Note: This is a personal rant. It is aimed squarely at the profiteers, not at artists or venues where artists perform.
Booking tickets for concerts has become a cross between a lottery and a game of ‘fastest finger first’ with events apparently selling out within minutes or hours of going on sale; and yet within minutes tickets appear on reselling sites or on Ebay. On the night, entire blocks of empty seats can be seen at some events. It’s so annoying.
In the days when tickets were relatively cheap, I in my innocence assumed that people had booked and then decided not to turn up. Later, as prices escalated, reasons were harder to figure out. Could so many people really afford to spend £30 to £50 on a ticket and just throw it away? And how come they tended to be in blocks; had a coach party got lost? So many questions, so few answers.
When tickets were due to come on sale for something I wanted to see I, like many others, would be found sitting at my pc, constantly refreshing the web page of whatever officially designated company was selling the tickets, waiting for the split second they went live, in the hope of getting a seat near the front or even the holy grail, a front row spot. The best I’ve ever managed, and this literally was the moment the tickets went on sale, was the sixth row at Birmingham Symphony Hall. A few of my friends got a row or so in front, others went to Ebay or ticket reselling sites and paid over the odds, sometimes serious money for better seats – money that benefited neither artist nor venue, although there are allegations that some promoters shared in the profits with the reseller, who had apparently managed to sneak in under the wire and succeed where we had failed.
Then came the Channel 4 Dispatches investigation, The Great Ticketing Scandal and the muddy waters began to clear a little. It seemed that promoters, wanting to ensure their expenses were covered, were selling off entire blocks of the best tickets at cost or less to outside agents who then charged whatever they thought fans would pay, so my chances of beating the odds for a decent ticket never really existed. Worse still, these same companies were buying up as many extra tickets as they could, posing as music fans and using a massive collection of credit cards acquired for the purpose. Because they were making such huge profits on the tickets they sold, it didn’t worry them to have a few left over, didn’t bother them that real fans were unable to go because they couldn’t get a standard price ticket and couldn’t or wouldn’t pay their inflated prices. I watched that programme with growing fury and was ready to give up on the whole live music scene – at least at the level that used promotion companies. Dispatches continued the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #TicketScandal.
Of course, there is always an exception to every rule. Jason Mraz is embarking on a world tour later this year and has reserved the front row to raise money for his charity, the Jason Mraz Foundation. People can buy tickets at a premium (LondonO2 is £150), for which they get a goody bag, a meet and greet with the man himself and the best seats in the house. Standard price tickets are £37.25 all in so it’s quite a hike, but worth it for hard core fans and I understand that every penny will go to a good cause. For his less well heeled fans, Jason has provided other options. By placing an order for his forthcoming album Love is a Four Letter Word, they became entitled to purchase two tickets in an album pre-sale of tickets, which opened a day earlier than the O2 Priority pre-sale. I like the music, so I went for the album and even though I wasn’t able to get online due to phone issues until four hours after this pre-pre-sale started, I still managed a very respectable row K. Not bad at all. Buying the album also got me 25 minutes worth of rather wonderful live recordings of Mraz music.
I don’t know if any tickets for this tour have been sold on to resellers, not sure if it’s possible for a peasant like me to find out, but I do feel fans had a better than average chance of getting a decent seat. If you have tickets to one of Jason’s tour dates, have a blast!