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Just the ticket

Lynda Moyo speaks to a ticket tout about the rising secondary sales market

Written by . Published on February 19th 2008.

Just the ticket

Hovering on the corner looking both dubious and eager, they’re just waiting for you to approach them. If you’ve got the cash they’ve got the goods. In one quick exchange you’re left partially satisfied and partly wondering why you’ve just paid that price when other’s managed to get it safely and legitimately. Just as sex sells, so do tickets, and in the touting industry in Manchester there are vast amounts of money to be earned.

It’s big business. I know a guy who bought his house in cash outright.

Although believed to have originated in the London underworld, these days ticket touts seem to have a more permanent presence outside the capital. North West cities such as Manchester and Liverpool are well known for organised crime, from the Quality Street mob of the 60s to drug protection rackets, right down to the Del boy at your local selling top designer perfumes ‘Channel 5’ and ‘Kelvin Clein’. Ticket touting it seemed was always destined for the industrial north with its working class grafters and huge football following.

The resale of tickets for more than face value is a huge industry and it’s on the rise. Former Manchester ticket tout Wayne Stephens spent years doubling, if not tripling, his money by hanging around outside venues such as the Apollo and M.E.N, even venturing to no-go zones such as Old Trafford.

He said: “Everybody around here was a ticket tout. We grew up doing it. I started off just helping the proper touts out. Most do it full time. There’s serious money to be made. It’s not just a case of buying tickets and selling them on. Some touts have contracts or silent partners in the ticket offices. Or even with the artist’s management. Tickets are often bought in bulk.”

With no laws covering the re-sale of tickets, touts are left free to barter, bargain and blag until they’re blue in the face. It’s no easy job but for the touts it can be more than worth their while.

Stephens said: “The majority of touts get tickets through spares. When you go to a gig you hear them shouting ‘any spare tickets’ but you don’t actually realise how many tickets they get through doing that. Re-selling can be hard work. Sometimes you make £5 profit and then there are occasions when ‘gold dust’ tickets sell for a grand or more. It’s big business. I know a guy who bought his house in cash outright.”

The ratio of fans to tickets will always be unbalanced for the big events. Fans on the bottom of the pile will inevitably be left disappointed. It’s only the richest and most persistent who stand a chance. Tickets have a short shelf-life and so just as touts can make huge profits, like any business there is always money to be lost. And touts do have a certain reputation.

Stephens said: “It’s not glamorous or easy. You can be stood outside in the cold for hours with people giving you funny looks. What they don’t realise is it’s their livelihood. You’re only asking if they want to buy something, not forcing it. In Manchester it’s a close knit group who work together as a firm. There’s a leader and then the runners. There would be possible conflict for a new tout because it’s always been the same guys doing it. The usual suspects. A new person would have to know someone to get in on it.”

The controversy over whether tickets can be classed as goods which can be sold on privately remains at the forefront of the touting debate. Some parties argue that the money paid to the organisers is actually paid for the service of attending the event, which a buyer cannot resell because the buyer does not have the service to sell. The opposing side states that tickets are paid for by consumers and should be transferable just like any other goods. Typically private resale will contravene the original conditions of sale, but it's legally questionable whether the original conditions of sale are even enforceable in the first place.

In the supply and demand world in which we live, for touts it’s just another way to make an earner. The feeling of crookedness comes when you see a grown woman welling up over the fact that she couldn’t get through to buy Take That tickets despite calling from three separate phones and frantically tapping the F5 key.

It’s these types of complaints that have led to talk of tougher rules on touting. The overall feeling amongst concert goers is that touting is a public nuisance whereby fans are the victims and the black market flourishes. If the government has rejected the idea of legislating against touts, fans might need to stop turning up at gigs and matches without tickets and boycotting auction and re-sell sites. But that’s not going to happen and as long as the public are prepared to pay the touts will sell.

With the availability on the net, touting has gone from a few spares, to a few pairs to hundreds and thousands. Even if the government were concerned, it’s now perhaps too big a market to police. In the end touting could be considered another application of free market principles. A classic case of the ancient rule of caveat emptor - buyer beware.

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

LyndaJFebruary 19th 2008.

Maybe for starters, the legit agencies should buy back unwanted tickets instead of making it clear that money will not be refunded. This then gives people the chance to return tickets if they find they are unable to attend a concert. Otherwise, what are you going to do - lose upwards of £30 plus all the exhorbitant fees ypu had to pay or try and get your money back thro E-Bay or a tout? I personally would rather pay twice the face value for a ticket at the front, than £40 to sit at at the back upper tier.

GemFebruary 19th 2008.

If your desperate for tickets to a sold out gig instead of getting them from touts you could always just go to http://www.scarletmist.com instead its like a ethical ticket exchange website where excess tickets are sold at face value

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2008.

Now now, play nicely!

Bob the BuilderFebruary 19th 2008.

Working class? ME? My good sir you must be mistaken. I am considerably richer than yau.

Bob the BuilderFebruary 19th 2008.

^^ Someone got out on the wrong side of the bed this morning

SeakayFebruary 19th 2008.

Touts no longer feel like the rip off merchants that they used to do because the chances that anyone gets to pay the price printed on the ticket are very slim. Ticket agencies add on a handling fee AND a credit card charge PER TICKET which is a blatant rip off.

GrandwazooFebruary 19th 2008.

If people are STUPID enough to pay these hiked prices then they will always be a market for resellers. The best way to see a band on the cheap is to arrivee 5 minutes after the concert has started and the touts will be off-loading the tickets for well below the original ticket price. I know somebody who does this regularly. It works especially well at large venues. Also if you do this you can spend more time in a proper bar drinking poper ale at proper prices. Stay one step ahead of the ripp-off merchants! and I don]t mean the touts either I mean the criminals who charge booking fee/credit card charges/inflated Postal charges on top of the already inflated ticket prices.

forrestFebruary 19th 2008.

I've bought from touts, sold to touts and toued my own tickets. If we do live in a free market economy why shouldnt this exist? as you said supply and demand, they only charge thousands if people are willing to pay for it. Once I paid a 5'er for tickets to watch United vs Leeds at Old Trafford 10 minutes after kick off, I would usually only add 10 or 20 onto the price of mine if I were selling, and that only ensures mine are covered or contributed to, and I've sold tickets for roisin to tout for a 5'er as there appeared to be no interest in em, so instead of losing 20 quid we lost 15.It's there living as he says, long live it. Yes its frustrating sometimes but so are parking tickets and council tax.

RichardFebruary 19th 2008.

I have now stopped buying concert tickets from the official routes and always buy on E-bay. In most cases you can get the seats where you want for not a lot more than face value. Sometimes the tickets go for less than face value - see the scramble to get rid of Police tickets before they cancelled the MEN concert. I think re-sellers do a good job and I am willing to pay a little bit more for their services. Most big artists have ramped up their ticket prices to make up for falling album sales - some of the ticket prices are crazy.

PhilFebruary 19th 2008.

The only reason I have never done it is because I am scared that the tickets might be rejected at the door and miss the concert; plus lose money. I have no problem with people doing this kind of thing because as per previous comments they are providing a service and getting you the best seats and if you CHOOSE to pay top whack for them then its your problem not theirs. If you WANT to spend YOUR money thats fine. We all know that people like Ticketmaster and Promotoers play games, pretending concerts are sold out then suddenly releasing tickets and the like.In a country of freedom it is up to the individual how and when they spend their money

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2008.

'Working class grafters'? Who do you think you are, you patronising nob?

anonymous nobFebruary 19th 2008.

Not you Bob ! never known a poor builder more mr anonymous. I am rich in many ways, if not the pockey

anonymous nobFebruary 19th 2008.

Cor blimey, not a happy fellow are we? northern monkey !Recommend getting working class hero size chip off yer shoulder & get back t'mill

LouFebruary 19th 2008.

I get really annoyed. Especially when I take the morning off work to call and get tickets the moment the lines open, only to end up at the back of the upper tier whilst hundreds of touts are selling their (much better) tickets for 5 times the price online - a price I simply can't afford.

JinkiesFebruary 19th 2008.

Ticketmaster are the worst touts out there - you buy the tickets and then pay the tax: administration fee along with booking fee too (even if you use the internet). SJM are the same, scumbags the lot of them because if you don't want to pay the extra you can't get the tickets. At least touts outside venues are offering something worth a premium (ie: tickets for a sold out gig), the PLC's just rip you off because they can

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