuading not only to borrow a card, but to pay for the cardholder to attend, too.
These new policies aren’t always clear either, as outside the Catfish show were scenes of teenagers on the phones to their parents asking them to bring their card and ID to the venue. Travel costs and sometimes even accommodation aside, this wouldn’t help, as one guest would still not be able to access in their place. In response, Ticketmaster recently made the Styles tour for 15+ only, a step up from the usual 14+ in belief that the higher age would have their own cards. Though there was ignorance to recognise that the age group too have to attend school at the release of 9am on a weekday, and were probably relying on family or friends.
The new rules could play a dangerous part in deterring young people from attending live music events. For people without their own debit cards, it’s becoming near enough impossible to get tickets, swimming against the tide of pre-sale codes, existing bots and small capacity venues. There’s exasperation, as ticket prices rise, is it worth the stress? If the younger people aren’t attending the gigs, then who is going to once the current market have disappeared? That’s not even commenting on the value of young people in promoting artists and music, and the economic benefit to both local and tourist economies.
With steps being taken to stop the bots, new problems come to the surface. Yet it seems like there’s little else that can be done. Unless we ditch the computers, and go back to camping outside of the box office.
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Words by Tanyel Gumushan