We're treated, again - and aren't we the lucky ones - to a rant about the evils of ticket touting. We're told that the very idea entirely turns the basics of economics on its head:
The phenomenon of secondary ticketing – a less pejorative term than “touting”, reportedly invented by Viagogo founder Eric Baker – turns the economics of supply and demand on their head, and enables a hardcore of dedicated and professionalised sellers to distort the market.
That something in short supply relative to the demand for it rises in price is not what we'd call overturning those basics. Nor the thought that supply apparently in excess of demand - as with Morissey's recent tour so we hear - leads to a fall in price to zero.
We would assume that this is a vindication of those basics ourselves, a proof.
Still, it's entirely true that many people don't like this. Equally, that many do, as it does have to be the punters, the consumers, coughing up the money to the touts. And we not only do but must believe that people freely handing over their own money for something believe what they gain to be worth the amount they're paying.
But many don't like it. So, what could or should be done?
In a bid to disrupt the secondary sites, entrants to Sheeran’s recent stadium shows were required to bring ID and booking confirmation from an authorised primary ticket agent. Resale was authorised only through an official face-value service, Twickets. Thousands of tickets purchased by known touts were cancelled, and fans who inadvertently purchased through Viagogo (the only secondary site to list tickets) had their tickets invalidated – but were given an opportunity to buy face-value replacements and provided with assistance to claim a refund under Viagogo’s guarantee. In this way, fans have clawed back hundreds of pounds, and in some instances thousands. And all saw the show at the price intended by the artist.
Others are trying alternative methods. At their recent series of Northwich shows, the Charlatans successfully sold tickets exclusively through 100% mobile service DICE. Iron Maiden have also used so-called paperless tickets, in their case working with Ticketmaster – and primary ticket companies including See, Eventim, Resident Advisor, Skiddle, The Ticket Factory, Gigantic, Eventbrite and Music Glue are either offering or promoting consumer-friendly resale. Last week, it was announced that the O2 and the SSE Arena (Wembley) would be introducing a new fan-friendly ticketing system this autumn.
I suspect this is the kind of true secondary market that most music fans would like to see, as well as the majority of artists – which is why we need more of them to follow suit.
Looks good to us. Market competition to provide those fans with what they desire is leading to, well, it's leading to competition in providing those fans with what they are thought to desire. Those who sate those desires better will end up dominating the market. Which is what we want to happen anyway, consumers get to express their preferences and in doing so train suppliers into producing what it is that they do desire.
What we cannot see is any necessity to change things at the system, or legal, level. That market, pure and unadorned, seems to have it all under control already.
In fact, we see good arguments against system or legal changes. For quite obviously - see above about people paying touts in the first place - some do desire to be able to pay more to jump queues, happily paying speculators to gain what they desire. Others would prefer not to, varied artists taking different positions on the same point.
It's only the market solution which allows the granularity of all being able to sate those varied desires. Thus it is only the market solution which is appropriate, isn't it?